TODAY   |  December 08, 2012

Behind the scenes of ‘The Hobbit’ movie magic

Director Peter Jackson’s wizardry has helped make one of the most technologically advanced films in history, building on innovation and creativity Jackson began over a decade ago. The director has turned his hometown of Wellington, New Zealand, into a small movie-making empire and told NBC’s Ann Curry, “It's a lot easier to make your films if you have your own little world.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> fans are anxiously awaiting the release of "the hobbit." it's the prequel to "the lord of the rings " trilogy, which grossed more than $2 billion and earned 17 oscars. so expectations are high for director peter jackson . anne c ann curry recently travelled to his home in new zealand for an interview.

>> reporter: you may not recognize his face, but you can't help but recognize his movies. sir peter jackson is the face behind " king kong " and "the lord of the rings ."

>> you shall not pass!

>> reporter: now a decade after he directed and co-wrote the rings trilogy comes the much anticipated prequel, "the hobbit." filmed in his native country "new zealand ."

>> why did you fight so hard to keep the filming of this movie "the hobbit" in new zealand ?

>> i really wanted to make my films here. i just regard myself as a new zealand film maker. i don't really feel compelled to have to go somewhere else in order to do what i want to do.

>> reporter: he's been able to build an entire movie making industry five minutes from his home in wellington, complete with high-tech special effects facilities, giant sound stages , and a state of the art production house . it's even where "the hobbit" had its world premiere . you're credited with bringing hollywood to new zealand , so much so that wellington is called wellywood. wouldn't it have been much easier to go to hollywood than to bring hollywood all the way here?

>> not necessarily. it's easy to make your films if you have your own little world. i didn't leave my parents' house until i was 26 years old and i don't want to leave the country. if i can make films in new zealand and continue living here, then i think i'm the luckiest guy in the world.

>> reporter: the visual power of peter jackson movies has caused some to ask just how did he get that on screen?

>> go.

>> reporter: we came to new zealand to get a glimpse of how he does it. he took us into his studio and into his world of movie magic. i recognize this scene. he showed us advances in performance capture, which he helped pioneer.

>> reporter: as he's moving, that's what's happening on screen. how does that work exactly?

>> all of these guys are covered in these little dots. and the props are, too. you see the spoon he's got has got the points on it as well. so each of these -- and if i take it away, you see i don't have any dots on me, so i'm not being recorded, but the spoon still is.

>> reporter: so it's floating there.

>> it's floating.

>> reporter: i see. jackson also showed us how he captured actors playing characters at vastly different heights. to do that, he invited me on screen with him.

>> you want me to be gandalf the gray. one of my favorite characters.

>> you're standing there. if i look at you directly, it's not going to work. so what i have to do is if i look at the screen and i just point with my hand, and that's where your eyes are. so i just get a mark up on the ceiling there. the way that it works is we're being shot with two separate cameras. the one camera is a lot lower, so you're immediately looking bigger because the camera is at a much lower height. so i'm looking up at you about there.

>> and i'm looking down at you right there.

>> reporter: jackson's wizardry has helped make "the hobbit" one of the most technologically advanced films of our time, building on imagery he built over a decade ago. peter jackson has devoted a fourth of his life to bringing j.r.r.tolkien to the screen. by our count, you will have spent 14 years making these " lord of the rings " and "hobbit" movies. do you think you'll look back on these films, these six films eventually, as your greatest legacy as a director?

>> it's an interesting question. because if i said yes, i'm assuming i'm never going to make anything that people regard quite as good as that. the realistic question is that may well be the case.