LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

Stereoscopic Cinema: A Discussion & Review of The Hobbit

COW Library : TV & Movie Appreciation : Mike Cohen : Stereoscopic Cinema: A Discussion & Review of The Hobbit
CreativeCOW presents Stereoscopic Cinema: A Discussion & Review of The Hobbit -- Film History & Appreciation Editorial


cine-med.com
Woodbury Connecticut USA
CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


The title of this article, Stereoscopic Cinema, is meant to suggest that films like Avatar, The Hobbit and perhaps other well executed stereo films are in fact a new format.

I don't like the general use of "3D" -- because 3D can mean so many things.

Muppetvision 3D and Terminator 3D are great theme park attractions which use elements outside of the screen to involve the audience in the experience. Old favorites like Captain EO and the 1950's 3D movies have stuff coming out of the screen but are not really using stereo to help tell the story.

Then we have the batch of 3D films, mostly conversions, that have come out since Avatar. Though I do not see most of them in 3D, the buzz is that many of the conversions are done poorly just to try making some extra coin at the box office. How sad.

I just returned home from the 3D HFR version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Everything from this point forward assumes that either you have seen the film or have no intention of seeing the film, or perhaps you just don't care.

I care.

Ready? Let's begin...



First let's get the technical jargon out of the way. All the hype about 48fps is a load of bollocks. I thought the picture looked super sharp and realistic. Not 24fps cinematic, but I quickly came to the conclusion that both 3D and 48fps, separately or combined, are in fact new methods of filmmaking, not to be compared with existing methods. OK, 3D is not new -- but done well and in the 21st century method is the new bit.

Whether shot on film, RED or cornflower blue, 3D is its own medium. Some directors use it well, others do it poorly. Previously mentioned conversions have had mixed results. Apparently you can get a 2D film converted in India for pennies on the dollar.

1950s model Viewmaster from Wikimedia Commons
1950s View-Master Model E from Wikimedia Commons
In the case of The Hobbit Part 1 -- I think we need to stop calling it 3D. 3D is what you get when stuff pops out of the screen like at EPCOT. Jackson, Cameron and a few other masters of their craft are creating Stereoscopic Cinema. The closest thing I can come up with is the old Viewmaster stereoscopic viewer. As a young lad I enjoyed looking at those 12 frame stories in stunning stereo. In fact the unit we used belonged to my dad back in the 1950's, and most of the discs were from that era too, with the exception of a few we bought at the Magic Kingdom in 1977.

Yes, the Hobbit is a Stereoscopic Cinematic work of art. Not every scene needed to be in stereo, but it worked for me. After about 10 minutes I got accustomed to the new style of images and my brain adjusted. Once we left Bag End I stopped thinking about whether or not 48fps made a difference -- it was then that I realized this is not traditional film so stop trying to draw a comparison. It is something new. Yes some of the scenes looked like video. Well guess what, digital cinema is video. Red is a digital video camera at film resolution, but still video. I'm no engineer, but I'm pretty sure only film cameras can shoot film.

We have talked about Showscan and other World's Fair / Disney oriented filmmaking techniques over the decades, including some great interviews with Douglas Trumbull here on the COW. Aside from IMAX, this is really the first time that a filmmaker has implemented entertainment-oriented techniques in a work of popular entertainment.

Ok that didn't make sense.

Venue entertainment vs movie theater entertainment. That better? Thought so.

Therefore, assuming that the viewer and the reader of a review knows that The Hobbit takes place inside a stereoscopic hyper-world, we can get over the technological hurdle and talk about the story. After all this is NOT a motion simulator ride at Universal Studios -- it is a movie that just happens to be created and projected in a new format.

To draw a comparison -- when you have read a book on a Kindle, you don't spend more than perhaps 2 seconds if any time at all describing the reading technology -- you talk about the story and the characters.





I just returned from seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

As if Peter Jackson knew he might eventually make this film series, he teased our inner Tolkein with the opening scenes of both Fellowship of the Ring as well as Return of the King with the Smeagol flashback.

Ian Holm and Elijah Wood appear in The Hobbit to tie everything together nicely. If you always wanted to see the rest of Bilbo's home, this is your chance. They re-built the set and seemingly have built every room. And a technical note, they build two versions of many sets to accomplish the illusion of different sized characters.

Like Fellowship, the film starts with several minutes of flashback exposition to orient the viewer to who these odd looking little men are and what they are after.

The arrival of Thorin's company was very true to the book, and they even included some singing. I will say I hope there is more singing in Parts 2 and 3 because The Hobbit the book is chock full of Dwarfsong.

What a treat to see Ian McKellan reprise his great role of Gandalf and this is no cameo -- he is at his wizarding best. If anything, in Fellowship he is past his prime (until of course he is reborn as Gandalf the White).

I think Martin Freeman did a great job playing the younger Bilbo and there is actually a resemblance to Frodo. Overall the Dwarves are well performed, and certain characters grow on you especially Balin and Bofur. Thorin seems a cold bastard for much of the film, reminiscent of Aragorn, until as expected a certain hobbit warms his heart. Much like in Fellowship, by the end the group has become a family -- Thorin and Bilbo are like brothers.

The sets are of course fantastic, and seeing the entrance to and reveal of Rivendell was spectacular. All of the Rivendell scenes were magical, and as in Fellowship, it is the Elves who send our company on the correct path. (did anyone wonder if Gandalf and Galadriel may have had something going on in the past? They are both quite old after all). Seeing Saurumon pre-Sauron was cool and anytime Christopher Lee can do some acting is good for all of us. They filmed his scenes in London because at 90 years old Lee probably did not want to spend 2 months in New Zealand.


(L-r) CATE BLANCHETT as Galadriel, CHRISTOPHER LEE as Saruman and HUGO WEAVING as Elrond in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. (US, Canada & New Line Foreign Territories)
CHRISTOPHER LEE as Saruman


The action was entertaining and relevant with bits of physical comedy from the dwarves give some levity to the dark undertones that are brewing. We only hear about the Necromancer and see bits of the dragon -- Part 2 should be filled with more terror, though it remains to be seen how gruesome the violence will become. We did have beheadings and killing of all sorts of creatures.

The scene with the trolls was fun and establishes Bilbo as resourceful and was the first time in his life he had to worry about anything beyond his next meal. It also establishes that the company work together and they do in fact care about their newest companion.

The music cues, most of them from the LOTR trilogy come in at the appropriate moments and come back during action and dialogue scenes again to tie things together for those us of who have seen the previous films, and for those who are just beginning their Middle Earth experience now.

I won't hit every plot point or set piece.

The scene with Gollum was well acted and very reminiscent of the book. They did not make Gollum look too much more lifelike than in the previous films. It was probably tempting to do so given advances in animation, but they could have wound up with digital Yoda (looked great but looked so much different than the puppet that all you could think about was how different he looked than the puppet).


Gollum, voiced by ANDY SERKIS in New Line Cinema's and MGM's fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Gollum, voiced by ANDY SERKIS


The climax of the film was appropriate, although it seemed to have a few possible points where it could have ended.

As others have said, it could have been, perhaps, 20 minutes shorter -- certainly not a movie for young kids if only due to the duration, despite toys, lunchboxes and collector glassware targeted at kids (or their parents who were perhaps 15 in 2000).

Was this movie awesome, incredible, life altering, industry changing, the next Avatar? Nope.

Enjoyable film, classic story, endearing characters, well acted and well written with appropriate use of technology -- these qualities are so lacking from many 100 million dollar plus films.

Any complaints?


The usual complaints about noisy popcorn munching and crinkly plastic candy wrappers distracting me from the movie.

Before the movie a slide came on the screen saying "If you see any suspicious characters please alert the theater staff." How sad that we live in a world where we need these messages.

  • Too many previews.
  • 3D commercials mostly not in 3D despite telling us to put on our 3D glasses.
  • Superman trailer looks promising.
  • Epic looks like Ferngully meets Honey I Shrunk the Kids -- looks like great animation.
  • After Earth -- yawn.
  • Tom Cruise movie Oblivion might be good -- has a Phillip K Dick feel to it if not overloaded with needless effects -- but I'm a fan of this type of movie. Not sure how his character reminisces about baseball games 60 years ago unless there is some cryosleep plot point we don't know about yet.


Overall a great experience. I could see Star Wars Episode 7 being shot in 48fps Stereo and it being quite enjoyable. Rumor has it Matthew Vaughn is directing -- he did a fine job with X-Men First Class I thought -- right mix of character development and action.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Mike Cohen


[This article was originally posted in the Film History and Appreciation forum, and also as a blog entry. ~ED Note]






Title image: HUGO WEAVING as Elrond in New Line Cinema's and MGM's fantasy adventure "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Todd Eyre. © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

CHRISTOPHER LEE as Saruman in the fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM. © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. (US, Canada & New Line Foreign Territories)

Gollum, voiced by ANDY SERKIS in New Line Cinema's and MGM's fantasy adventure "THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.




Related Articles / Tutorials:
TV & Movie Appreciation
Favreau, Technicolor & MPC Make The Jungle Book Come Alive

Favreau, Technicolor & MPC Make The Jungle Book Come Alive

Todd McCarthy, veteran film critic and historian, in his review of director Jon Favreau's new, stunning adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book declared, "...the visual effects team led by Robert Legato and (MPC's) Adam Valdez has both created sumptuous settings that look as lifelike as any CGI ever presented in a studio feature and integrated both humans and animal characters in them in seamless ways."

Editorial, Feature
Jon Favreau
TV & Movie Appreciation
VFX Legion | Hardcore Henry breakdown reel

VFX Legion | Hardcore Henry breakdown reel

Remote post-production and visual effects studio VFX Legion has released its breakdown reel for the incendiary Hardcore Henry. The reel reveals the work that went into the first-person perspective action film, from augmenting violence to stitching shots together into one continuous sequence.

Editorial, Feature
COW News
TV & Movie Appreciation
Renaissance Masters Go 3D with Nuke

Renaissance Masters Go 3D with Nuke

VFX legend Steve Wright helped Italy's Sky 3D tackle an epic project, as Italian all-3D television station set out to present the city of Florence and the masterpieces of Renaissance art housed in the Uffizi Gallery in a spectacular stereoscopic 3D movie shown in 60 countries around the world. While the majority of the film was shot stereoscopically, Steve's challenge was to use Nuke to present some of the world's most precious artworks fully dimensionalized. Here's how he pulled it off.

Editorial, Feature
Steve Wright
TV & Movie Appreciation
The Sisterhood of the X-Files Fandom

The Sisterhood of the X-Files Fandom

As the first show to create a rabid, real-time internet fandom, devotion to "The X-Files" has been growing in intensity with each year since the original series finale, with a fanbase that is clever, thoughtful, and largely female. Not that there's any shortage of male X-Philes, but there's a generation of women who was inspired to technical careers by the Gillian Anderson's Dana Scully. Kylee Peña is among them, and additionally very specifically inspired by the production values of "The X-Files" to build a career in the technology of TV storytelling in particular. Here's Kylee's look at what it has meant to be a female fan of the art, technology, and empowerment of "The X-Files" in the 21st century.

Editorial, Feature
Kylee Peña
TV & Movie Appreciation
Peter Doyle: Supervising Visual Colourist at Technicolor

Peter Doyle: Supervising Visual Colourist at Technicolor

Peter Doyle, Supervising Visual Colourist at Technicolor, shares details of his upward spiraling career. His deep technical knowledge allows for a perfect blend of creativity and productivity in equal measure. Here he talks about his career, his aspirations, and his involvement in productions right from the outset.

Feature, People / Interview
FilmLight
TV & Movie Appreciation
Introducing Ultron: Trixter Builds The Avengers' Biggest Bad

Introducing Ultron: Trixter Builds The Avengers' Biggest Bad

At the heart of Marvel's biggest Avengers movie yet lies their greatest threat yet: Ultron, a self-constructing robot intelligence bent on destroying all of humanity. Munich's boutique-scale Trixter Film was given the critical task of introducing this epic-scale character, which they undertook from concept art through design, mocap, animation, compositing, and output.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Tim Wilson
TV & Movie Appreciation
The Walk: Largest Use of Cloud Computing in Film History

The Walk: Largest Use of Cloud Computing in Film History

Award-winning VFX Company Joins UPP and Rodeo FX to Recapture the Legendary Walk Between the World Trade Center Towers. Lead VFX vendor Atomic Fiction needed a more efficient way to do the compute-intensive, and traditionally very expensive, processes of rendering. The company used their cloud-based software Conductor, which allows artists to offload the processing from their own computers and send it to the cloud. By the end of the project, Atomic Fiction had completed 9.1 million hours of processing in the cloud, which equates to over a millennium of processing time!

Editorial, Feature
Shaina Ostroff
TV & Movie Appreciation
Milk's Epic VFX For Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Milk's Epic VFX For Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, the acclaimed bestselling epic novel of magical realism set 200 years ago, was adapted by the BBC to a 7-episode miniseries that was itself quite epic, with over 1000 effects shots handled by London's Milk VFX. Creative COW's Tim Wilson spoke with Milk CEO Will Cohen about his team's work on the series, starting with his own enthusiasm as a fan of the novel. To use that word once more, it's an epic conversation about adapting novels, carefully managing budgeted creativity, and collaboration. Books, televised cinematic storytelling, VFX, good conversation, and magic: if any of those is your cup of tea, you won't want to miss this.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Tim Wilson
TV & Movie Appreciation
FuseFX & Emmy-Nominated Work for American Horror Story

FuseFX & Emmy-Nominated Work for American Horror Story

Burbank-based effects house’s freaky work for hit FX series continues to draw accolades.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
FuseFX
TV & Movie Appreciation
Pixels: Going From 8-bits to Epic is No Game

Pixels: Going From 8-bits to Epic is No Game

Classic video game characters like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong sent by aliens to destroy Earth? No worries! Digital Domain and Sony Pictures Imageworks are on the case. It turns out that integrating 8-bit characters into a world recognizable as our own is a lot harder than it looks. It was also a lot of fun for everyone involved, and hearing about it from the two VFX supervisors will be a lot of fun for you too.

Feature, People / Interview
Tim Wilson
MORE
© 2016 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]