Today I would like to look in to creation of Smaug from movie The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug based on J.R.R. Tolkien books.
Why I write about it? Because this is something what I aiming for, what I would like to create in future and do for the job.. of course it will be impossible for me to do all alone what was done with this great dragon character, so let me specify a bit on area that really interest me. I would love to be responsible of creation believable looking creatures, characters or environments. Create something what do not exist but when you look at it you question yourself if it really do not exist or existed. To achieve that I will break down a bit progress of creations of Smaug and important elements that make him look believable.
On book covers or illustration Smaug the golden dragon never was looking like a real creature, but as fantasy, mythical existing only in imagination character.
For movie purposes Smaug was created by WETA workshop.. they did incredible job in creation of this photo-realistic reptile! (http://wetaworkshop.com/ )
Of course, all start from awesome concepts.. what I think is one of the most exciting steps in creation of creature, characters or anything that later can be brought to life, because I think nothing is more rewarding as seeing your hard work coming to life in a digital world………… I love to create concept art. Create a character which is unique, give him a soul and then watch how he is coming to life trough an animation. It is for me the most precious thing and I always put everything to make my concept art best.
On pictures below is really nicely showed how many times artist tweak look of their dragon design, how a lot can change simple shape or detail, how every small element is important. What also show that looking for numerous animal reference can help in creating creature believable.
More “rejected” concept art of Smaug you can find here: link
I believe that artist who was sketching first concepts of Smaug took their inspirations from nature. to make thic creature look more realistic. I found really nice blog post about Smaug anatomy and possible inspirations you can find in this blog – > link written by
Next step was sculp to model dragon:
These 2 steps above interest me most + texturing : ) However all next steps are extremely important as well..
Ringing, animation, acting, voice, VFX and much more..
You can see it briefly in this short video
In the video above creators of Smaug talk about to what they pay most of their attention during the creation of this majestic dragon. Where they weren’t creating only massive reptile, but a creature with own personality, character and age. Their job was a bit easier for showing personality of the dragon that can actually talk rather than the beast without speech skills. Speech skills may do help a lot of creating creature personality, but also drastically increase the amount of animation and small elements that artist had to take care of to in order to create facial expression that would sync to the talk.
In purpose to get desired facial expression for Smaug they had to implement a lot of bones in his head that gave them full control of his nostrils, tongue, eyes, eyebrows and as well his truth. The animation of this dragon was created in the way that you can spot his self confidence in movement. They compare his body size to the 2 jumbo jets together. This is what I try to do also with my own works give something for comparison, usually as most of artist uses human silhouette, but I think in Smaug case 2 airplanes were more appropriate for imagination and size comparison.
Weta Studio makes also great job with aging this century and dragon by adding scars, flaking skin, chipped horns and broken scales what indicates its age or even story. It is interesting how small details can change a lot how we perceive someone or something. The new and awesome feature for me that Weta Studio create for Smaug chest that was glowing just before the dragon release its fire. All these steps showed to me, on what I should pay attention during create my own creatures and how do I really want people to preserve them. It is important to create for the creature, its own character/ personality that actually go along with age and the story. So before creating any of character I will have to ask myself a simple question as if my creature is neutral, have evil or good nature, it is an intelligent, independent creature or maybe a kind of a pet, if it is predator or prey. Deciding about this all at the beginning I think should help me in my own creature designs.
Smaug is so famous that he even been interviewed! : D
In this interview you can see an excellent work of animators, VFX people, voice actor and Stephen Colbert acting skills. Interviewed Smaug was showed as deadly and funny. This is I think pretty nice marketing move, that make me actually realize the importance of showing my own creation time to time in a different way/light. What can benefit in enhancing skills, gain bigger group of fan that create kind of connection with my art and characters. Such challenge can be also really fun, time consuming but probably highly rewarding! (Now I want to make a video with my „imaginary friends“ ^ ^)
and in New Zealand’s Wellington airport you can to welcomed by Smaug the Magnificent, along with Gollum and the Great Eagles.
After all actors from Hobbit movie had to play front of empty space and imagine that there is dragon : )
Extra video “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug – Behind The Scenes Extended Edition“
10sectrailers. (2014, February 23). Smaug Extra Behind the Scenes of The Desolation of Smaug [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVVqELJh5qE
Andrew Baker. (2013, December 16). abaker: The Hobbit – Desolation of Smaug Creature work [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://andbakerdesigns.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/the-hobbit-desolation-of-smaug-creature.html
ArchedCory. (2013, December 24). The Anatomy of Smaug | Heirs of Durin [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://thorinoakenshield.net/2013/12/24/the-anatomy-of-smaug/
Awesome Short Film. (2014, December 13). Stephen Colbert interview with Smaug – Video Dailymotion [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2chlyc_stephen-colbert-interview-with-smaug_shortfilms
Fresh Movie Trailers. (2013, December 5). Meet Smaug in THE HOBBIT 2 Production Video # 13 [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtO9HhzWdLo
John Howe. (1990). Smaug the Golden [Portfolio]. Retrieved from http://www.john-howe.com/portfolio/gallery/details.php?image_id=4
MiddleOfMiddleEarth. (2014, October 29). The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug – Behind The Scenes Extended Edition [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7QME_z6gYM
Moum brush. (2014, May 8). speed modeling Smaug in Zbrush [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/4ZzKTb9rJUY
Paul Tobin. (2014, April 22). Paul Tobin Art and Design: Smaug : Unleashing the Dragon [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://paultobin.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/smaug-unleashing-dragon.html
Rick Marshall. (2014, February 25). Building A Better Dragon in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug | Digital Trends [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.digitaltrends.com/movies/building-better-dragon-hobbit-desolation-smaug/#/2
Tolkien, J. R. (1966). The hobbit, or, There and back again. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
We Geek Girls. (2014, June 7). The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Rejected Concept Art For Smaug by Andrew Baker | moviepilot.com [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://moviepilot.com/posts/2014/06/07/the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-rejected-concept-art-for-smaug-by-andrew-baker-1483231?lt_source=external,manual,manual
Weta Workshop. (1987). Weta Workshop – conceptual design and physical manufacturing for creative industries » Weta Workshop. Retrieved from http://wetaworkshop.com/