Game of Thrones is simply monumental in its scope and scale as a story. With everything from clashing armies to roaring giants to fire-breathing dragons, George R.R. Martin’s epic is just that: epic. But while bringing the story to life while reading the books takes awesome imagination, bringing the television series to life has taken that, plus an extraordinary production effort that has been more or less unprecedented in the history of television. And nowhere is this incredible effort more apparent than when it comes to the show’s visual effects, which are broken down in this new, stunning behind-the-scenes video.
In the video, the show’s VFX Supervisor Joe Bauer discusses some of the biggest challenges that the visual effects team has faced in the past, as well as what’s been in the works during production of the upcoming sixth season. To say that the magic in the story is rivaled by the magic of these effects would be a reasonable statement.
For example, Bauer notes that “Watchers on the Wall,” the ninth episode of season four, required a green screen bigger than any other that had ever been built before, measuring in at 30 feet tall and a whopping 400 feet long. He says that he thought he had gone too far with that order, but on the same day he requested it, production began the process of bringing it together. And, needless to say, the resulting battle was visually awe-inspiring and, despite being fantastical, completely believable.
Bauer also discusses what it’s taken to bring Dany’s dragons—which have quintupled in size over the span of the show—to life. The process involved the assembly of a flamethrower (which can launch flames up to 50 feet) strapped to a robotic crane, which was then placed in the middle of a bull ring in Spain. And yes, those scenes really did entail lighting a bunch of stunt people on fire (safely).
The video also takes a look at how the show made Wun Wun (the wildling giant with an attitude) a formidable presence by using Ian Whyte, a seven-foot-one-inch-tall actor, and some super crafty camera work. Bauer notes that almost any large character in an A-level movie is probably Whyte, as he’s a talented performer who’s capable of pulling off the illusion of having a giant’s mass and corresponding body movements.
Ultimately, the show’s visual effects need to serve the series’ story rather than just provide visual treats. No matter how impressive they are, they always need to blend in with the rest of the world, bringing the environment for the narrative to life rather than stealing the spotlight. But Bauer seems to be more than happy to have his team’s work only come center stage in behind-the-scenes videos like this one, saying that “The best compliment that we can receive in visual effects is to be invisible.”
But you and your opinions shouldn’t be invisible! So give us your thoughts about this video, and general VFX insights, in the comments below!