Report: HFR 3D theater count doubles for Desolation of Smaug

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The number of theaters capable of projecting movies at high frame rates (48 fps, 60 fps) has nearly doubled since The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrived a year ago, according to The Wrap:

The studio is substantially expanding the number of theaters this time around. As many as 750 theaters will exhibit “The Desolation of Smaug” in the enhanced projection — up from roughly 450 theaters the first time.

Internationally, the increase in HFR 3D theaters is even more impressive, with Desolation playing on almost 2,500 screens, up from 1,669.

Warner Bros. has intentionally been very quiet about HFR 3D in the months and weeks leading up to Desolation‘s release. Last year, of course, discussion of AUJ’s 48 fps 3D was ubiquitous, with Peter Jackson, WETA and others writing articles and doing interviews about it, and with critics, movie/Hobbit fans, and tech enthusiasts all weighing in.

The response from critics leaned towards the negative, even though the great majority of movie fans seemingly either loved the experience outright or appreciated it while desiring improvements/tweaks.  So it makes sense to me that Warner Bros. wants the media’s focus to be on the movie and not its format this time (Peter Jackson told a reporter that “technology drove a lot of the reviews” of AUJ).

Press screenings for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug have all been in standard, 24 fps 3D to prevent this.

I think this is a good thing – this year the talk regarding HFR 3D will almost all be from Hobbit fans, and not fogey critics.  I’m very much looking forward to reading people’s thoughts especially given rumors that Jackson has taken steps to mitigate the most` common complaints people has regarding AUJ’s HFR 3D.

I’d bet that the overall buzz will be very good for HFR 3D this time around, thereby building support and momentum for future high frame rate movies.  Last time the negative noise from 24 fps traditionalists (most professional movie critics) was just too loud, resulting in the specious and commonly parroted conclusion that the HFR 3D experiment was a failure, an d coloring reviews of the movie.

The Wrap’s story confirms what I had long suspected due to my observations of packed HFR 3D showings: that HFR 3D was in great demand, selling out theaters many weeks after opening night:

“With the original ‘Hobbit,’ we kept selling out of tickets for our high frame rate auditoriums,” Russ Nunley, a spokesman for Regal, said. ” There was a huge demand from moviegoers who wanted to see the film exactly the way director Peter Jackson shot it.”

Regal’s HFR 3D screen count has increased dramatically, going from 100 last year to almost 400 this year.

IMAX has doubled their worldwide HFR 3D screen count to 100+, IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster tells The Wrap, adding that the number will rise since IMAX is still negotiating HFR 3D locations in China.

My Thoughts on the The Hobbit Fan Event

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Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel) tries to remember the size of the fish she caught…or something.

I was lucky enough to get a last-minute spot at the Hobbit Fan Event at the Grove theatre in LA, where I saw about 20 minutes of scenes (in 2D) from The Desolation of Smaug, along with a new production blog and a music video for Desolation’s end credit’s song - ”I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran. You can check them both out below:

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Production Diary 12:

Ed Sheeran — I See Fire — The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug:

As you may have read, this event, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, consisted of 4 satellite-linked theaters (LA, New York, Wellington and London) that had live Q&A’s with cast and Peter Jackson, with many more theaters worldwide linked into the feed to watch the happenings.  Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel) was at my location.

Technically and logistically things went very smoothly.  I have to say that experiencing an impromptu competition over who can cheer the loudest between fans thousands of miles apart while simultaneously reading a scroll of live tweets from the thousands tuning in gave me a bit of future-shock, as it was a potent reminder of the amazingly connected world we live in these days.

As soon as I entered the theater and saw so many wearing obviously painstakingly assembled costumes I knew I was in the presence of some of the most devoted fans of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. Several women cosplaying Tauriel looked so good clad in their intricately detailed elven garb sewn from expensive-looking materials that at first I thought I was running into paid models wearing wardrobe from the movie itself (they all turned out to be fans).

The event also drew a sizable contingent of people with New Zealand accents whom I’m guessing travelled here to see Lilly / Tauriel in person.  Lilly, by the way, was very funny and easygoing throughout the event, cracking jokes and interacting with the audience.  She also exuded passion for Tauriel and Tolkien’s world in general.  Since reading the Silmarillion she’d loved how badass the elves are, so this role was a dream come true.

As for the extended scenes that were screened: they were all great.  The action – particularly the badass moves pulled off by Tauriel and Legolas – was impressive, and the humorous moments were at least as funny as the best funny parts of An Unexpected Journey.  Lilly went through a ton of movement training in order to attain the fluid fighting style of the elves, and it shows.  I bet she’s going to be a huge crowd-pleaser this December.

Despite Peter Jackson and the WB representatives making a very big deal about the fact that very spoilery plot elements would be shown for the first time, it turned out that the screened scenes were all teased in the latest trailer (maybe they chose not to show the super-secret scenes at the last possible second?).

Here’s what was shown:

1. Bilbo climbing to the top of the forest canopy and then fighting with the spiders (who have great voices by the way).

2. The interrogation of the orc by Thranduil, Legolas and Tauriel.

3. Bilbo and the dwarves escape from the elves’ lair via barrels.

4. Bard, the dwarves and Bilbo have some moments of distrust while approaching Laketown by boat, before settling on a plan to smuggle themselves past the gates.

5. Outside the tunnel to Smaug’s lair, Balin remarks to Bilbo on the courage of Hobbits.

6. Bilbo descending the stairs inside the dragon’s lair, then walking (noisily) upon the seemingly endless pile of gold coins and jewels. (by the way, the treasure looks amazing, and the physics of how all of the small pieces of treasure interact is spot-on, mainly because most of it is practical rather than CG).

7. Finally, they showed the first few minutes of the Smaug reveal sequence.  This is done PERFECTLY – it’s obviously one of the most important sequences in the trilogy, and Jackson nailed it.  I had goosebumps.

The acting and action were uniformly great, and the tone/mood was consistent.  If Jackson manages to keep this tone and level of quality throughout the film we might end up getting one of the greatest adventure movies of all time.  In short, the most recent trailer rekindled my excitement for The Desolation Of Smaug, but this event sent me over the top.

3rd trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the best yet

This new 3-minute 3rd trailer reveals new shots and scenes from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to watch it.  One shot in particular seems to be a significant plot spoiler.

But you never know with Peter Jackson: his intention could very well be misdirection, which in recent years has (thankfully) become much more common in trailers.

That said, for me this is the most hype-inducing piece of promotional material we’ve gotten so far.  The posters have been lackluster, and, most importantly, the first two trailers didn’t properly tease Smaug.  This trailer is the first that does – and it has rekindled my hype embers into a fire.

Check it out below:

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens on December 13 in the United States.  Click here for a list of worldwide release dates.

Desolation of Smaug fan event announced for November 4

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New Line/Warner Bros. and MGM have announced a fan celebration and preview event for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug scheduled to take place on Monday, November 4 at 5:00 pm EST and simultaneous times around the world.

Peter Jackson and various cast members will unveil new footage and answer questions in front of live audiences at satellite-linked theaters in Los Angeles, New York, London and Wellington.

The event will be hosted by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who will be at the New York location along with Richard Armitage and Orlando Bloom.  Los Angeles will host Evangeline Lilly, London will have Lee Pace, Luke Evans and Andy Serkis, and Wellington will have Peter Jackson.

Fans will also be able to follow the proceedings at theaters accross the globe, including Brussels, Belgium; Hamburg, Germany; Madrid, Spain; Mexico City, Mexico; Miami, Florida, USA; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Sydney, Australia; and Toronto, Canada. Check out the complete theater list at thehobbit.com/fanevent.

There will be an online live stream of the event at YouTube.com/TheHobbit, but the stream will contain an “edited version of the extended footage debut.”  My guess is that the theater audiences will get to see footage of Smaug himself.  If the Smaug scenes turn out to be as spectacular as we all hope, then WB/MGM no doubt will want to show off at least a glimpse of them to select audiences in hopes that they will buzz about it online afterward.  This way they can build hype from these scenes without spoiling them in trailers or TV spots.

No word yet as to whether the footage will be presented in HFR 3D.  I’d bet it will be though since all but two of the announced locations are on the HFR Movies list of 48 fps / HFR 3D theaters – the only theaters that will have the fan event that I haven’t confirmed to be HFR-ready are the following:

PARIS, FRANCE
Max Linder Panorama, Paris

ROME, ITALY
The Space Cinema Moderno

If you know whether or not these theaters have been upgraded to play movies in HFR 3D, please let me know!

Regarding tickets, The Hobbit’s facebook page says: “We’ll be giving away tickets for fans to attend the event in Los Angeles, New York and Miami! Stay tuned for further details on the upcoming ways to win tickets.”

In other news, Warner Bros. has released two new TV spots:

Advanced tickets for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will go on sale November 21. The movie opens in the United States on December 13. Click here for a full list of international release dates.

For updates on the fan event visit thehobbit.com/fanevent and facebook.com/thehobbitmovie 

Video Game High School: a 48 fps web series

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The web series Video Game High School (VGHS) is pioneering high frame rates online: every episode of the second season, which premiered July 26, has been shot and released in 48 fps 1080p.

Described as “an action/comedy web series about best friends, first loves, and landing that perfect head shot”, VGHS uses 48 fps for the scenes that take place within the game world, and 24 fps (with each frame shown twice) for the “real life” parts.

VGHS co-creator Freddie Wong sees the show’s HFR, which he says evokes the feeling of gaming, as a vital drawing point: (via startribune.com)

“There’ll be a reason to come to our site. What 48 (frames per second) brings is a gritty realism to it. It feels hyper-real.”

The show has become quite popular– the first episode of the second season has so far drawn 3.6 million views on Youtube (which still cannot play videos at high frame rates) and 300,000 views in the first two days alone on Rocket Jump, which Wong co-owns.

Wong and his co-creator Matt Arnold had to invent their own embedded video player in order to display their show in HFR.  So far, that player only exists on Rocket Jump.

What’s especially interesting to me is that Wong and Arnold employed various techniques to counteract the negative elements of the HFR in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. From StarTribune:

Some movie critics who saw “The Hobbit” said the format revealed too many details, exposing the fakery of costumes, makeup and props.

Actors can appear to move at high speed unintentionally in what co-creator Matt Arnold calls the “Benny Hill” effect, referring to the sped-up scenes common to the British comedy TV show.

To address these issues, the creators of “VGHS” added back some blurriness that high frame rate recording had eliminated in some scenes. “VGHS” actors also wore less makeup than actors in “The Hobbit,” so there’s less chance that the format’s extra detail will be distracting, Arnold says.

I’m eager to hear something official regarding the rumored tweaks made to The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug‘s HFR 3D post-production pipeline.  It’s also quite possible that Jackson, like the VGHS creators, optimized the makeup, and perhaps set design and lighting as well, during this past summer’s shoot for Desolation and There and Back Again.

• Watch the HFR (48 fps) version of Video Game High School at Rocket Jump
• Follow VGHS on Facebook
• Follow VGHS on Twitter

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug trailer #2 is now online!!

Warner Bros. has just released a brand new trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

This trailer gives us a taste of the conversation between Bilbo and Smaug, so avoid watching past the 1:53 mark it if you want to keep Smaug’s voice a surprise. I will say, though, that Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice is perfect and gave me goosebumps.

From what I see in this trailer the sequence in the dragon’s lair has a solid chance of topping the incredible “Riddles in the Dark” scene from An Unexpected Journey. The Bilbo/Smaug scenes are iconic and, for many fans, they’re the best part of the book. So I expect Peter Jackson to put tremendous care into making them perfect.

Check out the trailer below, or, if you want to watch it in HD, head over to thehobbit.com and choose 720P/1080P.

I hope we get to see an HFR version of this trailer soon!

Official HFR 3D version of the (current?) Desolation of Smaug trailer debuts

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In what appears to be the beginning of the promotion of the high frame rate 3D aspect of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, an official, 48 fps 3D version of the June trailer (there’s some confusion as to whether it contained any new shots) screened last Sunday at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) Awards in Amsterdam.

And the word is that the footage looks much improved over the 48 fps 3D from the first Hobbit movie. 3Dfocus.co.uk writes:

The trailer – which included a first full body shot of the dragon Smaug – looked pristine, and to this viewer had none of the ‘video’ quality which was a common criticism of the first installment.

THR reports:

The preview received enthusiastic applause from the technically savvy audience, which this week is exploring advancements in cinema and TV technology at the conference.

So did this trailer contain a new shot of Smaug that wasn’t in the first trailer, as 3Dfocus.co.uk reports?

Or should we trust The Hollywood Reporter, which writes that it was the “current trailer”?

In any event, we’re almost due for a brand new Desolation Of Smaug trailer – I expect a trailer packed with unrevealed footage to debut within the next 5 weeks.

Peter Jackson spoke via videotape at the IBC event about the importance of pushing the limits of cinema technology:

“Sometimes people don’t regard imagination and technology as being one and the same, supporting each other. In the case of the film industry – and particularly the films I make – I cannot exercise my imagination without the support of technology

This is a great time to be a filmmaker. Just about anything you imagine can be put on screen today. The amount of freedom I have is absolutely incredible. That is due to all the wonderful technology companies and the innovators out there who keep pushing the boundaries. There is going to be innovation in the entertainment business that we cannot even dream about today.”

That last sentence gets me hyped for the future of entertainment (not that I wasn’t hyped already!)  Jackson is right that many radical innovations are past the horizon and beyond our powers of extrapolation from current tech and trends.

Virtual Reality will be huge, as will ever increasing frame rates and resolution.  And I would count on a greater number of 360 degree dome-like theaters for full immersion without a VR headset.

But beyond that it’s almost impossible to predict which direction (or directions) entertainment will take.  Do all roads lead to The Matrix?

Peter Jackson blogs the last day of Hobbit shooting!

"The photo: yes, we did actually just film this. Please don't ask me to explain! Let's get that WB filter activated! Thank you Hannah and Dusty!" -PJ

“The photo: yes, we did actually just film this. Please don’t ask me to explain! Let’s get that WB filter activated! Thank you Hannah and Dusty!” -PJ

Peter Jackson has been posting updates to his Facebook today chronicling the last day of scheduled shooting on The Hobbit movies.

Here’s the first one:

Our last day of shooting.

Ever since starting these blogs, there’s been something I thought I’d like to try one day (as well as answering the other 19 questions I owe you!) – blogging throughout a shoot day in real time. Try to give you all a feeling for what we deal with on an average day.

Today is not exactly “average”, given it’s our last day of shooting, but if I don’t do it today, I never will!

So here goes … I’ll try to update as much as I can during the day. At least with a quick photo. Text will depend a little on how busy it gets.

Right now, it’s just gone 6.30am here in Wellington. I’m in bed, about to get up! I didn’t get much sleep – too stressed about how we’re going to get through everything we need to shoot. I kept running it over in my mind.

We’re shooting scenes for Film 3 today. Stuff you will see in Dec 2014, so I’m going to try and make this honest, but spoiler free.

1074233_10151749496026558_1959965082_oI’ve been lying here in pitch darkness, watching fight rehearsals over and over again. Our stunt co-ordinatior, Glen Boswell, worked with the actors last weekend, designing some climatic battle moments. He filmed them, and I have them on my iPad, in an application we wrote called “WingNut TV”. It’s a program that allows a huge amount of material to be catalog used and updated each day over the Internet. It contains all our dailies, edited films, previs, music, and much more. I’m looking at the fights, figuring out the angles I’ll need to film them today. A huge amount to do, and it needs to get done.

Our shoot day starts at 8.30am, and is supposed to finish at 7.30pm. I suspect we’ll be working late. Whenever we work a long day, I joke with the crew that I’m just softening them up for when Jim Cameron shows up in Wellington to shoot Avatar 2 and 3. Well … It’s not really a joke.

I’ll try and update often today.

I love that he mentions James Cameron and the Avatar sequels, since Jackson is one of the few who likely knows the exact status of that project and this hints that things are on track to start shooting, likely relatively soon!  Hopefully it won’t be very long at all before we hear more about the future of Avatar–casting in particular will be interesting to watch unfold as it will give us a bit more of a window into what Cameron has planned storywise.

Anyway, check out all of Jackson’s ongoing updates over at his Facebook page!

Martin Freeman is wrapped on The Hobbit

MartinFreemanWrapsTheHobbitPeter Jackson has posted to his Facebook page that Martin Freeman has completed his work as Bilbo Baggins:

Tonight Martin Freeman finished his last shot as Bilbo Baggins. The end of an incredible two and a half years. I cannot imagine anyone else in this role – a character that Martin has nurtured and crafted with love and great skill.

We have said goodbye to our elves, humans, wizards and now the hobbit. We now enter our final 2 weeks of pick-ups, and it’s wall to wall dwarves. These pick-ups have been gruelling and intense, but I’m so happy with what we’ve been shooting. These next two movies are going to be pretty great!

Bilbo Baggins joins Gandalf, Tauriel and Legolas as having completed the additional scenes that were added to the script when the decision was made to take The Hobbit from a two-parter to a trilogy.

But I doubt this is truly the end of their work since new shots, angles, etc are frequently deemed necessary as the master cut of a movie evolves during postproduction.  And sometimes even lengthy sequences are added at the last minute.

Jackson also just posted this picture of Benedict Cumberbatch admiring Martin Freeman’s hobbit feet – or, perhaps most likely, trying to piece together Bilbo’s history through deductive reasoning.1074788_10151722848426558_1725376922_o

Poster for Desolation of Smaug & Teaser Trailer online Tuesday

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The first poster for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has been posted on The Hobbit’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Also confirmed is that the new teaser trailer will be unveiled this Tuesday, June 11th, at 10am PT / 1pm ET.

I like the poster –it relays the darker tone of the 2nd movie while adding context to the title (we see part of the desolation here) while, of course, teasing the dragon.

Now I wonder what the trailer will show?  All I want to see of Smaug himself is perhaps a reprise of that awesome eye from the end of the first film.  But maybe Peter Jackson will give us an even cooler tease?  In any event, with the impending first look at my most anticipated movie in years, plus all of the E3 hoopla, this coming week is going to be crazy fun.