Charged with the task of realizing mystical beasts and creatures from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit on the big screen, Peter Jackson must be quite relieved that he can now concentrate on actually making the film adaptation – rather than having to wade through yet another series of production delays.

Production on The Hobbit is moving forward at last (we promise!), with Jackson officially in the director’s chair for the new cinematic venture through Middle-Earth, which will be shot in New Zealand once again and feature the return of several Lord of the Rings alumni, including composer Howard Shore.

Jackson will shoot both Hobbit movies in 3D using no less than 30 RED EPIC digital cameras, each of which – according to the RED Studios press release – “has 5K resolution, can shoot up to 120 frames per second and has a new HDRx™ mode for the highest dynamic range of any digital cinema camera ever made… The EPIC’s small size and relatively low weight makes it perfect for 3D – where two cameras have to be mounted on each 3D rig.”

For those less familiar with filmmaking jargon, the short of it is this: Jackson is using cutting-edge technology that will both allow him to avoid some of the burdens that come with shooting in 3D and assure that The Hobbit is as visually impressive (if not more so) than Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy – and that is saying something.

Still frame from 'Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'.

The Hobbit‘s narrative is far less sprawling than that of Lord of the Rings, which is also much more grandiose in scope and tone. The former still has its share of fantastical locales in Middle-Earth that were left unexplored in LOTR, and will feature plenty of stunning visuals and CGI monsters – especially that of the treasure-hoarding dragon Smaug, who plays a pivotal role in the quest undertaken by a young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). Devoted LOTR fans may even recall that Bilbo’s expedition was (albeit briefly) referenced in the first exchange between Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) in the film version of Fellowship of the Ring.

Speaking of McKellen’s shaggy old wizard character, the actor has not yet been officially confirmed as returning for The Hobbit movies. McKellen’s official site indicates that he is very much onboard to return as Gandalf – which is excellent news since, frankly, it’s difficult to envision anyone else embodying the 2,000 (or so) year-old wizard with as much charm and charisma as McKellen did.