If you thought nearly everything in The Hobbit movies was digital, then think again. Much of it is ‘green screen’ naturally, but one area that is especially not digital is the Hobbit hole. Dan Hennah has been speaking to Deadline.com, leaving us guessing as to what is and what is not CGI in the movies. Dan Hennah, Production Designer on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, also nominated for an Oscar with set decorators Ra Vincent and Simon Bright, said:
“This set for hobbit Bilbo Baggins’ comfy parlor is one of few that did not require a CGI extension to accommodate both fantasy elements and the movie’s large band of characters, who tend to appear together in many scenes. And even the simplest of sets required fine-tuning to meet the demands of 3D.”
In the scene where Bilbo talks with Dwalin, Bilbo’s parlor had to be built twice: Once in “hobbit scale” and once in a .76 “wizard scale” for Gandalf, so Gandalf would appear to be too tall for his surroundings, whereas for the hobbits it would be “just right”.
Look at the fish Dwalin is eating. Is it superimposed digitally, or not? It turns out the fish is real even if some of what is going on around him is not.
“There were probably quite a few real fish, we were cooking them up to use on set,” Hennah says. “Since dead fish are like house guests (best if they don’t stay around too long), the crew kept plenty of ice on hand to keep them fresh.”
These are just a couple of examples out of many, but as interesting as this might be who, other than film-buffs and digital artists, cares? Many people as it happens and above all the Academy when it decides to hand out its awards this February. This is because distinguishing the best effects is not that easy now, according to Deadline.com. Fundamentally, the range of effects now possible at varying levels of budget means that the competition has grown. The Academy has raised the number of nominees from three in 2010 to five in response to the situation.
It is quite reassuring to know that Hobbit holes at least are generally ‘real’ in the movies. Hobbits hate adventure, we are told so Bilbo’s home is full of things that make him feel safe: A warm teapot, a full larder, his favorite books. Hennah says,
“This is 60 years before The Lord of the Rings, when he was sort of an old guy who had accumulated a lot of stuff and was sort of untidy; this was more (for) a casual, homely bachelor”
We can only wait and see if The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey manages to overcome the likes of The Life of Pi at the forthcoming awards ceremony.