It’s pretty apparent that HBO’s mega-hit fantasy series Game of Thrones is not for the faint of heart. Between the ultra-violent death of beloved characters and the dark, sexually charged storylines, the show remains relentlessly shocking and yet a prime example of top-notch entertainment. Part of that comes from the fantasy show’s excellent, seamless special effects as it brings George R.R. Martin’s Westeros to life.
“We start by putting our heads together with the others to make guesses about who will be doing what based on the script,” lead visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer tells ICG Magazine. “From there it’s a matter of figuring out hand-offs between departments. There’s a film language with live action from which you don’t want to depart when entering the realm of VFX, so it is rare that we do a full CG shot; realism benefits when at least some elements from all departments are included. Even on our standalones, we’ll rely on reference from set and from stunt performers to keep working from some real-world aspect.”
“When doing previs for our dragons and giants,” Bauer continues, “we put the digital camera on the digital crane or dolly so that our virtual world matches the conditions Production faces with their equipment. By staying in the world of real photography, we can generate info and give that tech back to production so they know how much track will be needed and just how far the crane is going to have to extend, which makes the shooting much more efficient.”
Were there are dragons, there’s fire—traditionally one of the hardest CGI effects to get right. “If you can’t spend time to refine it to work with a specific environment, it will look wrong. This happens even on high-ticket features,” Bauer explains. “Since fire is an object that throws shadows, with an appearance that is affected by the sun and other strong sources, we always try to photograph real fire on location. If you just rely on generic fire elements shot against black, that can work for a cave shot but will fail when comped into a daylight plate.”
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