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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
The VFX of The Hobbit + a short documentary
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Mar 8 2013, 7:54pm

Post #1 of 29 (1093 views)
The VFX of The Hobbit + a short documentary Can't Post

This video gives a detailed explanation (possibly too detailed) of the tissue software Weta developed to create all the creatures in The Hobbit.


And, as posted on the main page, here's the briefer, jargon-free summary:


I think this is a good opportunity for us to open a discussion on the VFX of The Hobbit as a whole, so if anyone wants to share thoughts, concerns or opinions, here's the place.

I personally (as an animation fanatic) am blown away by the amount of work and knowledge involved in creating the anatomy of these creatures. It really is a case of science meets art, that's hugely inspiring. And I can't wait to see the muscular structure of Smaug!

(This post was edited by QuackingTroll on Mar 8 2013, 7:57pm)

Tol Eressea

Mar 8 2013, 8:25pm

Post #2 of 29 (549 views)
I think the creative process [In reply to] Can't Post

behind the creatures and stuff is great but it just doesn't look real enough on the screen to me. Most of the CGI IMO looked added over top of existing footage. I guess I'm just old school and prefer prosthetics and interaction between actors for scenes. But it is cool seeing behind the scenes stuff like this. I just don't find the execution of it up to par with what was done with LOTR over 10 years ago.


Mar 8 2013, 8:40pm

Post #3 of 29 (550 views)
Gollum was the only thing that impressed me in AUJ [In reply to] Can't Post

IMO, it's obvious that they spent the most time and effort on him. Everything else just seemed like they didn't really care that much. There are only a few shots of the trolls that I find impressive, the rest of the time they look very cartoony and bad. The Great Goblin wasn't so great either.

The thing that I think bothers me most, is the excessive use of CGI doubles for the dwarves. Just pay attention to it next time you watch the film. Nearly the entire troll fight sequence is completley CGI. It's ridiculous to boot, and makes everything look like a video game. All the dwarves seem to have every move planned like a neatly choreographed dance. This same problem can be applied to most of the action scenes in the films.

The shot of the dwarves charging at the East Gate is needlessly CGI just because it looked cool. But to me, it just looked fake, and I would have preferred to see them achieve the same shot with actors. Maybe put some effort into it instead of just resorting to CGI.

Overall, VERY unimpressed with the VFX in AUJ. When I saw Life of Pi, I was even more blown away by how underwhelming the effects in AUJ were. I really hope TDOS looks a lot better. They need to get back to realistic action, instead of this impossible CGI nonsense.

"You're love of the halflings leaf has clearly slowed your mind"


Mar 8 2013, 8:45pm

Post #4 of 29 (568 views)
Utterly bewildered [In reply to] Can't Post

at the negative comments regarding AUJ VFX.
I consider myself fairly knowledgeable/experienced on these things and I was blown away by the VFX.
IMO we haven't seen anything that comes close to the VFX in AUJ besides Life of Pi.
I don't think it is the VFX people have a problem with, it can't be. It must be the quality of the image or something...

Tol Eressea

Mar 8 2013, 8:57pm

Post #5 of 29 (523 views)
Thanks for sharing, QT! [In reply to] Can't Post

I really enjoyed that a lot.


Middle Earth is New Zealand!

"Question everything, embrace the bad, and hold on to the good."


Mar 8 2013, 9:01pm

Post #6 of 29 (551 views)
I've studied animation and continue to pursue the interest now. I agree and disagree [In reply to] Can't Post

I think The Goblin King and the eagles were really the weak-spot for this film. Azog wasn't 100%, but considering the rushed time frame he's still really impressive.

But none of the CGI was BAD and certain elements (the environments, Gollum, the goblins etc.) really surpassed what's been seen before to an extent that the slight weaknesses can be completely forgiven.

When the Oscar nominations were announced I thought The Hobbit didn't really have a chance against The Avengers or Life of Pi. But after seeing the above videos I can now appreciated why they got the tech award, the work they're doing is astonishing, even if the result is hit-and-miss.

I think, when this tech evolves (which over the next 2 Hobbit films, it will) we'll see some fantastic stuff. I'm sure PJ is aware that Smaug has to be magnificent, so we can really expect some great leaps there if nowhere else.

(This post was edited by QuackingTroll on Mar 8 2013, 9:03pm)

Tol Eressea

Mar 8 2013, 9:06pm

Post #7 of 29 (530 views)
Well [In reply to] Can't Post

have you seen rivendell? And how sugary, cgi, digitally fake it looks?

Just compare it to lotr's homely house.

For me, wargs, goblins, rivendell, goblin town, east gate battle, sets and green screened backgrounds mixed together, all of these things looked obviously fake, poorly done and too digitall.

Either that is a result of limited time, too much work, super resolution, too much green screen...i dont know...the end result is disappointing...

I am just looking at one of BLurays.com screenshots of TH , the final scene with the dwarfs, and it just looks so obviously fake, you can just tell they are on a set and the background is digitally created or added in post. And Dwalins beard is the worst beard i have seen in recent historical or fantastical films...

Vous commencez m'ennuyer avec le port!!!


Mar 8 2013, 9:10pm

Post #8 of 29 (529 views)
Now that I disagree with. The environments, to me, seemed flawless [In reply to] Can't Post

Particularly Rivendell http://youtu.be/cqczPfWnQMI

(This post was edited by QuackingTroll on Mar 8 2013, 9:11pm)


Mar 8 2013, 9:55pm

Post #9 of 29 (499 views)
The making of videos have been awesome [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm currently studying animation and have been referencing most of them in my research diary for my concept of design class. The entire tissue system is fantastic, had no idea Weta digital had gone that deep, they truly deserved that technical Oscar.

I think the CG in the Hobbit was brilliant, I'm surprised to see there has been some negative reaction to it. After seeing the Hobbit and catching a bit Lord of the Rings on TV some of it looked dated to me. Dated might not be the right word, the effects in Rings are still very good compared to a lot of more recent films.

The only thing I think didn't look up to scratch was Azog, He didn't look terrible, just not on the same level as Gollum, the Trolls and the goblins. But I understand he was a late addition and from my experience, CG characters take a lot of time and can be the most frustrating things in the world some time. I hate skin weights. And the fur brush. Sorry for the jargon. Tongue

In all honesty if people want bad CGI look no further;


Yes, my username is terrible.

Tol Eressea

Mar 8 2013, 9:56pm

Post #10 of 29 (508 views)
For the most part I think [In reply to] Can't Post

the environments themselves weren't all that bad. Not perfect or flawless but not horrible either. I think the biggest thing I didn't like was the interaction of the characters in those digital environments the movements just seemed fake to me. Or places where they combined real live action and CGI with characters like Azog that were superimposed over top of flesh and blood actors. Maybe Azog was rushed but if that is the case they should have pushed back the release date to fine tune things instead of putting out a subpar product. I just think the film was at its best when it stuck to what Tolkien wrote and used practical effects. i believe the over use of CGI only hurt the film instead of helping it. They were hoping lighting would strike twice like it did with Gollum, but overall I think it failed. And in some spots failed miserably.

Tol Eressea

Mar 8 2013, 11:52pm

Post #11 of 29 (472 views)
Get a hold of [In reply to] Can't Post

some HD screenshots from lotr and compare with TH. YOu will see how in the TH everythig looks, digital, obviously digitally added, how the blending of set and post just shows that you have two different dimensions : the set and the digital background. The houses look cgi and lack that verisimulitude from the the miniatures and matte paintings from lotr...that shot with the statue looks so setish and the opposing background so fake with the obviously cpmputer created balcony on the upper houses it almost makes me laugh that first shot of the dwarves descending on rivendell is so obviously CGI that it has more in common with video games environments i have seen than with lotrs rivendell ....in short, lotr rivendell looked very realistic and historical. This rivendell is an overliy lit, sugar candy, cgi filled mess.It reminds me of george lucas obsessiveness with CGI and green screen, not the lotr which had a very judicious use of CGI.

If i am not mistaken lotr s rivendell had parts of it shot on a real location, with real trees and gardens... that makes a difference.

Vous commencez m'ennuyer avec le port!!!

(This post was edited by Lusitano on Mar 8 2013, 11:59pm)


Mar 9 2013, 12:29am

Post #12 of 29 (448 views)
Thank you for that, Quacking Troll [In reply to] Can't Post

Very interesting. I personally loved the VFX both the environments and the majority of the figures, with the exception of the Wargs. For me, the VFX were well ahead of what was done for LOTR and helped to immerse me in the film.

Can't wait for the next film, though I will still be catching AUJ again next week. Smile

(This post was edited by Glorfindela on Mar 9 2013, 12:29am)


Mar 9 2013, 1:34am

Post #13 of 29 (447 views)
The eagles? [In reply to] Can't Post

One of the highlights of the film for me was the flight of the eagles at the end. On the big screen I could really see the feathers fluttering in the wind, and almost feel the breeze on my face. What didn't you like about them?


Mar 9 2013, 3:06am

Post #14 of 29 (432 views)
Agree completely [In reply to] Can't Post

The eagles were perfect. As a former zookeeper in the Ornithology Dept of the Bronx Zoo, I was totally impressed with the feathering of the eagles. Maybe the heads looked fake? But the level of detail in the feathers is astounding.


Mar 9 2013, 6:50am

Post #15 of 29 (397 views)
Yes! [In reply to] Can't Post

I found the eagles to be outstanding, especially during day-light. The feathers were insanely natural imho.

I also found Rivendell to be gorgeous... very similar to LotR but a bit less melancholic, which kind of fits since (especially in the movies) Rivendell is closely related to the Elves leavin ME. The only thing missing to me was more Bilbo in Rivendell and that is why I am happy for the EE.

Just shows, how different views can be, Lusitano :) What I found much better in AUJ in general is that there were not as many obvious map paintings used anymore... especially in Rivendell.

(This post was edited by Arannir on Mar 9 2013, 6:52am)


Mar 9 2013, 8:16am

Post #16 of 29 (387 views)
Add me to that list! [In reply to] Can't Post

Regardless of the obvious deviation from the book, I think that scene is one of the best in all 4 films!


Mar 9 2013, 10:54am

Post #17 of 29 (377 views)
I think it is the heads... [In reply to] Can't Post

The close-ups of talons looked fine and the feathers were perfectly ANIMATED. but whether they looked physical or real is different. Their heads looked very cartoonish compared to the majestic look they had in RotK. Almost out-of-proportion looking. Were they a different species or something?


Mar 9 2013, 4:05pm

Post #18 of 29 (353 views)
You are just the person I want to ask about the Eagles then! [In reply to] Can't Post

Amateur (highly) birdwatcher - we have Bald eagles here, so I have seen them, but not like the film ones. Are the film eagles based on Goldens?


Mar 9 2013, 4:46pm

Post #19 of 29 (341 views)
The environments were mostly incredible [In reply to] Can't Post

as was gollum who looked awesome.

Rivendell however was not (IMO) one of those environments. In the clip the guy talking says the challenge was to make the place look younger but not CG clean - i think this is where they didn't quite achieve their goal. It looks different sure but to me it does look CG clean - if by that he means sugar coated fakeness.

The actual CG may be better now than when lotr were around and certain things like gollum look better but Rivendell some how just looks more real back then.


Mar 9 2013, 7:11pm

Post #20 of 29 (324 views)
Talking about the visuals in the prequel of a classic... [In reply to] Can't Post

... just coming back from watching "Oz".

What an ugly movie... I did not realize things can still look that bad (not to mention that the script is ridiculous). Since they have the technology, I guess it was supposed to look like that.

But now I know what people mean when they talk about movies that look like a video game. At least it makes my gratefulness for the way LotR and TH have been handeled even greater.

A shame I contributed to that opening weekend... sorry, AinurOlorin, I should have stuck to your agenda of not doing that Wink

(This post was edited by Arannir on Mar 9 2013, 7:11pm)


Mar 9 2013, 10:30pm

Post #21 of 29 (304 views)
I agree... [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that, having an entire year to work on Desolation, the visual fx will probably be stunning...and Smaug will be the showstopper. I think the new format may have exposed the AUJ's flaws, but I would be shocked if they don't account for that in the next film.


Mar 10 2013, 11:49am

Post #22 of 29 (262 views)
Weird critics love that movie [In reply to] Can't Post

I've read a few reviews where critics have said "the CGI isn't great, but the film is childlike and wonderful, over the top and lots of fun" and they give it a good score

and the same reviewers then say The Hobbit looks like a video game and is too over-the-top. I just don't know what pleases people these days.


Mar 10 2013, 12:04pm

Post #23 of 29 (260 views)
I think... [In reply to] Can't Post

... it shows once more how enormous (in some cases maybe even unfair) the expectations for AUJ were.

I just hope Smaug will not be another victim of people's expectations (including my own).

Because I sometimes find myself wondering - how special can a dragon actually be, really? Since he also has to look kind of "traditional" but at the same time not boring. A little anxious here.


Mar 10 2013, 12:32pm

Post #24 of 29 (256 views)
Regarding the warg chase... [In reply to] Can't Post

... that seems to have not too many fans here, I wonder whether this (moving animals in daylight on real terrain) is still a major issue of CGI. We know that PJ was not too pleased with the wargs in TTT so one might think he anticipated the problem for TH.

I thought about it watching Oz which has another CGI thing in it that does not really seem to work even with all the improvement: flying people. It looked pretty bad in most of the HP movies... and it still looks weird in Oz. And that's although Oz has the advantage of almost no real terrain shots.

I guess it shows some of the limits that are not crossed yet... at least unless everything is CGI, like in Avatar.

(This post was edited by Arannir on Mar 10 2013, 12:34pm)


Mar 10 2013, 12:41pm

Post #25 of 29 (253 views)
I think it is an issue to an extent [In reply to] Can't Post

Saying that i think had WETA put some serious amount of time into the warg scenes - as much as gollum then the outcome would have been better.

For me both Gollum and Richard Parker (RP) were done far far better than the wargs - one of those CGI creations was not a real species but interacted with a real environment - the set - but was also acted out by Andy Serkis before hand and i think this gives a lot to the finished product.

RP was CG of a real creature and was in a almost completely CG environment apart from the bits of boat that he goes on along with the boy, so he does have to look real against the boat which is really there. For me i feel the tiger did look like it was really in the boat on the set and it looked completely real - if you look on google, a fair number of people couldn't tell if it was real or not judging by how many have asked if it was real.

So i think it could have been done better but there is only so much time they could devote to the wargs as they are not as important as Gollum to get right and lots of this movie was CG and it was a long film.

I think it's doable but currently it seems to be very difficult.

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