Arming Weta for The Hobbit Finale

Peter Jackson concludes his Hobbit trilogy and Tolkien six-pack with a bang, and The Battle of the Five Armies delivers the most impressive action of the director’s career, recalling D.W. Griffith and Ray Harryhausen.

The Hobbit finale is bracketed by the dragon Smaug’s destruction of Laketown and the eponymous series of battles that occur on multiple fronts and take up the entire third act. For Laketown, Weta Digital ran all the buildings through different levels of destruction. It was like dropping a ball on them and letting them get crushed. Weta used the in-house fire simulation engine called Odin and then ran it through Synapse, the software for volumetric effects. Then they tied in the flame effects during the destruction.

“The flame thrower effect from [Smaug's] breath was hard,” says Letteri, the four-time Oscar winner and Weta’s senior VFX supervisor, who has both Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Battle of the Five Armies in contention for the VFX Oscar. ”He’s traveling at supersonic speeds so you have to do tricks at simulating the flame at realistic speed and then figure out how to move the whole thing with the dragon [voiced again by Benedict Cumberbatch].

“The rest of it was managing sheer volume of fire and smoke and destroyed buildings because there aren’t too many shortcuts you can take. Peter kept reminding us that if you have a firestorm of this size on wooden buildings, it’s going to create updrafts and whirlwinds and be very chaotic so we came up with these fire tornadoes spinning throughout the city and in the background.”

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Books, Movies, Oscar, performance capture, previs, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production

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