'Avatar' Sequels & 'The Hobbit' Update: Filming Locations & Technology

Oscar-winning box office titans James Cameron and Peter Jackson are hard at work on their latest tentpole projects. Cameron is in the midst of scripting both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3, while Jackson has actually commenced filming his long-delayed two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.

The latest updates on both these gentlemen's new cinematic endeavors are of a technical nature - namely, that Cameron has secured a new studio for shooting his Avatar sequels, while Jackson dropped the Internet a note about why exactly he's filming his Hobbit movies at 48 frames per second (fps) instead of the conventional 24.

THR says that 20th Century Fox and Cameron have signed a lease for space at the Manhattan Beach Studios, where motion-capture photography and production on both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 will take place. The Playa Vista studio where Cameron shot the original Avatar is reportedly undergoing renovations, so this move ensures that filming on the sequels won't be delayed by that construction.

Cameron remains as technically meticulous a filmmaker as ever, having recently returned from a trip to Brazil's Amazonian rain forest that served as research for his Avatar sequels. The recent disaster in Japan has seemingly forced Cameron to scuttle his plans for diving into the Mariana Trench for additional research, but there's no reason to doubt his new sci-fi projects will be anything but least on a technical level.

Perhaps now Cameron can huddle down and really focus on developing the Avatar 2 & 3 screenplays - the quality of which are of more concern than anything else to moviegoers, given that the first Avatar was arguably quite technically brilliant but narratively conventional.


The Hobbit

It's no shocker that Jackson is employing the latest in advanced 3D filmmaking technology and digital tools in order to realize the tale of young Bilbo Baggins on the big screen. It turns out the Hobbit movies are not only being shot in the third dimension, but also at an advanced rate of 48 frames per second - twice that of the traditional 24.

Jackson posted a relatively long and detailed comment about that Hobbit-related matter on his Facebook page. However, here are just a couple of excerpts from his note that pretty much capture the gist of his reasoning:

We are indeed shooting at the higher frame rate. The key thing to understand is that this process requires both shooting and projecting at 48 fps, rather than the usual 24 fps (films have been shot at 24 frames per second since the late 1920s). So the result looks like normal speed, but the image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness. Looking at 24 frames every second may seem ok--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 quickly, the image can judder or "strobe."

Film purists will criticize the lack of blur and strobing artifacts, but all of our crew--many of whom are film purists--are now converts. You get used to this new look very quickly and it becomes a much more lifelike and comfortable viewing experience. It's similar to the moment when vinyl records were supplanted by digital CDs. There's no doubt in my mind that we're heading towards movies being shot and projected at higher frame rates.

So there you have it. Any immediate thoughts?


The Hobbit: Part 1 hits theaters in December of 2012, followed by Part 2 in December 2013.

Avatar 2 will arrive in theaters around Christmas of 2014, followed by Avatar 3 a year later in 2015.

Source: THR, Peter Jackson

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