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Bethany Nolan
IU Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012

IU experts available to discuss language, technology, parody ahead of 'Hobbit' premiere

Dec. 11, 2012

EDITORS: With Friday's release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the first film in an expected three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's book, Indiana University has several faculty experts who can provide insights on invented language, the technology behind how the film was created and a parody film. Sources may be contacted directly. For further assistance, contact Bethany Nolan with IU Communications at 812-855-6494 or

Susan Shepherd

Susan Shepherd

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Tolkien master of invented language
There is a long tradition of invented language in the science fiction and fantasy genre, but most authors provide only a small sampling of words and sentences. J.R.R. Tolkien demonstrates his deep love for languages and linguistics by constructing elaborate histories for some of his languages, complete with family trees and etymologies for the words he created and detailed explanations of their grammatical structures, pronunciation and writing systems.

Tolkien's study of classical languages, Old English and philology at Oxford University led to his first job as an assistant on the Oxford English Dictionary. This background and his interest in languages such as Finnish and Welsh are evident in his invented languages. He sometimes referred to his creation of new languages as his "secret vice," and he worked on the Elvish language Quenya for more than 40 years before his best-known books were published. It is probably accurate to say that he built the worlds you see in "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" to create a place for his languages to live, to bring them to life.

Susan C. Shepherd is associate professor of English at IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Her research interests include socio-historical linguistics and language and culture. She can be reached at 317-274-0090 or

Chris Eller

Photo by Yvonne Avery

Chris Eller

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Cinema technology on display

The first installment of Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" has been filmed in ways that push cinema technology to new limits in resolution, frame rate and 3D. The film was shot by RED Epic cameras at a resolution of 5K, which is a little more than five times the resolution of high definition and can reveal incredible detail in the sets, costumes, makeup and overall scene. This isn't the first film shot in 5K, but it can still be tough for viewers to find a cinema screening films at higher resolutions.

As for frame rate, films have been showing at a rate of 24 frames per second since the advent of sound motion pictures in the mid- to late-1920s. Digital camera technology recently allowed higher frame rates and "The Hobbit" was shot at 48 frames per second, or double the current cinema standard. Tests and advanced screenings have, however, elicited mixed reviews since the faster frame rate has a markedly different visual aesthetic.

"The Hobbit" was also shot in stereoscopic 3D, with a production crew that studied how to use 3D as a visual tool to bring out meaning and nuance in the finished film. For local audiences, the closest cinema screening of "The Hobbit" in HFR 3D is the Hamilton 16 IMAX near Noblesville, just north of Indianapolis at exit 210 off I-69.

Chris Eller leads the advanced digital arts and media team in IU Bloomington's University Information Technology Services' Advanced Visualization Lab, and teaches a course in 3D film production in the Department of Telecommunications. Eller can be reached at 812-856-1413 or

Tim Richardson

Tim Richardson

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'I only parody what I love'
While I did not grow up reading books like "The Lord of the Rings" or "The Hobbit," I've always been a fan of parody: Weird Al, Mel Brooks, Monty Python and Mad magazine. I got hooked on Tolkien after a friend took me to see "The Fellowship of the Ring." I had just directed a Civil War film and was looking for something fun for the next project, plus my actor friend Bryce Cone resembles Elijah Wood a bit. That's how "The Dork of the Rings" came to be.

It was my largest undertaking to date, shooting on a huge green screen, utilizing hundreds of actors, visual effects and costumes, and then touring the country promoting it with international screenings at film festivals and "Lord of the Rings" and fantasy conventions. We even met and befriended some of the film's stars.

Watching the behind-the-scenes features to the trilogy gave me an incredible appreciation for the creation of these films. They were hugely inspiring, especially to me as a filmmaker, leading me to agree with Mel Brooks: "I only parody what I love." I came to love "The Lord of the Rings" through the making of our film. So once "The Hobbit" was announced, I decided to revisit that world and begin a new filmmaking journey within it with "The Throbbit," which we will film in summer 2013.

Tim Richardson is associate faculty teaching theater for IU South Bend's Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts. He is president of the nonprofit Mid America Filmmakers and director of the River Bend Film Festival in South Bend. Richardson can be reached at 574-315-8044 or