Some news breaking out today from RED man Jim Jannard (he develops motion-picture cameras, rather than da rockwildering) via the RED Camera forums, where the company founder is understandably proud that Peter Jackson has personally chosen the RED EPIC camera, which has only recently escaped a rather tumultuous development process, to be the image-capture choice for the $500 million Hobbit production.

The cameras capture at a 5k resolution (which is a higher theoretical resolution than most standard 35mm film workflows employ), and can do 120fps, among many other delightful features.

The Hobbit will be rolling with thirty of them.

Those 30 cameras (which for previous RED-owning early adopters come in $58,000 dollar packages along with batteries, solid state hard drives, titanium PL mounts, touchscreen displays, and hand-machined bodies) only represent 15 camera units though, as you must remember this production will be in 3D. The need for efficient stereoscopic photography apparently played a big role in the decision, according to Peter Jackson’s statement.

“Many competing digital systems require the cameras to be tethered to large cumbersome VTR machines. The Epic gives us back the ability to be totally cable free, even when working in stereo.”

For those worried about The Hobbit losing the film look of the Lord of the Rings, which employed a lot of classical filmmaking craft despite the abundance of digital effects, know that this is RED’s most advanced sensor yet, and they’re claiming it to have the best latitude and dynamic range of any digital camera yet developed. Digital photography has come a long way, and while I do worry that The Hobbit won’t be able to maintain the same visual texture of the Lord of the Rings (where it would be appropriate, of course), I have no doubt that Jackson and his crew will pull the best footage of these cameras that they are capable of producing.

“I’m not a scientist or mathematician, but the image Red produces has a much more filmic feel than most of the other digital formats. I find the picture quality appealing and attractive, and with the Epic, Jim and his team have gone even further. It is a fantastic tool, the Epic not only has cutting edge technology, incredible resolution and visual quality, but it is also a very practical tool for film makers.”

When checking around it occurred to me that Guillermo Navarro is still listed everywhere as the last mentioned cinematographer, though I  image he’s departed with Del Toro for At The Mountains of Madness. This would lead me to assumed that Oscar-winner Andrew Lesnie will return to photography Middle Earth under Jackson’s direction, bolstered by Howard Shore’s score, but I would love some definitive clarification on this.

If you could not care less about filmmaking equipment or the tech-end of filmmaking craft, than you can simply take away the news that Peter Jackson is purchasing (large amounts of) cameras, and that the 3D thing is a big part of what they’re doing. If you are interested in the craft, know that the production is pushing to be as cutting-edge as the original trilogy was at the time, and that their camera choice might possibly grant them more precise visual control than they’ve ever had.

At some point perhaps we’ll hear our own Iain S. chime in on the news, as I understand he was recently impressed with some Pirates 4 footage, shot on Panavision assembled-cameras using RED image sensors…

Keep your eyes peeled.