Peter Jackson's The Hobbit is preparing to leave the shire.
The director of the Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy previewed 10 minutes of assorted footage on Tuesday from his upcoming prequel.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is being filmed in New Zealand using more frames per second than the Hollywood standard. Jackson said in a video introduction that using 48 frames per second produces a smoother image.
The movie could usher in a new era of filmmaking and require film houses across the globe to embrace digital technology.
Jackson said the human eye no longer sees individual pictures under the faster speed, but a steady stream of clear images.
"The movement feels more real," Jackson said while introducing his film at the CinemaCon convention for theater owners on the Las Vegas Strip. "It's much more gentle on the eyes."
Indeed, the footage was vivid, with grass blades, facial lines and soaring mountains appearing luminous and pronounced. The actors looked almost touchable, as if they were performing live on stage.
It's unclear what the final product will look like when it's released in December. Jackson said he was still editing the movie and the shared footage included green screens that will eventually be used to add in scenery, action or special effects.
Other digital pioneers are making the same push for higher film speeds. Avatar creator James Cameron has promised to shoot the sequel to his science-fiction blockbuster at 48 or 60 frames a second.
Jackson warned the new approach would take time to adjust to. Some bloggers agreed, quickly branding the footage released Tuesday as a failure in digital technology. The critics claimed the unfinished scenes looked like a low-budget TV show.
British actor Martin Freeman stars as Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who acquires the evil ring that sets the action of The Lord of the Rings in motion.
The footage showed Baggins lost in Gollum's cave. Andy Serkis' portrayal of the strange creature known for his "precious" obsession and speaking in the third person is just as disturbing as it was in the trilogy, with Baggins forced to appeal to Gollum's love of games to survive.
Ian McKellen, reprising the role of the wizard Gandalf, persuades Baggins to leave the shire and join him on his journey. The footage of the hobbit's hometown is stunning, with each color having almost a neon glow.
There were other brief snippets of story. Orlando Bloom, as the elf Legolas, was shown with his character's flowing, blonde hair. McKellen toured an ancient tomb that he surmised once housed someone evil. Trolls engaged in battle.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first chapter in Jackson's two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic.
The two films are being shot simultaneously in 3-D, with the second one, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, due in theaters in December 2013.
The final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy swept the Academy Awards with 11 trophies, including best picture and director, in 2003.