Computer Graphics World

January/February 2014

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CG CHARACTERS 6 ■ CGW Ja n u a r y / Fe b ru a r y 2 014 ■ ANIMATORS KEYFRAMED the dragon Smaug's performance; the reptilian character was too dissimilar from humans to use performance capture. ©2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC. CG CHARACTERS fter five films, one might wonder if Middle-earth has become as precious to Director Peter Jackson and his crews at Weta Workshop and Weta Digital as a certain gold ring is to Gollum and, sometimes, Bilbo. It's been 12 years now since the first Lord of the Rings film immersed audiences in author JRR Tolkien's fantasy world. With Warner Bros.' The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, the New Zealanders create Tolkien's Middle-earth for the fifth time. This film, the second in Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, continues to follow Bilbo and the 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield on their dangerous trek to the Lonely Mountain. Also known as Erebor in the language of the elves, the Lonely Mountain is the dwarves' lost homeland. They lost the land when the gargantuan dragon Smaug claimed the mountain and the dwarves' forges, set the nearby villages on fire, and used the clan's immense treasure horde inside the mountain as a bed. As in the first film, actor Martin Freeman plays Bilbo, Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf, and Richard Armitage reprises his role as Thorin. New to the film is Benedict Cumberbatch who voices the dragon Smaug. At Weta Digital, Eric Saindon was the show's overall supervi- sor, with help from Visual Effects Supervisors Chris White, Jeff Capogreco, Kevin Smith, and Matt Aitken. Dave Clayton and Eric Reynolds were animation supervisors. Mark Gee was a visual effects sequence supervisor. Charlie Tait, the head of compositing. And, Dejan Momcilovic, the motion-capture supervisor. As always, overseeing it all was Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor. Filmed in stereo at 48 fps on Red Epic cameras, the two- hour-and-41-minute film had approximately 2,000 visual effects shots ranging from set extensions and environments to crea- tures and digital doubles. Notable among the CG environments

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