Weta Digital supervisor reveals VFX challenges for second Hobbit movie

The visual effects supervisor from Peter Jackson’s second Hobbit feature has revealed some of the challenges that were met by the huge team that was working on the film at Weta Digital in Miramar.

Eric Saindon has described how Weta Digital “started really getting into this film in February … and delivered the final shots on November 25 just days before the premiere in Los Angeles.”

A team of around 1000 people worked at Weta Digital to complete 2000 VFX shots for the film.

The information has been published this week in an online interview with ArtofVFX.

In the interview, Saindon reveals that his biggest FX challenges were the water in the barrel sequence and the coins in Erebor. In preparation for these, the FX team spent a year writing new code for water simulations and rigid body solvers.

The Erebor forges sequence was one the last scenes to start. From start to finish the whole sequence was completed in less than a month.

Saindon has also talked about the creation of Smaug:

Getting Smaug to convincingly vocalize his speech in a way that maintained all of the richness and nuance of Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice was a vital part of making Smaug work as character. His crocodile-shaped shaped snout and lack of humanoid mouth-shapes were an interesting challenge for animators who used reference footage of Benedict’s full body movements as he delivered his lines as a guide.

Smaug’s magnificent presence was brought to life by dozens of animators and artists using keyframe animation techniques. Twice the size of a 747 jumbo jet, Smaug has 300 individual bones, upwards of a million hand-drawn scales and 100 simulated muscles not including nine unique secondary simulation elements like the neck wattle and wing membrane wrinkles. A custom anticipatory muscle firing system was implemented to recreate the biological responses required to move a creature of that size.


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