JoeLetteri With its ceaseless tide of wizards, Wargs, Orcs, Stone-Giants, Skin-changers, Goblins, and, of course, Gollum, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — available on Blu-ray from April 8 — is a feast for fans of fantasy filmdom.

But it proved a challenge of Silmarillion proportions for the visual effects team at Weta Digital charged with bringing Tolkien’s fantastical romp to life. The first blockbuster to combine the dimensional hurdles of 3D and pioneering 48fps HFR technology, it’s arguably the most daunting special effects movie ever attempted.

“Yes, there was a lot of work involved,” says senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, with alarming understatement. “We did around 22,000 FX shots for The Hobbit. That compares to 18,000 for LOTR: Return of the King. The scale of these films has evolved considerably…”

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