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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
"I Can Put My Camera Anywhere": The Main Problem With the Hobbit Film(s)
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Passagas the Brown
The Shire

Jun 19 2013, 5:36pm

Post #1 of 40 (1906 views)
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"I Can Put My Camera Anywhere": The Main Problem With the Hobbit Film(s) Can't Post

I submit that the main problem with the Hobbit films is this: Peter Jackson, due primarily to the overuse of CGI, takes the camera wherever he wants, and this, combined with the CGI on top of CGI, pristine digitial photography, and overuse of studio sets and green screen, creates the:

1. "Fake" or "typical blockbuster" look that so many people dislike, and;
2. The ability of PJ to place even his main characters, through digital double overusage, anywhere on the screen, which contributes to fake, consequence-less and video game-esque moments (such as the egregious "Bombur crashing through the multi-level bridges in Goblin Town," like some kind of Mario in reverse). This also leads PJ to "overdo" his action sequences, turning them into cartoony amusement park rides, and eating up time better spent on characters.

Indeed, I remember cringing when the decision to shelve "bigatures" and "miniatures" was made. But that's not because I thought bigatures and miniatures were the ideal solution - CGI buildings can look just as real (and sometimes, far better). It was because of PJ's statement, in one of the vlogs, that this decision freed him up to, and I paraphrase "put the camera wherever I want - through a doorway, down a hole, etc." For me, this meant that the films were sure to look artificial.

Many have posited that the decision to get rid of bigatures and miniatures is at the crux of the problem. But I think that misses the mark (or at least doesn't go deep enough). For example: Contrary to popular belief, the Game of Thrones television series used quite a bit of CGI, and certainly doesn't use miniatures and bigatures for structures, etc. However, few notice it. Why? Because the camera is relatively stable (i.e. not swooping into every crevice and ravine), which helps sell the CGI elements as solid objects. The audience loses some of its suspension of disbelief when the directors try too hard to follow the dragons - some of the least convincing shots involve taking to the skies with them. Furthermore, most of GoT is shot on location, which helps sell the locations as actual places. PJ, early on, decided to "trust the studio" much more than he did with LoTR, and IMO, that trust was misguided.

In short, it is not the omission of bigatures and miniatures alone that led to this problem, as CGI objects can look strikingly convincing if filmed a certain way. It is the swoopy directorial style of PJ, exacerbated by the "freedom" of using more CGI, that led to all of the excesses in the first Hobbit film (and is seemingly continued in part 2, if the trailer is any indication - I mean, without this freedom of camera placement, would we really be seeing dwarves in barrels bouncing around in whitewater while simultaneously fighting orcs and being chased by CGI elves?).

The ability to put the camera "anywhere" exacerbates PJ's penchant for OTT, unrealistic action, and it contributes to the sense that we are watching a digital world, with digital players. When you add digital photography, and a much heavier use of the studio, you get a very artificial-looking facsimile of Middle Earth.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. But given PJ's love of swooping and swerving, advances in CGI and camera technologies threw his restraint over the ledge. To the detriment of other aspects of the story.

Am I right? Crazy?

What say you?

- Passagas the Brown


(This post was edited by Passagas the Brown on Jun 19 2013, 5:38pm)


Shagrat
Gondor

Jun 19 2013, 6:01pm

Post #2 of 40 (892 views)
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I love Game of Thrones [In reply to] Can't Post

But you can certainly notice the CGI where it's used. It's admirable given they're budget but I don't think we can ignore its limitations.


Aragorn the Elfstone
Grey Havens


Jun 19 2013, 6:09pm

Post #3 of 40 (850 views)
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I've made my peace with it... [In reply to] Can't Post

The Hobbit films have not been done in the way I would have preferred (shot on film, minimalist CGI, more location work, bigatures, etc.), but at this point I'm trying to move past what I wanted the films to be vs. what they are. It seems that the LotR films got made at just the right time, when technology was up to the task but not so advanced that PJ could run rampant with it.

I agree completely about Game of Thrones. There's quite a number of shots that use CGI for the architecture that I don't even notice. In the first season, I had no idea how much of the interior of Winterfell was done with CGI extensions. Just splendid work, and very subtly used. It's never just about the quality of the CGI, but about how much attention you're drawing to it.

"All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of day are dangerous men. That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible."
- T.E. Lawrence


(This post was edited by Aragorn the Elfstone on Jun 19 2013, 6:13pm)


Lucky Luke
Bree


Jun 19 2013, 6:21pm

Post #4 of 40 (806 views)
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Interesting ideas [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you are quite right Passagas... Alhough I remember being impressed by the swooping camera going down in the orc "ant farm" under Isengard. Shots like that are great, but too much spice does ruin the sauce. Like it or not, you point interesting diferences between the esthetics of the two trilogies. I also like the argument you make about how one changes ripples in different directions : shooting 3D, 48FPS = no more bigatures = free camera. One could also ask if PJ bomburian appetite for this free camera makes him choose CGI for shots where it is in no way needed (elves running on a tree in the trailer). I also wonder if the Red camera's issues with colors pushes for CGI instead of sets. Another thread pointing to what we could call the George Lucas Syndrom (GLS). CGI : why do I feel that the quality of the CGI has gone down in the new films? Change of staff? Bigger department, less artistic, hand crafted? Overuse?


Lindele
Gondor


Jun 19 2013, 6:34pm

Post #5 of 40 (821 views)
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If you are suggesting [In reply to] Can't Post

that PJ should just do simple static shots or restrict the dynamic nature of his style then I totally disagree. While Game of Thrones is an incredible show, it can never be on par with the beauty and majesty of LOTR or The Hobbit.

While I do agree that getting rid of some of the real and practical elements that were used in LOTR has definitely shown in AUJ, and not always for the best, I think it is just the nature of the progression of the technology and art form. The CGI in AUJ is pretty astounding


Aragorn the Elfstone
Grey Havens


Jun 19 2013, 6:49pm

Post #6 of 40 (762 views)
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That's highly subjective... [In reply to] Can't Post

I, for one, do find the visuals and cinematography of Game of Thrones more appealing than The Hobbit. It has a gritty realism to it, whereas The Hobbit very often has a fake appearance.

Actually, in many ways, I've found Game of Thrones to be more of a successor to The Lord of the Rings films than The Hobbit. It carries forth that sense of historical realism that PJ was striving for in LotR, but seemingly abandoned in TH.

"All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of day are dangerous men. That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible."
- T.E. Lawrence


Tigero
Rivendell


Jun 19 2013, 7:07pm

Post #7 of 40 (792 views)
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Quality of CGI gone down? Now tell me there is a tooth fairy. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think you are quite right Passagas... Alhough I remember being impressed by the swooping camera going down in the orc "ant farm" under Isengard. Shots like that are great, but too much spice does ruin the sauce. Like it or not, you point interesting diferences between the esthetics of the two trilogies. I also like the argument you make about how one changes ripples in different directions : shooting 3D, 48FPS = no more bigatures = free camera. One could also ask if PJ bomburian appetite for this free camera makes him choose CGI for shots where it is in no way needed (elves running on a tree in the trailer). I also wonder if the Red camera's issues with colors pushes for CGI instead of sets. Another thread pointing to what we could call the George Lucas Syndrom (GLS). CGI : why do I feel that the quality of the CGI has gone down in the new films? Change of staff? Bigger department, less artistic, hand crafted? Overuse?


If LOTR had as much pure CGI as the hobbit with the quality that it had rather than simple matte paintings or miniatures it would look so terrible that everyone would agree that it looked horrible. But to say that CGI quality has gone down?

Do you remember this shot http://www.framecaplib.com/...es/fotr/fotr0893.jpg

Can you seriously say that Hobbit had that bad CGI? Even with that low-res cap you can see how bad that piece of CGI fits to the real imagery. How about Gollum, you can't diffrentiate from a living thing anymore, Goblin king? Amazing simulations of all the fat and stuff. The truth is that when people see that, they think 'cgi'. When they see the hobbit they say 'looks fake', well that's because it is mostly fake, but such a good fake that you can only tell that it has a fake 'taste'.

What kind of color problems are those, are you talking about them using very strong colors on set when shooting with the epics? As far as i know that is just to maximize the color range captured so you will have all the 16 bits of color data for endless opportunities on color grading.

Pessimists have no disappointments.

(This post was edited by Tigero on Jun 19 2013, 7:12pm)


deskp
Lorien

Jun 19 2013, 7:18pm

Post #8 of 40 (696 views)
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but. [In reply to] Can't Post

That isengard shot isn't CGI, its made with a "miniature" the orcs and stuff are cgi though.


Lindele
Gondor


Jun 19 2013, 7:18pm

Post #9 of 40 (716 views)
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Subjective or not [In reply to] Can't Post

from a technical and artistic standpoint the cinematography in Game of Thrones is 'safe' and amateur compared to what Andrew Lesnie does (FYI it is likely that I am the biggest Game of Thrones fan on here...completely obsessed).
I can't argue someone liking the style of Game of Thrones more but to say that it is more of an achievement or superior to LOTR or The Hobbit, I will argue with.


CathrineB
Rohan


Jun 19 2013, 7:20pm

Post #10 of 40 (720 views)
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I agree [In reply to] Can't Post

"Lord of the Rings" has effects that looks rather terrible at times too (the wargs, fake CGI horses in the battle etc), but personally it's something I have either grown used to or accepted.

For me personally I don't think "The Hobbit" has any worse CGI than LotR. It's more the bright colors and sometimes too polished look (pause at the horses and elves when they attack the wargs). But all in all the movie looks real good to me. When I first saw the movie I was in awe over the Goblin King. He looks bloody real and so does Gollum. The eagles, the carrock...

The thing is that everyone KNOWS it's CGI because no such creatures exist. Does everything look good? No, but neither did everything in LotR.


JWPlatt
Grey Havens


Jun 19 2013, 7:26pm

Post #11 of 40 (707 views)
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CGI [In reply to] Can't Post

The quality of CGI has not gone down. It has indeed improved. But because CGI is so much easier and better, we get more of it loaded into movies. We still know it's fake. We know it when we see it. So we see more fakery in movies. It is the quality of movies that depend on CGI that has gone down.


Aragorn the Elfstone
Grey Havens


Jun 19 2013, 7:27pm

Post #12 of 40 (695 views)
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Agree to disagree... [In reply to] Can't Post

Tongue

What you call safe, I call subdued. Just because PJ likes to move the camera around a lot, doesn't automatically mean it's more "artistic" or better. I actually think that what the DPs on GoT do with lighting (darkness, shadow, etc.) is more effective than what Andrew Lesnie achieves (everything is so brightly lit in LotR & TH).

Just to be clear, I adore the cinematography of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Lesnie is practically a god amongst men as far as I'm concerned. Wink But I don't think it's an open and shut case. The approach to the cinematography of each is just very different.

"All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of day are dangerous men. That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible."
- T.E. Lawrence


Tigero
Rivendell


Jun 19 2013, 7:33pm

Post #13 of 40 (684 views)
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Yup, all the scenery is nice [In reply to] Can't Post

But they are made with simple extensions, matte paintings and combining 3d models with real sets, something that is just a few clicks away nowadays. (apart from creating the sets and models, of course ;p) But all the interactive or advanced stuff screams fake, like the dragons climbing on khaleesi, many blood splatters, cuts forming or wildfire (not as an idea but executionwise).

Pessimists have no disappointments.


Aragorn the Elfstone
Grey Havens


Jun 19 2013, 7:45pm

Post #14 of 40 (667 views)
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But none of those things dominate the visual appearance of the show... [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't agree with you about the quality of those effects, but regardless - things like dragons and the Wildfire explosion need to be CGI. There's no other way to do them. Beyond things like that, the CGI use in the show is very subdued. I personally don't have any issue with the quality of the CGI in 'The Hobbit'. It's the fact that so much of it is used. It gives the film a plastic look, instead of grounding it in reality.

"All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of day are dangerous men. That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible."
- T.E. Lawrence


bborchar
Rohan


Jun 19 2013, 8:23pm

Post #15 of 40 (682 views)
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It's a false comparison... [In reply to] Can't Post

GoT has a gritty realism to it because that's what the story is. The Hobbit doesn't because it's a fairy tale. If you made The Hobbit look like GoT, it wouldn't feel right, and vice versa. The visuals have been made to support HFR 3D- and in that medium, it looks stunning. It doesn't look as good in 2D, but that's the sacrifice you make, because making it look good for one version will automatically lessen the quality for the other version.


「さようなら、ミスターホームズ」〜アイリーンアダラーのメール

「ベルグレービアの醜聞」


Lusitano
Tol Eressea


Jun 19 2013, 8:50pm

Post #16 of 40 (606 views)
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I quite agree with you on GOT [In reply to] Can't Post

and with the OP with regards to the visual style of TH and the sweeping, undisciplined camera style jackson employs.

GOT's combination of CGI, locations and sets is almost flawless, we dont really notice it, we dont see it, everything blends in together.

Also, its use of natural light, cinematography, and location shooting is anything but amateurish. It shows a great confidence and knowledge of what elements of the image work when youre doing a fantasy, historical world come to life.

Subtlety and economy are things they understand which is way it more closely resembles cinema and film than TH. It looks ...natural...rather than a set or a computer generated environment...Two completely different philosophies and aesthetics of filmmaking and i know which of those i prefer.

And youre on spot when you say it follows more the pre established look of realism and location shooting for a natural look from Lotr.

Jackson's " i learned to trust the studio" , ruined a lot. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach when i read that line, and so it was.

Vous commencez m'ennuyer avec le port!!!


Lucky Luke
Bree


Jun 19 2013, 10:56pm

Post #17 of 40 (561 views)
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Tooth fairy [In reply to] Can't Post

Not sure about the tooth fairy... I will have to check and come back to you... The Goblin King is indeed very good, but better than the design of Gollum who was pure genius (granted that he is even better in The Hobbit)? of the Balrog? of the fell beast? But how about Azog? Or the Radagast bunny sled chase? The "pinball dwarves" falling in Goblin town? I think I prefer the shot of the fellowship you included to the shot of the dwarves being taken in the Elven Kingdom in the new trailer.

As for the colors, from what I gathered from the video blog : every departments - sets, costumes, wigs, make-up, prosthetics - had to adjust to the new cameras, Judging from the purple forest, these adjustments must have been quite a burden. The artists working on the film could no trust their eye's anymore. Wink


Roheryn
Grey Havens

Jun 19 2013, 11:45pm

Post #18 of 40 (546 views)
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*raises eyebrows* ANYwhere?!? [In reply to] Can't Post

Now *that's* something I'd like to see. Or, maybe not! Wink

Personally, I love PJ's swoopy camera style. I now find the more static cameras in other films rather mundane and uninspired. It's all about suspension of disbelief; we know it's not real, so why not just follow the cameras wherever PJ wants to take us with them and enjoy the ride? PJ used the same sort of camera moves in the LOTR movies, and I felt the same way about it there. It gives a much more involved and dynamic feeling to the movies than I find with static cameras. I really don't think it's a problem at all!


jtarkey
Rohan


Jun 20 2013, 12:11am

Post #19 of 40 (500 views)
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Undisciplined is the EXACT word for it IMO [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't even see much of a "shooting style" at all in AUJ. If the camera can go wherever it wants all the time, then nothing is really special about it. If everything is exciting, nothing is exciting.

Having your camera swooping constantly loses it's luster after a while. I don't think "swooping" is the only interesting thing a camera can do. It's worse when the camera is going through bad CGI environments. That's the exact thing that makes AUJ look like a video game sometimes.

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


JWPlatt
Grey Havens


Jun 20 2013, 12:16am

Post #20 of 40 (511 views)
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Through The Ring [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's where putting the camera anywhere works:

In the volcano just before all the other endings to the The Return of the King (not that I'm complaining about endings), Gollum finally gets the ring from - or with - Frodo's finger and holds it aloft in joyous celebration. The camera pulls up through the ring as Gollum is also seen peering at and through the ring. That worked. No physical camera is going to do that.

I'd call camera movement highly artistic where grand motions could be entirely out of place, become cliche, or be brilliant. I wouldn't say it is an evil to be squashed, but something to be used wisely like anything else. So maybe this is really about the wisdom of Jackson and his swooshes and less about the CGI?


Passagas the Brown
The Shire

Jun 20 2013, 4:23am

Post #21 of 40 (451 views)
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Disagreed [In reply to] Can't Post

Just because the Hobbit is a "fairy tale," it does not follow that it needs to be chock full of brightly-lit CGI-filled cartoonish action with constant swoopy camera shots. GDT's "Pan's Labyrinth" is also a fairy tale of sorts, and it does nothing of the kind.

Fairy tales should have charm, but that is very different than sugary emptiness. And there is a huge difference between "childlike" and "adolescent." PJ leans far more towards the adolescent, IMO. The trashy consequence-less eye candy is the kind of thing modern teens eat up.

I find characterizations of the Hobbit book as some sort of modern Disney story to be very far off the mark. Even in the early parts of the story, there is mythic depth and danger in the Hobbit - whether it be during the dwarves' song in Bag End, or when they are in danger of starving to death after the ponies bolt (a perilous situation which PJ inexplicably removes).

For some reason, PJ excised many parts of the Hobbit that were dark and dangerous (though sometimes comically).

He wouldn't have needed to invent orc attacks, and other nonsense, if he actually dealt with the very human dilemmas inherent in the text. I mean, why not dramatize the prospect of the company completely running out of food? Why can drama only be created by CGI monsters attacking?

In short, I think PJ simply amplified what was an already OTT style of film-making. Instead of playing with his new toys in moderation, his toys played him. Though the Hobbit is not a disaster of Star Wars prequel proportions, Lucasization was almost certainly at play. It's a movie full of technological excess, and it loses much of its soul once the party leaves the Shire.


(This post was edited by Passagas the Brown on Jun 20 2013, 4:27am)


Passagas the Brown
The Shire

Jun 20 2013, 4:25am

Post #22 of 40 (438 views)
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No way [In reply to] Can't Post

The lighting and shot composition in Game of Thrones is often far superior to that of TH and LOTR, in my opinion. The directors of GoT sometimes come close to the kind of mastery we see from some of film's great directors - David Lean or Sergio Leone. By comparison, PJ's completely undisciplined flying camera is juvenile, at best.


TheHutt
Gondor


Jun 20 2013, 8:15am

Post #23 of 40 (442 views)
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Well... you have to remember your Jackson. [In reply to] Can't Post

Take a look at his early films: Bad Taste, Braindead, partially Heavenly Creatures and Frighteners.

PJ is hyperactive with his crazy camera movements and fast cuts. That's how he always worked. Now with CGI he just has more possibilities to do that.

Russian LOTR & Hobbit Site: Henneth-Annun.ru


Tigero
Rivendell


Jun 20 2013, 9:42am

Post #24 of 40 (391 views)
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Azog was nice too, but i must agree on the other points [In reply to] Can't Post

The feel of realism went to 0 when bunnysled and pinball dwarves happened, and i won't accept it were this moive a children's film or not, it is a Tolkien film.

Pessimists have no disappointments.


Lindele
Gondor


Jun 20 2013, 12:44pm

Post #25 of 40 (355 views)
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Ha [In reply to] Can't Post

As Aragorn the Elfstone said...agree to disagree

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