The Hobbit has headed into production, and Ian McKellen, who reprises his role as Gandalf in both this prequel and the as-yet untitled The Hobbit Sequel, was nearby the set. He was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Martin Freeman doing a screen test as Bilbo Baggins in 3D, and he has shared his thoughts with fans.

"I've seen Bilbo - in three dimensions.

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I was visiting old friends in the Stone Street offices and heard Martin Freeman was just round the corner by the permanent green screen, done up as Bilbo, testing his costume in front of the 3D cameras. Indeed, there he was in the open air, mostly oblivious to the camera, though turning this way and that as required. Martin improvised a hobbity gait, padding back and forth, testing his big hairy Hobbit feet, pointy ears and little tum.

Beneath the shade of a tent, in a sun hat, Andrew Lesnie was remotely controlling the two lenses within the mighty camera which digitally records in 3D. His screen showed the familiar 2D image but next to it, above the director's chair, was a large colour screen in full magical three dimensions, much as it will appear in the cinema - courtesy of the spy-glasses that transform the blurred outlines onscreen to the high definition exactitude of the 3D effect.

Three Bilbos simultaneously, two performances on screen and the actor beyond: which was the real one? Martin Freeman was transmuting into a character whose reality will soon be as authentic as his own.

- Ian McKellen, Wellington, March 2011

B. Alan Orange at Movieweb
B. Alan Orange