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Game Of Thrones' Visual Effects Offer Cinematic Feel

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

When you’re creating your own world, and placing it in a fantasy genre, the visual effects aren’t going to be cheap to make. But when you’re also making that world for a television show like Game of Thrones, it’s going to be even more of a challenge … one that the visual effects teams of HBO’s hit fantasy series are more than up for.


This is a show that couldn’t have existed four or five years ago because of the visual effects requirements … – D.B. Weiss, Executive Producer, Game of Thrones

Most of the visual effects for Game of Thrones has come courtesy of screen composite enhancements to traditional landscape photography shot around Northern Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, Malta, and Morocco. The enhancements take that photography and transform it make the villages and towns of the?fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, look grander in scale with castles and cliff faces.

There was also ships, virtual cliff faces, and oh, those pesky dragons. My personal favorite was the giant stone guardian straddling the entrance to the harbor. Very Lord of the Rings-like. There’s so much of these kind of CGI, that the production has to rely on multiple effects companies to handle the complex creation of this mid-evil world.

“(For the Battle of the Blackwater)'we went pleading to HBO for more money. We made our case why we needed the battle and they obliged.” – Series co-creator David Benioff, interview with Entertainment Weekly

With this kind of big-budget visual effects, costumes and props, and filming that takes place in far remote locations, it’s not surprising that HBO ponied up a mammoth $60 million for the first season, including a $10 million pilot episode. And it’s been going north from there, thanks to a 15% increase for season two and then up from there for seasons three and four.

From sparkling citadels rising from the cliffs and deserts to ruins in the marshy swamplands, the CGI is practially invisible, as if those places actually exist. But there’s also the creepy CGI monsters, from wolves, white walkers riding atop undead horses and dragons, to zombie-like creatures and evil smoke monsters possessing others.

And I haven’t touched on the battle scenes which offer complex explosions of ship-to-ship battles from vast navies and fire laden devastation. Dozens of extras transformed into an army of thousands. And then there’s those dragons. Small baby dragons that have grown up to becoming unpredictable and moody teenagers.

“We were shooting a scene the other day … walking along the beach, the special effects guy came up to us, flipped a button and the castle just sort of appeared before us, and seeing that was even more amazing.” – Alfie Allen, Theon Greyjoy

And the best part is, that most of this hard work is busy quietly in the background, while the story and incredible performances propel the series to wild and unpredictable conclusions. But there’s no doubt that the incredible effects work done on Game of Thrones, is a character in an of itself.

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