Watch: Joe Letteri on visual effects wizardry of ‘The Hobbit’

Visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri is passionate about the decision to shoot “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in 48 frames-per-second as opposed to the traditional 24.

In a video chat with Gold Derby, he revealed: “We decided to shoot this film at a higher frame rate … to reduce the amount of blur that you see in the images, which makes everything look more realistic. It’s closer to how your eye really sees things.”

So, what did doubling the rate mean for the visual effects team lead by this four-time Oscar champ? “It’s more work; there are twice as many frames to make. It’s not exactly twice as much work, but a lot of things just require more of it to get done.”

“The Hobbit” makes use of performance capture, a technique Letteri pioneered on “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002), for which he won his first Oscar. As he explained, “It grew out of watching Andy Serkis perform Golum. We thought, if we could just capture that energy and use Andy’s performance directly, wouldn’t that be an ideal way to do it? We started to expand on that idea in subsequent years.”

This technique was also used in the final film in the “LOTR” trilogy, “The Return of the King” which netted Letteri his second Oscar. He picked up his other two Academy Awards for “King Kong” (2005) and “Avatar” (2009) and contended in 2004 for “I, Robot” and last year for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” 

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Letteri revealed the method has been refined to the point, “we can now capture Andy on set. His performance is not being done at a later date as we had to do in the past. What you see is him actually acting on set with the other actors.”

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