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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Did PJ ever explain why less on-location / real set filming?
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Dec 25 2013, 4:23pm

Post #1 of 67 (1390 views)
Did PJ ever explain why less on-location / real set filming? Can't Post

Hey folks,

as we have come to this point where two of the three Hobbit movies are released and a lot of fans and critics seem to dislike the films not only because of their changes to the book but also the over-usage of CGI, I'd like to ask one question: Did PJ ever give the audience a reason why he did not film as many shots as possible on location and instead preferred to build a lot of sets digitally?

I mean, when we look back at LOTR, we know there was a big amount of CG shots as well but it seems like the whole crew forgot about the significance in filming on real sets, in the beautiful landscapes of NZ. I wonder if or why PJ forgot about how "natural" his LOTR films looked, especially because he filmed as much on location / on real sets as possible. Even risking foots get pierced by shards of glass...
Since I cannot believe filming on real sets is more expensive than making everything CG nowadays, especially when looking at the huge budget for the Hobbit trilogy which nearly tripled from the LOTR budget.

Please have in mind I'm not attacking PJ and his crew here since I personally think he again did a very good (yet not masterpiece-worthy) film again with DOS.

(This post was edited by AriesT on Dec 25 2013, 4:28pm)


Dec 25 2013, 4:43pm

Post #2 of 67 (809 views)
Primary reason: bad weather [In reply to] Can't Post

"I've learnt to trust the studio" said Peter Jackson in the August 2011 issue of Empire Magazine.

He stated that the advancement in technology, allowed him to film many more scenes inside a studio, where the shooting couldn't be disrupted by bad weather.

I believe that was the main reason.

'A Tolkienist's Perspective' Blog
'How Peter Jackson inches closer to making 'The Silmarillion'

(This post was edited by Arandir on Dec 25 2013, 4:51pm)


Dec 25 2013, 5:41pm

Post #3 of 67 (698 views)
LOTR had a lot of sets as well [In reply to] Can't Post

People seem to forget this. A lot of LOTR was filmed on man-made sets (Fangorn, Bree, Meduseld, Dead Marshes, etc.) And the locations in Hobbit were made fantastical, so to speak, and hard to find a location in Middle-earth that fit it.

Lover of Medieval Fantasy
"I know what I must do. It's just... I'm afraid to do it."


Dec 25 2013, 5:44pm

Post #4 of 67 (666 views)
7 [In reply to] Can't Post

No one is fussed about sets, the sets themselves were used in conjunction with miniatures. In the Hobbit we have full on star wars prequels

(This post was edited by haarp on Dec 25 2013, 5:44pm)


Dec 25 2013, 5:49pm

Post #5 of 67 (628 views)
Yes... [In reply to] Can't Post

I have to say that I really appreciated some of the outdoor work in DOS, and some parts--such as the encounter between Bard and the Dwarves at the dock on the river--I would never have known were greenscreen at all and not on-location.

That said, RotK in particular used a massive amount of greenscreen, especially in close-ups in the later battle scenes, and even in FotR there were numerous close-up shots that were greenscreen as well (see Gimli's closeup in the Dimrill Dale after Gandalf's death). I'm not so sure there is that terribly much more interior work in the Hobbit films than in LotR, especially later in the series.


Dec 25 2013, 5:51pm

Post #6 of 67 (642 views)
Wel, if you think about there are 5 Set peiees in this Version... [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Inside Beorn's Lodge

2. Inside Mirkwood Forest

3. Inside The ElvenKing's Palace.

4. Inside Laketown

5. Inside Erebor

1. Outside
they shot what they could?
of The Barrell escape.

2. Outside
they shot what they could of all running scenes..

3. Outside Most of their Landscape shots..

What more could they have done?


The Shire

Dec 25 2013, 5:54pm

Post #7 of 67 (708 views)
Not the whole truth [In reply to] Can't Post

This may well be one of the reasons, but I doubt it's the only one.

I believe that part of the reason LotR (particularly FotR) looked so real was that there simply wasn't money and technology to do it all in the computer. As PJs budgets and computer technology has evolved, he has relied increasingly heavy on CGI in his movies. In general, there has been a constant selection of artificial over real. CGI over makeup for the orcs, CGI over stunts for the action scenes, CGI landscapes and sets over location shooting and miniatures, etc etc.

I also think a lot of the character designs follows this pattern; a "recognizable silhouette" is more important than that the character feels real and practical. Nori's hair as well as many of the dwarfs weapons are illustrations of this. The orcs and wargs also look designed to be "cool" rather than "real" etc etc.


Dec 25 2013, 5:57pm

Post #8 of 67 (624 views)
Taking the crew out on location costs a LOT of money [In reply to] Can't Post

That's the long and short of it. Also, the director is at the mercy of the elements and various unforeseen circumstances (they were gonna film more on the river for a FOTR 'rapids chase's sequence but the weather stopped them. Granted, this was probably a blessing in the end :p)


Dec 25 2013, 5:58pm

Post #9 of 67 (640 views)
scale? [In reply to] Can't Post

Isn't there a bigger issue with scale in TH than LOTR?

Stand the dwarf and Martin Freeman next to a real tree or rock or what have you and they look like humans dressed in costume, stand them next to a set or within a CGI world where everything has been scaled up to the correct ratio so that, 6 foot plus Armitage looks like a 5 foot dwarf or 5 foot 7 Freeman look like a 4 foot 6 Hobbit and it works.

There was a lot of complicated camera trickery and forced perspective that worked in LOTR, that simply wouldn't work in TH because of the lack of normal human sized characters. Scale doubles only work for very brief moments and they are more obvious in HD (normal 1080 HD blu-ray not even talking about HFR or 3D)than they are in the standard format LOTR was released in. Watch FOTR with this in mind, there is an awful lot of extremely clever editing to disguise the height of actors, that if used in TH would look odd and clunky, I don't want to watch TH where characters talk to each other without being in the same shot or characters get blurred to disguise the fact that they are scale doubles(watch it happens in FOTR and blurring scale doubles simply looks off and wrong in HD)

LOTR looked more real because the source material is more 'real' with far more major characters being normal human size, yet in the Hobbit, apart from Laketown, human sized characters are largely absent and the novel itself is full of fantastical creatures and places that need CGI to come alive on screen, not unless you want a Horned Lizard filmed on green screen and scaled up by 10k and imposed on film, like some bad 1970s low budget BBC children's Tv show as Smaug.Laugh

Watch Snow White and the Huntsman to see how badly the problem of casting multiple dwarves can be done! The solution in that case was to superimpose actors heads like Ray Winstone on top of scale actors torsos, wrong on so many levels; visually, morally,etc it's just bad, really bad. They had to do that beause they filmed on location and used real sets!

Of course one could argue that PJ and co could have negated this problem and filmed on real sets if they had cast actors who were actually Hobbit and Dwarf size but the pool of quality thesbians of the correct size is very small (pardon the pun). No Freeman, no Armitage, no Stott and to be blunt we all know Peter Dinklage wasn't available.

I understand you thoughts on the matter and why some people dislike CGI, I generally dislike it but it's usually because it is bad or unnecessary e.g city scapes in Man of Steel. Middle-earth is mythical fantasy world so for me, it doesn't have to be real to look real if you catch my meaning

(This post was edited by glor on Dec 25 2013, 6:00pm)

The Shire

Dec 25 2013, 6:06pm

Post #10 of 67 (597 views)
Not sure if I get your point [In reply to] Can't Post

On the contrary I would say that there is LESS scale issues with The Hobbit as no trickery at all is needed to make Bilbo and the dwarfs look right in relation to each other. It's only Gandalf that need to be scaled up, and that is in most cases no different than LotR.

3D, however, throws a stick in the wheel for many techniques used in the previous trilogy. However, the choice to go 3D was most likely completely made by PJ. The vast majority of Hollywood action blockbusters sticks with conventional 2D and works just fine.


Dec 25 2013, 6:31pm

Post #11 of 67 (598 views)
Woah, some hyperbole there [In reply to] Can't Post

"A lot of fans and critics" do not dislike the film at all. It's the opposite. Since when did a 75% on RT become a bad thing?

All this negativity is rather the internet folk. There's never been a single movie that hasn't been scrutinized to death by people online.


Dec 25 2013, 6:34pm

Post #12 of 67 (573 views)
To clarify [In reply to] Can't Post

the scale doubles were used in LOTR because they scaled against the sets and locations not just the other actors. Also the CGI and computers allowed Gandalf and the dwarves to look like they were talking and interacting in the same shot on screen, yet when filmed computer trickery was used so that the actors were on two different sets, one green screen and filmed simultanously.


Gandalf that need to be scaled up, and that is in most cases no different than LotR.

I would disagree with that statement. If you watch LOTR there are an awful lot of scenes where Gandalf, is not in the same shot as the Hobbit actors. That is,Sir Ian is not talking directly to a Hobbit, it's just cut very cleverly so you see Gandalf's scale double's cloak or bottom half. Plus Gandalf doesn't have as much screen time with the diminutive characters in LOTR as he does in the Hobbit

Of course you are correct in that 3d doesn't work with scale doubles


The vast majority of Hollywood action blockbusters sticks with conventional 2D and works just fine.

Actually, the vast majority of Hollywood blockbusters are now in 3D. Almost every big action/animation/superhero/big budget film is showing in 3D at the local multiplex.

I watched FOTR and ROTK in HD on my Tv the other week, and boy did I notice that the bigatures were painted foam blocks, and how most of the sets and models looked like models and sets. watch LOTR on blu-ray on a decent 42" HD TV and the extra detail offered over standard definition DVD highlights the fakery of 'traditional' filming techniques. I don't get that when watching AUJ on Blu-ray which is why I haven't bothered getting my LOTR EEs, my prefered LOTR home viewing, in blu-ray, the films look better in standard definition, the medium in which they were intended to be viewed and, a medium that is effectively defunct now.

I guess the CGI in TH doesn't bother me at all because as I have said before in threads such as this; CGI films are usually badly acted, the actors really struggle with the CGI environment and it really shows on screen, that's the big problem with the Star Wars prequels, the clunky wooden acting of some of the finest names at the time, in Hollywood. TH does not suffer that fate, far from it.


Dec 25 2013, 6:42pm

Post #13 of 67 (570 views)
Not wanting to be offensive or hyperbole [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, calm down. I did not say the film is bad and I actually did not have the RT score in my head. More so the Cinemascore which was A- compared to the A+ of AUJ. I just looked across this board, since it is one of the biggest "official" fan pages in the web and many fans here and elsewhere seem to not like DOS (and AUJ as well), though I personally even loved the 40 minutes intro of the first film more. The main reason I opened this topic is to find out what PJ may have said about the "over-usage" of CG and the way lesser usage of natural outdoor sets (or built-into-the-nature sets like the original Rivendell set) in the Hobbit trilogy. To discuss his possible statements and what the fans here think about it.


Dec 25 2013, 6:47pm

Post #14 of 67 (545 views)
Sorry if I came off rude [In reply to] Can't Post

I totally get what you're coming at. In fact, the comment I made on "negativity" was directed at the boards here and the internet. People often exaggerate their reactions to these movies. It's oddly a human thing to do but incredibly frustrating especially when you look back at the threads. It's almost a wave of emotions in terms of how the fans here react to these movies.


Dec 25 2013, 6:48pm

Post #15 of 67 (556 views)
Problem with 2D here [In reply to] Can't Post

A bit off-topic, but...If the Hobbit trilogy were in 2D, it would have become an unexpected flop (lol, bad pun) for the studio and PJ since both films are by far less attended by the audience than the LOTR movies.
If AUJ would not have been in 3D, its box office gross would have been way beneath FOTR. Same with DOS now which might struggle even reaching FOTR world wide (regarding the comparably bad US box office run).

(This post was edited by AriesT on Dec 25 2013, 6:49pm)

Superuser / Moderator

Dec 25 2013, 7:45pm

Post #16 of 67 (592 views)
Am I mis-remembering, [In reply to] Can't Post

or did someone (possibly PJ) say right at the start of filming that the RED cameras would show up models as models, rather than realistic environments, so they would not be using them for the Hobbit films?

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.

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Dec 25 2013, 7:47pm

Post #17 of 67 (530 views)
Yes, scale plus the extra resolution. [In reply to] Can't Post

As I recall, Jackson discussed this in one of the early video logs. The "bigatures" and large sets (like Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith in LotR) that they were so proud of didn't survive the extra resolution required of 3-D/HFR filming, which led to much less use of sets and more green-screen.

The large main cast (15 principals, who had to be together most of the time) made location filming more expensive and complex. All the scenes of, say, the 3 Hunters running across Rohan, were a piece of cake compared with what they had to do here.

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Dec 25 2013, 7:50pm)


Dec 25 2013, 8:15pm

Post #18 of 67 (528 views)
1 [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
I also think a lot of the character designs follows this pattern; a "recognizable silhouette" is more important than that the character feels real and practical. Nori's hair as well as many of the dwarfs weapons are illustrations of this. The orcs and wargs also look designed to be "cool" rather than "real" etc etc.

I agree with your entire post, but wanted to comment on this in particular. I really don't like the Wargs in the hobbit movies. The Wargs in LOTR certainly looked further removed from wolves than the ones in the hobbit, and the CGI was also not nearly as good for the wargs in LOTR. However, I actually like the LOTR wargs a lot more than the ones in the hobbit because (as you described) they just "feel" more real to me.

Although the CGI isn't as good, the realism doesn't seem to have anything to do with this. It's mostly the design. The design of the original wargs looks like a more realistic creature that I have an easier time believing as existed in history. While the wargs in the hobbit are closer to wolves, their design just looks too fantasy-like to be believeable as something that is a real creature.

I'm sure the first comment some will make in reaction to this post is, "well the hobbit is more of a fairy-tale fantasy." That's fine, but that doesn't change the fact that I just simply do not like the more fantasy-like design of the wargs. I would have much rather have seen something that looks more "life-like" so to speak.

-Sir are you classified as human
-Negative, I am a meat-popsicle

(This post was edited by redgiraffe on Dec 25 2013, 8:16pm)


Dec 25 2013, 8:15pm

Post #19 of 67 (523 views)
The problem i see is [In reply to] Can't Post

where they could easily shot on location.

Legolas horse riding out of Lake town.
Or the company riding the horses on grass (looked stange) in front of Mirkwood. I don't know how this scene was shot, but it looked fake.


Dec 25 2013, 8:29pm

Post #20 of 67 (471 views)
2 [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
3D, however, throws a stick in the wheel for many techniques used in the previous trilogy. However, the choice to go 3D was most likely completely made by PJ. The vast majority of Hollywood action blockbusters sticks with conventional 2D and works just fine.

I hate to seem like I'm only replying/agreeing with your posts, and I hate to seem negative as well. But I find myself agreeing with you once again. A major problem I have with TH is PJ's use of all these different filming technologies - Digital, 3D, 5K, 48fps.

His reasoning for not using miniatures and other past filming techniques in TH is because of his change in filming style with these different technologies. To me, that's unfortunate because it seems like he's compromising his old techniques (which, IMO, made LOTR look so great) for this new format which, quite frankly, I don't care about. All I really care about is how does the hobbit look in 2D 24fps.

Honestly, I would be much more content with a hobbit that was filmed and presented in 35mm, 2D 24fps just like LOTR, especially if he used a lot of his old techniques. PJ says it's because they are trying to get people back into theaters. Well, at the end of the day, lots of people marched to the theaters to see LOTR, and that wasn't in 3D HFR. So I don't think the new tech is the key factor that gets more people into the movies.

-Sir are you classified as human
-Negative, I am a meat-popsicle

(This post was edited by redgiraffe on Dec 25 2013, 8:30pm)


Dec 25 2013, 8:38pm

Post #21 of 67 (489 views)
Another point of reference? [In reply to] Can't Post

The Location Manager (forgot him name) said
Shipping the cast & Crew around both the North
Island was the

Largest Logistical
Move... ever for

Another said everyone
was so excited to Finally get outdoors.

In the Stagehand work
Bomby did over the past 13 years;
For Huge Rock& Roll
High Operas,
Roadshows: Lion King &
Phantom of the Opera & many more..
Massive Conventions,etc.

One of the First questions S-hands would Always ask

"How many Trucks?"

Truck Loader & UnLoaders got paid "by the Truck"?

This is Funny...
First Rule in Rock & Roll..

The Bigger the Talent in R&R....FEWER Trucks..

Less Talented Artists...MORE Trucks?

Crosby Stills, Nash.. 3 Trucks of Equipment..

Britney Spears?....12 Trucks?

All those Whistles & Bells..DISGUISE... the LACK of Talent?
(Confettii Canons, Smoke pots, Dry Ice blowers? Balloon Drops? Go-Go Dancers, in Cages..

just SO..someone
Could Lip-sync her
preRecorded Vocals??

BombyHasBeenThere & Done withThat..


Dec 25 2013, 8:38pm

Post #22 of 67 (470 views)
3 [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
People often exaggerate their reactions to these movies.

Honestly, I feel like that's all I've been doing on this board. While I quite enjoyed and am satisfied with the hobbit films so far, I'm pretty sure my posts on TORN would reflect a very negative view of the films. I guess it's just because I'm better at discussing what I didn't like, and this just helps me talk about it.

-Sir are you classified as human
-Negative, I am a meat-popsicle


Dec 25 2013, 8:59pm

Post #23 of 67 (462 views)
It didn't look fake to me... [In reply to] Can't Post

just strangely out of focus or something like that. It looked on location.


Dec 25 2013, 9:10pm

Post #24 of 67 (442 views)
It's easy to rip a film down rather than to adore it [In reply to] Can't Post

Especially with these hobbit films.

I could easily find flaws in all my favorite films right now, it's that easy.


Dec 25 2013, 9:14pm

Post #25 of 67 (467 views)
Yes it's definitely a change in visual style from LotR [In reply to] Can't Post

The naturalistic style to the visuals in LotR was a brilliant achievement- use of the New Zealand landscape, bigatures, old-school effects and lots of compositing using location shots. Even the CGI Gollum was wonderfully linked to Serkis's live action performance.

A few things happened with The Hobbit. Firstly was the decision to go for 3D 48fps, and the general change towards higher res digital theatre and home cinema. Bigatures and old school effects like forced-perspective are more difficult with that level of scrutiny.

Secondly many of the fantastical scenes and characters in The Hobbit- like Smaug, trolls, Mirkwood spiders- are a natural fit for CGI. And lastly, Jackson has gone for a more colourful palette and lighting in The Hobbit films- more of a Brothers Hilderbrant fantasy feel.

Personally I'm not generally a fan of the changes, and thought there's been too much CGI in The Hobbit films. I prefer a costume based Lurtz, to a CGI Azog for example. I found locations like Laketown where they clearly built massive sets to be the most exciting locations visually in DoS.

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