Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
Although the wait is nearly over for the familiar goblins and mystical forests of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, senior visual-effects supervisor Joe Letteri says the only thing that remains the same for this iteration of Peter Jackson’s fantasy films is on the surface. The digital tools that brought countless Orcs to life and gave Gollum his distinctive distorted face are virtually unrecognizable from those used a decade ago for the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“It’s changed almost completely,” Letteri says. “On the outside, you want Gollum to look like the same character, but he’s completely different” underneath.
The biggest change from the first set of films is the way that actor Andy Serkis’ performance is captured and analyzed in order to create the digital character, according to visual-effects supervisor Eric Saindon. “Our facial capture has progressed leaps and bounds,” he says. “Now we actually capture all of Andy’s performance, when he’s acting with Martin (Freeman) in Gollum’s cage on set. We have a small camera attached in front of his face that captures his exact facial performance. Rather than an animator going in and doing it frame-by-frame, the computer analyzes Andy’s performance and then fires Gollum’s muscles to do the exact same thing. So the first half of the animation, which is the raw mo-cap data, is really Andy.” (more…)