‘Hobbit’ Effects Guru Joe Letteri Says Peter Jackson’s Prequel Changed Filmmaking: ‘There Are Breakthroughs in Every Area’ (VIDEO)

By: Todd Gilchrist / December 14, 2012

'Hobbit' Review
Celebuzz's take on 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.'
'Hobbit's' High Frame Rate
Joe Letteri defends the film's innovative techniques.
Ever since Peter Jackson first announced that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey would be shot in 3D with cameras recording at a speed of 48 frames a second, pundits have analyzed how much his film might impact Hollywood as a whole.

But Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri, who previously worked on groundbreaking films from Star Wars to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, says that the techniques Jackson uses will reverberate in many areas of the industry.

In the past, when someone made a breakthrough like that, it would be because you had this sort of ‘a-ha! Moment,” Letteri told Celebuzz. “[Here,] there are breakthroughs in every area.”

Letteri, who spoke to Celebuzz at the New York press day for The Hobbit, said that the breakthroughs came as a result of numerous challenges the filmmakers faced in bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s source material to life.

“You’re not able to cheat any more when you’re shooting in stereo,” he said. (It just doesn’t work in movies like this, especially when the camera is moving around everywhere.” (By comparison, in the Lord of the Rings films Jackson was able to used forced perspective, where actors would be placed at different distances within the frame to simulate the correct sizes for different species.)

“We had to make two cameras work in synchronization in two different scales on two different stages simultaneously. That was one of the biggest challenges that brought 3D to it that was new.”

Letteri also said that the choice to shoot at 48 fps not just gave them multiple challenges, but produced multiple results, specifically for folks paying to see the film in theaters.

“We found that 48 frames was a good compromise in that it really allowed us to mitigate a lot of the motion artifacts that are a problem when people are viewing in stereo,” Letteri said. “But [we could] still produce the work without having to change too much of the pipeline downstream, meaning what we would need to do to make other versions of the film for release, like the 24 frame stereo and 24 frame not stereo.

“So now I think you have about four different choices as a viewer about how you want to view the film.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in theaters nationwide December 14, 2012. Watch the film’s theatrical trailer below, and let us know how you watched the film in the comments section!

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