Game of Thrones, the television phenomenon based on George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire saga, and brought to life by HBO has earned rave reviews and a legion of loyal fans across the globe. The epic fantasy show has relied strongly on visual effects and animation to help bring their ridiculously-expansive scenes, characters and myriad fantastical creatures to life.
From ice zombies to fire-breathing dragons and everything else in between, this show is a standard-bearer for VFX done right. The season finale for the show’s penultimate running, titled “Beyond the Wall” is a microcosm for how stellar the show is and what an important role VFX plays in making it so.
Built on a Big Budget
All of that otherworldly glory, magic, mystique, and magnitude at the cost of a penny. On average, a GoT episode has cost anywhere between $6 million to $10 million, and a solid chunk of that money has gone into the show’s CGI and VFX efforts. As MoneyInc reports, every 10 minutes of CGI set the show back by a whopping $800,000. Vanity Fair has put out a story claiming that the budget for the upcoming final eighth season of the show could be as high $15 million per episode, with six episodes planned.
Raking in the Awards
Adored by a hardcore fan base and acclaimed by the critics, this show has won a fair few awards since it began airing in April 2011. The show has also pulled off a streak of awards for its visual artistry. Having already nabbed five prestigious Emmy Awards before Beyond the Wall, the curtain closer for season 7 was also a recipient of a sixth Emmy for Outstanding Special Effects.
The Insane Level of VFX in GoT
The sheer volume of visual effects used on the show is incredible. No wonder the VFX costs so much, as there are six major VFX studios involved in the making of GoT according to this Autodesk article.
The studios in question are:
Toolbox Studio offers cutting-edge VFX services to enchant and delight the audience, taking projects from concepts to visual conclusions.
Breaking Down “Beyond the Wall”
Another studio not mentioned in the aforementioned Autodesk piece, but one that has played a pivotal part in the making of GoT’s seventh season, including Beyond the Wall, is El Ranchito Imagen Digital, Madrid. This is the studio behind that iconic battle of the frozen lake. You can watch the studio’s video on how this episode came about right here.
While this may have been the epic climax to an insane finale, the episode features quite a lot of interesting effects for VFX aficionados:
The first major VFX addition to this episode, this bear accosts the show’s heroes and is killed in a great ball of fire. The VFX team reportedly studied images of dead polar bears and tried to match the decay they found to the look of this particular zombified specimen, making the amount of fur, fat and caked blood as realistic as possible.
While not appearing for the first time in this episode, the sheer volume of this undead horde was challenging to produce realistically. The VFX studios managed with two sets of wights, one made up of 90% computer-generated imagery and 10% costume and prosthetic, and secondly, the negative space wights that were only 30% CG and 70% costume and prosthetic. These wights were then multiplied using VFX to make the number look large and foreboding, extending into thousands of these specimens in the episode when it aired.
The three mighty dragons that form an integral part of GoT lore were all in action in this episode. They flew in to try and rescue the heroes who were stranded in the middle of a (mostly green-screened) frozen lake surrounded by the wights. Everything from the motion of the dragon’s wings to their billowing flames needed to be created using the help of VFX and the final result was absolutely mesmerizing.
The biggest plot twist in this episode and one of the biggest in the show as a whole was the reanimation of one of the dragons into an undead ice monster by the White Walkers and their dreaded leader – the Night King. This sequence, too, was a masterpiece in VFX and has been addressed in the video we spoke about above.
This IndieWired piece goes into even more detail regarding how this episode came about. Needless to say, Beyond the Wall was a masterclass in VFX and worthy of all the plaudits it has received so far.
Toolbox Studio is a VFX specialist that has been around for over 11 years, delivering a host of visual effects solutions to clients from around the globe. Having worked on Hollywood blockbusters like Maleficent, 300: Rise of an Empire, Jupiter Ascending and Hunger Games, we have the essential tools and skills to make magic happen on screen.
If you want to create your own larger-than-life, slick and richly-detailed VFX sequences, we can help make it happen.
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