The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened to largely lukewarm reviews last week, with critics taking issue with the film's narrative structure, while others questioned Peter Jackson's choice to shoot the epic at 48 fps. Shortcomings aside, the movie has clearly generated intense discussion, and its lush visual landscape is intriguing, to say the least. Now, two new featurettes have been released online, giving viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how Jackson and his team created the goblins, trolls, and dwarves of Middle Earth, and the soundscape they inhabit.
In the first video, embedded below, The Daily examines some of the animation techniques used to bring Tolkien's book to life. According to Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri, Jackson was able to combine both animated and real worlds by having his troll actors on a motion capture stage adjacent to the rest of the cast. With the trolls' motions automatically translated into animations, Jackson was able to visualize the scene in real-time, while allowing his actors to more closely interact with the motion-captured trolls. The team did face challenges, however, due in large part to the sheer variety of creatures in Middle Earth, all of which had to be specially adapted for close, wide, and medium shots.
Crafting the sounds of Middle Earth was no less of a challenge. As detailed in the video below, from SoundWorks Collection, Jackson's sound team had already compiled an extensive library from their work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but The Hobbit demanded newer sounds recorded at higher bit rates and with higher resolution microphones. To refresh the library, they collected ambient sounds around New Zealand, but perhaps the biggest challenge came with the introduction of various languages and dialects — in particular, from the goblins, whose screams required an entirely different sonic profile. "Clarity isn't a major issue," says Michael Hedges, who served as a sound re-recording mixer on the film. "The scare factor is what we're trying to achieve."