News From The Shire: Peter Jackson To Shoot 'The Hobbit' On 3D RED Cameras, Ian McKellen Confirmed

by Oliver Lyttelton
November 29, 2010 3:20 AM
19 Comments
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After something of a roller coaster year, with an endlessly sliding start date, the bailing of director Guillermo Del Toro, and nearly losing preferred lead Martin Freeman, "The Hobbit" is finally gearing up to shoot in the new year, with Freeman joined by new cast members like Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt and Aidan Turner, as well, possibly, as the rumored likes of David Tennant, Michael Fassbender and Saoirse Ronan.

As we get closer to production, more and more tidbits will start to leak out, and several broke over the weekend. Firstly, fansite The One Ring pointed out that actor Ian McKellen, who starred as benevolent wizard Gandalf in the original "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, has recently updated his website to seemingly confirm that he'll be involved in the shoot over 2011, which the site says will kick off in February. While McKellen's involvement was never really in doubt, and we still await an official announcement, it's good to know that he's looking locked-in: Michael Gambon can only take over playing so many famous wizards you know...

The more surprising news, on one level at least, is that Jackson will shoot the film on EPIC, the new digital cameras from RED. The company, founded by Oakley millionaire Jim Jannard, has been making waves in recent years with the first 'affordable' high-resolution camera -- the RED ONE, their first camera, records 4K images at a relatively low cost, and has been championed by the likes of Steven Soderbergh, who shot "The Informant!" and "Haywire" with the cameras, and David Fincher, who used the format exclusively for "The Social Network."

Jackson has a long history with the cameras, shooting a short with them shortly after their release, "Crossing The Line," and using them for much of "The Lovely Bones" (and Neil Blomkamp used them also for most of "District 9," which Jackson produced), so it's not hugely surprising that he's turning to the format, particularly with the desire to film in native 3D making it impossible to shoot on film, as the original pictures were.

According to a press release obtained by Engadget, Jackson will actually be the first to use RED's new cameras, the EPIC, buying up 30 units at a cool fifty grand each. The new cameras are able to shoot up to 120 frames a second at a resolution of 5K, while still being smaller and lighter than the original version, and he seems excited, saying that "The Epic not only has cutting edge technology, incredible resolution and visual quality, but it is also a very practical tool for film makers." However, as unsurprising as the move is, we're not convinced it's the wisest idea.

The results we've seen on Red cameras to date are undeniably impressive (although to our eyes, we've found the format better suited to the chilly, steely looks of films such as "The Social Network" and "Winter's Bone" than anything with a warmer color palette), but they're notoriously tricky to deal with on set -- this writer has seen entire takes wiped from existence at random on the format.

We're not the only ones to be unconvinced -- Rian Johnson wrote a lengthy take-down of the format a few years back, while Werner Herzog, who used RED on "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done," recently told the DGA that "it's an immature camera created by computer people who do not have a sensibility for the value of high-precision mechanics, which has a 200-year history. It's terrible: Whenever you have to reboot the camera, it take 4 1/2 minutes or so. It drove me insane."

Indeed, Soderbergh was meant to be the first to use the new RED format, also shooting in 3D, on "Contagion," but, as we reported a few months ago, the director was unhappy with some last-minute glitches on the new cameras, and so decided to stick with the RED ONE, ditching the idea of filming in 3D. We imagine the problems have been worked out by now, or Jackson wouldn't use the EPIC, but it's still a risk, considering the lengthy delays the production has already suffered, to shoot on a brand new system from a company already well-known for technical issues.

In one final tidbit for the film, Australia-based British actor Shane Briant told the Bram Stoker Horror Film Festival Whitby Hammer Convention and Exhibition a few weeks back that he was up for a role in "The Hobbit," a role which The One Ring suspects is either the Mayor of Michel Delving, or the Mayor of Lake Town. It's all a bit thin, but we figured we'd pass it on while we were here. With shooting now only a couple of months away, and the release of Part One tentatively planned for December 2012, we're sure more news will be along shortly.

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19 Comments

  • RED EXPERT | December 6, 2010 4:53 AMReply

    Red One's boot-up time is around 72 seconds.

    RED EPIC'S NEW BOOT-UP TIME IS 7.5 SECONDS! 7.5seconds!!!!!!

    They are no risks at all... EPIC is working like a beast and there won't be any issues. The camera is finished. End of the story!

    Spider-man 4 (reboot) starts shooting on the EPIC cameras in the next 10 days.

    Best Regards

  • mosphena | December 4, 2010 5:56 AMReply

    No problem for me, 29 year old.

    By Chribbe on November 29, 2010


    Hella guys, this cripy tool is not only for teenagers as you stated, me (i m 56 yrs)
    still dream for epic S to come out, that i can own one.

    Do your best of what you can RED, we, young, old (no soccer moms) will buy.

    mosp

  • Detlev Eller | December 2, 2010 11:50 AMReply

    Guys, it is 2010.

    What IS matters, not what may have been once for what reason whatsoever, reason being for example old school people not getting their head around evolving technologies ...

    Question is: Do you wanna be part of it and use it or waste time fighting it for some self induced significance??

    I know, its a difficult choice for many for they don´t know what they want in life ...

    As a matter of fact, the audience in the theaters cant tell the difference between film and RED ... which should be what matters for us, thinking "indie" ...

    :-)

    enjoy.

  • christopher Bell | December 1, 2010 8:21 AMReply

    At least 11 people saying the same exact thing, all fit with attitude and condescension. Take it easy, folks.

  • CO99 | December 1, 2010 8:06 AMReply

    A couple of negative statements about the RED Camera here aren't really the problem.

    The bigger deal, I think, is the use of out-dated and inaccurate information about a piece of technology which has been evolving rapidly from day one.

    For example, the 4-1/2 minute reboot - that no longer happens. RED ONE takes less than 90 seconds to reboot now. And the actual camera in question (the Epic) will take less than 10 seconds. So there is one old-outdated and really inconsequential statement offered...but nothing that provides information about the new and relevant Epic camera that will be used in the production. Which is interesting, because if anything, it virtually solves that problem.

    Similarly, Rian Johnson's critique no longer applies to the RED ONE since it is now using an upgraded sensor. And it especially doesn't apply to Epic, because it's a new camera. So, again...outdated information presented, but nothing about the actual camera that will be used in production.

    And the bit about Sodebergh. Written: "the director was unhappy with some last-minute glitches on the new cameras, and so decided to stick with the RED ONE".

    But, even according to the article cited, that decision to delay the use of the Epic was made on behalf of RED, not Soderbergh. They said the camera wasn't ready.

    So it's not so much about negativity or critique, it's about simple accuracy and relevance. And, to be fair, there are plenty of accurate, relevant things to critique about the choice of Epic for this film.

  • Why Spread Fear? | November 30, 2010 7:32 AMReply

    Notorious problems? 4.5 minutes to boot up??? Hahahah - talk about lies and fear mongering.


    The RED ONE takes maybe 60+ seconds to boot, and there are options for hot swappable batteries so never any down time.

    The new RED EPIC is currently booting at 12 seconds and will be less at ship.

    Face it, embrace it, RED is here to stay. It is everything we always wanted as story tellers. The industry veterans are just trying to protect their jobs and are resistant to change.

  • Doug Horton | November 30, 2010 6:10 AMReply

    Build 30.6 on a RED One takes 78 seconds to boot up, sounds like a very well written article considering it's inability to post relevant information.

  • Edward Davis | November 30, 2010 6:06 AMReply

    Disagreeing with a statement doesn’t give you the right to call it made up."

    Glad Oli finally said it cause ppl in this thread are the worst.

  • Oliver Lyttelton | November 30, 2010 3:46 AMReply

    Wow, Red advocates are worse than Apple fans.

    For the record, I think RED is, mostly, a good thing -- I don't have the same issues as Rian Johnson, for the most part, and I think the results speak for themselves. As I said in the article, I think it lacks warmth, but I think that's true of all digital formats so far, and that's probably a personal preference.

    But I've been working with the format for getting on three years, and, at least in the early days, there were significant technical issues -- I know DoPs who to this day refuse to work with the system. I don't see the issue in reporting this, or in reporting what a significant figure like Herzog thinks of the format, particularly as the article had already stated that the likes of Soderbergh and Jackson now work exclusively on the format. Disagreeing with a statement doesn't give you the right to call it made up.

  • Paul | November 30, 2010 1:25 AMReply

    Really it only takes the RED about 90 seconds to boot up. And as a Camera Assistant myself really all I can say is as long as you're on top of your job and ahead of the crew no one will ever have to wait those 90 seconds for the camera to boot.

    I still prefer Film (especially 35) and I never EVER want to see it set aside for new technology but the RED and it's cameras are excellent pieces of filmmaking equipment!

  • Jarra | November 29, 2010 11:00 AMReply

    My take: The author of this article has a warehouse full of film stock that needs selling. ;)

  • BB | November 29, 2010 9:11 AMReply

    I've you've seen entire takes wiped from existence at random, you probably should replace your on set DIT rather than blame it on the camera.

  • Flowers | November 29, 2010 8:47 AMReply

    Filimmakers work with complex technology every single day. It's not a matter of 'if' it will fail it's a matter of 'when'. The RED camera system is a robust video tool and is incredibly powerful. I would never argue about boot up times (which are never an issue. A film mag can take up to 5 mins to change). My main concern is Rolling Shutter. It's a problem with all CMOS cameras. Film does not have this problem. Does this stop me from shooting RED? Absolutely not. For serious artists you deal with the problems and get on with it. If you don't then you can't finish your films.

    The RED should never be poo-poo'ed. It's an incredible leap forward for film artists.

    --

  • Chribbe | November 29, 2010 8:24 AMReply

    I own a Red One and can´t understand what you are talking about. The last two years have been troublefree for me. Get your facts strait before writing such a bad story.

    The epic will boot in less than 12 seconds. And the Red one takes 62 seconds for me, not 4 1/2 minutes. Also I think the "old" guys in this industry doesn´t get how the new generation of cameras work. No problem for me, 29 year old.

  • Detlev Eller | November 29, 2010 7:57 AMReply

    How i see it ...

    The Red Epic will be my pacemaker at 120 frames per second. It will power my life 3.0 until the end. I am waiting for this technology to happen for over 20 years. Luckily, someone got the balls to make it happen, although few understand what´s really going on. Especially those, that have never created anything. I will forget, everything i have worked on so far - except one thing. Every day with an Epic at hand, seems to me to be a meaningful day.

    Renovatio.

  • Andrew Hake | November 29, 2010 7:29 AMReply

    A release obtained by Engadget? This is on RED's website as clear as day:

    http://www.red.com/press

    And whoever was responsible for making Werner Herzog think a REDONE takes 4 1/2 minutes to reboot is an idiot. Even if it did take 4 1/2 minutes how is this even a problem when compared to the complexities of a film camera.

    Do better....

  • starway2001 | November 29, 2010 7:25 AMReply

    A recent post of RED's website states that boot-up times for the EPIC are around 12 seconds.

    Also, Rian Johnson's rants about RED cameras were filled with hyperbole and not rooted in reality. Also, he used the first generation sensors. The second generation sensors have solved almost all of the original problems.

    While any new camera format will have a bumpy start, RED has done a remarkable job and have easily turned the industry on its nose. Sony's F23, F35 and ARRI's Alexa are direct responses to RED's insurgence.

    ** And no, I do not work for RED and have never used a RED camera before. But I'm a camera nut and follow these things as much as I follow movie gossip**

  • Terry VerHaar | November 29, 2010 7:10 AMReply

    As journalists, you really shouldn't make this stuff up, as it would appear you are doing. Why not actually talk to some of those folks who have used RED. Why not ask Jackson why he is willing to take such a "risk?" Why not interview Jannard? It doesn't take 4 1/2 minutes to boot a RED ONE but that's just the measurable inaccuracy you are spreading. You site a couple of people who, for one reason or another, don't like RED and that's your story?

    Come on guys, you can do better.

  • Lizzy | November 29, 2010 4:02 AMReply

    Intrigued about the camera development.

    Also holy hell, that first picture of Peter Jackson is hella creepy.

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