The big deal about Peter Jackson’s trilogy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is that it was shot at 48 frames per second on the Red Epic camera in full 5k resolution. It was shot digitally, not film, on memory cards that was about 128 gigabytes each. So why shoot at 48 frames per second, you may ask. The usual cinema film is shot and projected at 24 fps, while The Hobbit is twice as much. When project at 48 fps, the result will look like it’s at a normal speed, but the image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness.
According to Peter Jackson, “Looking at 24 frames every second may seem okay – and we’ve all seen thousands of films like this over the last 90 years – but there is often quite a lot of blur in each frame, during fast movements, and if the camera is moving around quicklu, the image can judder or ‘strobe.'” A higher frame rate gets “rid of these issues” and makes the image “much more lifelike.” He also notes that filming at 48 fps makes the 3D images less taxing to watch.
The Red Epic is an epic camera and for the making of The Hobbit, it required them two (for each set of camera) of the Red Epic as they were shooting in 3D. And the problem they faced that the lenses they used were so large that they could not get an interocular similar to the human’s eye. So what they did was that they shot through a mirror on a rig. The left camera shoots through a mirror, and the right camera bounces off the mirror so that both of the filmed products are overlayed on screen.
They hired specialist firm 3ality to build a rig that enabled them to change the interocular and the convergence point as they were shooting. There were various rigs for all the different types of shooting, eg. a crane rig and a handheld rig. The handheld one, also known as the TS5, was small and light and it allowed the Peter Jackson to shoot in tight/cramped corridors or caves. Altogether, they have 48 Red Epic cameras on 17 3D rigs.
Though the Red Epic is epic, it naturally desaturates the footage so on set, they had to over exaggerate the colours to counter the desaturation that was going to happen on screen. Above is an example of the forest scene on set. Besides the forest, the did some colour test before filming and realised that if there wasn’t enough red, it would turn really yellow and react differently than normal skin that has blood running through it. To counter the problem, they had to add alot of red tones to the actor’s make up. Though it looks reddish when not seen on the camera, when they’re filming, on screen it’ll look like normal flesh tone.
Here’s an interesting behind the scenes video on the 3D rigs and cameras they used!