Weta's New THE HOBBIT: DESOLATION OF SMAUG VFX Breakdown

This VFX breakdown video reveals how Weta Digital brought Lake-town and the Lonely Mountain sets to life in Peter Jackson's epic fantasy-adventure, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

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By nailbiter111 - 3/13/2014


"Middle-earth is a fantastical world of imagined landscapes and many incredible digital creatures. We completed almost 2000 VFX shots for the film, encompassing hero digital performance work, large scale water and fire simulations, complex digital environments, digital doubles of a large cast, and extensive creature work. Take a glimpse at the invention, artistry and innovation that the artists at Weta Digital used to make it all come together in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." - Weta Digital

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

Having survived the beginning of their unexpected journey, the Company continues East, encountering along the way the skin-changer Beorn and a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood-elves, the Dwarves journey to Lake-town, and finally to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they must face the greatest danger of all - a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself - the Dragon Smaug.

Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, with Martin Freeman in the central role of Bilbo Baggins, and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. The international ensemble cast is led by Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, and Orlando Bloom as Legolas. The film also stars (in alphabetical order) John Bell, Manu Bennett, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Ryan Gage, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, Stephen Hunter, William Kircher, Lawrence Makoare, Sylvester McCoy, Graham McTavish, Dean O'Gorman, Mikael Persbrandt, and Aidan Turner.
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25 Comments
KidGoku - 3/13/2014, 6:40 PM
In.
Snotzo - 3/13/2014, 6:40 PM
Still lost for vfx
SuperCat - 3/13/2014, 6:43 PM
Haven't seen this yet. Definitely a DVD buy though.
ChrisEl - 3/13/2014, 6:44 PM
After LOTR, these movies were such a disappointment.
TristanThatGuy - 3/13/2014, 6:45 PM
The melted gold was the only thing that took me out of the visuals.
KidGoku - 3/13/2014, 6:45 PM
i hate CGI orcs so much and weird camera angles... Smaug really saved me from a refund
DEATHbyEXILE - 3/13/2014, 6:48 PM
Reaction GIF: don't know, don't care, Martin Freeman
sKeemAn - 3/13/2014, 6:49 PM
@1984

LoL. Thats funny I do to. The crazy thing is, she swallows so I'm forced to deal with the that smile from time to time. lol
SauronsBANE1 - 3/13/2014, 6:55 PM
I'll try to be positive for a change. I actually really enjoyed the look of Lake-Town in this movie. And Stephen Fry owned as the Master. Yeah...that's all I got.
MrCBM56 - 3/13/2014, 7:00 PM
Movie owned. One of my favorites of 2013. Loved every minute.
MrCBM56 - 3/13/2014, 7:01 PM
Smaug is one of films BEST cgi accomplishments.
SauronsBANE1 - 3/13/2014, 7:07 PM
Well 2013 wasn't exactly filled to the brim with amazing movies, so I'll take that as more of a comment on a sub-par/average year of movies rather than the quality of Desolation of Smaug.
ALmazing - 3/13/2014, 7:09 PM
Best movie of 2013 IMO.
MrCBM56 - 3/13/2014, 7:17 PM
SauronsBANE1

The quality in DoS was fantastic. Quite frankly, and I'm going to be blunt, I really don't give a [frick] what anyone else thinks. I know you don't like the hobbit, I don't mind. To each of his own. And as far 2013 goes, it was actually pretty good. I'm counting the indie/independent films as well. The films that usually don't garn as much attention as big budget movies, such as Man of Steel.
SauronsBANE1 - 3/13/2014, 7:24 PM
Cool, I don't really care what anyone else thinks as well. I think that's a quality all of us share here at CBM.

And as for 2013, I think it's the definitive year of the flawed blockbuster. And Desolation of Smaug would be at the very top of the list. Iron Man 3, MoS, Thor 2, all of these big movies were either good-but-flawed, or average-but-flawed. Sure, films like Gravity or American Hustle or 12 Years a Slave were pretty fantastic, but as a whole, 2013 was a big come down from 2012.

As for Desolation...I honestly can't see what "quality" you see in it. I don't mind at all if you acknowledge the plentiful flaws in it, but still enjoy it for what it is. But trying to objectively say it's quality is fantastic? Do you mean the video game graphics? The complete lack of stand-out, 3 dimensional characters apart from Bilbo and Thorin? All the inconsistencies between LotR and The Hobbit (which would rival the inconsistencies in the X-Men universe), to the extent that it doesn't even seem like it takes place in the same Middle-earth? The ridiculous action that throws logic and physics completely out the window? The lack of danger or stakes? It's mindless "entertainment" at best, IMO.
MrCBM56 - 3/13/2014, 7:32 PM
Yeah. I agree. 2013 was a sub-par year. But DoS just had me engaged. Unlike An Unexpected Journey. It didn't drag, it didn't bore me, it was thrilling. And, most importantly, it was fun. It lacks what made LoTR so great such as, for example, a rich story that invests you into this world like no other. In LoTR you love each character. You feel for each character. In The Hobbit, you really only care for thorin, Gandalf, and Bilbo. But the good makes up for the bad IMO. Smaug itself is worth it.
SauronsBANE1 - 3/13/2014, 7:43 PM
I suppose I can see where you're coming from, MrCBM56. I think our differences come from what we were expecting from the movie, and what we want from movies in general.

I can only speak for myself, but I don't see why fun, engaging, thrilling movies and a film with "a rich story that invests you" has to be mutually exclusive. Why not have both? And it seemed like the filmmakers behind The Hobbit decided right from the get-go that they could have one or the other, not both.

And they chose "fun," no matter how visually, thematically, and emotionally different, disconnected, and dumbed down it is from the LotR. That's where most of my frustration comes from. They were staring right into the face of a quality piece of literature, a book that provided all the insights and inspiration they would ever need...and they decided to lean on Jackson's own indulgent imagination in order to fill in the blanks. And it led to what I think is a mindless, brainless, colorful piece of uninspired drivel. Such a missed opportunity, IMO.
HavocPrime - 3/13/2014, 7:50 PM
VFX companies do not get the recognition they deserve for the work they do.
Mike89 - 3/13/2014, 9:23 PM
2013 was kind of an Average year for movies, DOS on the other hand exeded my expectations. Although i enjoyed "An Unexpected journey" it wasn't quite what i expected. Smaug looked great!
ALF9001 - 3/13/2014, 10:05 PM
DOS and Catching Fire
The only two blocbusters that exceeded my expectations. But to be fair, I thought Catching Fire was going to be dogshit
Klone - 3/14/2014, 4:43 AM
@Sauron

Bilbo didn't feel like the main character though. Oh sure he confronted Smaug and was functional as a character, but he felt like a side character to Thorin in my opinion.
Nomis1800 - 3/14/2014, 5:49 AM
Smaug himself and the spiders looked top-notch. The overuse of digi-doubles was lacking in quality. The coins looked surprisingly fake in numerous shots. The water and fire was done better than I would've thought. But for both there's room for more than enough improvement.

All in all, I think if they had a couple of hundred lesser VFX shots to animate in roughly a year, everything would've looked a lot better than it did in the finished film. Imagine if they did a bit more for real and Azog and Bolg (and more Orcs) were make-up instead of mo-cap.

I really really really hope they do their absolute best job on TABA. The huge amount of digi-doubles that are going to be in the film frightens me since those haven't looked so good in the previous two films at all. I have no doubt Smaug and Lake-Town are going to look really good once more. Still hope they set ablaze those large sets of Lake-Town, saves from some serious CG fire animation here and there I'd think. And real fire looks great in HFR.
I hope PJ used a ridiculous amount of extra's and tries to trim down CG work as much as possible.
JediPhilosopher - 3/14/2014, 8:09 AM
I agree, these are flawed movies, and they didn't have to be, but they're still worth seeing. Especially, SauronsBane1 I think nailed exactly what I'm thinking when he said "And they chose fun, no matter how visually, thematically, and emotionally different, disconnected, and dumbed down it is from the LotR". I was simultaneously impressed and disappointed with the effects in a way I've never been before. The way the elves jumped around didn't look quite physically right, yet it was impressive they ALMOST made it look real.
JediPhilosopher - 3/14/2014, 8:10 AM
And okay, I gotta wonder, is the she-elf really considering having a dwarf's children? :D
Eol - 3/14/2014, 8:56 AM
I actually really enjoyed Desolation of Smaug. The only gripes I have with the film were CGI Bolg (WTF?) and the Furnace scene (major WTF).

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