In December 2012, Lord of the Rings fans will finally see the release of the long-awaited The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, part one of director Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novel. Given how beloved Jackson’s adaptation of the Rings trilogy was, it doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say this is one of the most anticipated movies of the next few years. But if you want some proof, all you have to do is visit Peter Jackson on Facebook.
There, for the last six months, Jackson (with presumably some help from the Hobbit production team) has been sporadically posting 10-minute video diaries from the set of the production — essentially, the sort of stuff that you find on the special edition DVDs, except they first started appearing 20 months before the first movie even comes out.
The first diary is relatively unfocused — a hodgepodge of Jackson attending production meetings and taking viewers on a tour of the sets in the lead-up to the first day of production — though it does include off-the-cuff riffing with Sir Ian McKellan, which is never a bad thing.
The three subsequent diaries are somewhat more focused: The second, posted July 8, covers what the crew will be doing during a break in production as well as Jackson and his team doing location scouting, while the third, posted July 20, features Jackson freaking out over shooting at the historic Pinewood Studios and the cast and crew’s favorite moments from the first few months of shooting.
The fourth, which came out just last week, is all about the 3-D camera technology behind the film. If you really like learning about camera rigs and frame rates, you’re in luck! You also learn that Jackson has named the 16 cameras being used to shoot the movie after family members, dogs and Beatles, though, which is quite charming.
As default host of the diaries, Peter Jackson is actually quite adorable. As many others have observed, he’s probably the closest you’ll ever come to seeing a real hobbit in the wild, and his fanboy joy at having the chance to make these films is palpable.
While using Facebook as a distribution platform means that embedding is impossible, multiple reposts of the videos have appeared on YouTube, (s goog) racking up hundreds of thousands of views thanks to embedding by blogs like Io9.
But the videos are still obviously popular on Facebook; after less than a day online, Video no. 4 had accumulated over 11,000 “likes,” and past videos sport similar numbers. In short, it’s proving to be a brilliant way to keep buzz alive for a film that won’t be in theaters for another 13 months. Not every project would lend itself to this kind of treatment — I doubt anyone would care this much about the production of, say, Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist — but when the making of the film is almost as epic as the film itself, it’s quite deserved.