Posted on Wednesday, September 14th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
I’m a sucker for visual effects breakdown reels in general, but I’m really a sucker for Game of Thrones visual effects breakdown reels because they showcase just how much of HBO’s fantasy drama is quietly enhanced by intelligent, often invisible special effects. Sure, everyone knows those dragons are CGI, but your eyes don’t always catch the numerous set extensions. You probably don’t even realize that the sky has been replaced and the lightning digitally modified in many scenes.
And as one VFX reel reveals, a great deal of the violence is brought to life through some surprisingly effective trickery, combining digital and practical elements in a seamless fashion.
This reel came to our attention courtesy of Variety, who wrote a brief piece on Image Engine, one of the several companies to work on special effects for Game of Thrones season 6. Naturally, spoilers for that season of the show lurk ahead.
One of the most interesting pieces of trivia comes from the company’s visual effects supervisor Mat Krentz, who reveals that the gruesome execution of Ramsay Bolton (eaten by his own dogs!) was actually toned down after the first version was deemed too gruesome. However, since the scene was crafted by digitally combining various live action elements into one shot, the VFX artists were able to manipulate the scene accordingly. As Krentz explains:
They shot the scene with multiple takes. They did a pass of the dog on green screen, then Ramsay on green screen, and then we also had a background plate, which we put together.
Apparently, the original version involved a digitally rendered jaw for Ramsay that would have been torn from his face. So now we know exactly what is too far for the most gruesome show on television.
The interesting tidbits continue with this quote from composition lead Edwin Holdsworth, who explains that they would filming themselves smashing actual meat and insert it into scenes that require head-smashing and what-not:
Some shots were really specific, like someone getting their head smashed directly against a wall. To get the look right for that we filmed real meat being smashed. We used the same technique for shots where one character has their hand pulled apart. The best way to match the level of gore needed was to pull some meat apart, and use that in the comp. It all felt more realistic that way!
The full reel actually showcases how raw meat was used to create the shot where Wun Wun the giant rips his hand out from the spear that has pinned it to the gates of Winterfell. The effect is gross and hugely effective.
Game of Thrones season 7 is filming right now and will premiere sometime in 2017. If you want to delve further into the show’s visual effects, another VFX reel, from Rising Sun Pictures, arrived a few months ago, offering a look at how that massive explosion in the season finale was created.
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