Behind-the-Scenes Look at 'Game of Thrones' Opens Portugal VFX Festival

Former Digital Domain CEO Scott Ross addressed “how to live in this crazy digital world”
HBO

Welcome remarks from industry vet Scott Ross and an extensive look at the visual effects behind HBO's Game of Thrones kicked off the second Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn (THU) international VFX, game and animation festival Wednesday in Troia, Portugal.

The not-for-profit event, which runs through Saturday, is expected to triple in size from a year ago, with nearly 600 people from 45 countries, ranging in age from 1881, set to attend. “In this community we have more in common with each other even if we speak different languages,” event ambassador Ross, a co-founder and former CEO of Digital Domain, told an energized crowd, uniting them by emphasizing that the event is focused on the artists and “how to live in this crazy digital world. The commonality that we have is the THU tribe.”

The program began with a look at the visual effects on Game of Thrones, which recently won its third consecutive Emmy in VFX and involves roughly 500 artists working in different locations around the world.

Jan Fiedler, VFX producer at lead house Pixomondo, outlined the work through extensive making-of clips and behind-the-scenes footage. The CG creatures are of course the most visible work, but the team is also responsible for created environments including fully CG shots, as well as explosions, CG water and ships and cloth simulation. And this is done “on weekly deadlines once things get going,” Fiedler said, reporting that the work is billed on a fixed fee, though “If there are big changes — if the animation changes the week before deadline — there will be a change order."

Explaining that the “most time consuming and expensive shots,” are the dragons, Fiedler took the crowd through the making of the creatures, including the animals used to create the dragons' textures and movement.

The basis for the dragons' movement are birds. To create dragons diving into water, the Game of Thrones team uses video of a pelican as reference. Fiedler got a chuckle from the audience when he noted that movement work also involved a study of a raw chicken from the supermarket to see where the joints should be.

For a pose when the dragons feel threatened, the team actually started by examining the scene in Jurassic Park when a dinosaur attacks actor Wayne Knight's character as he tries to flee the park. They then examined similar poses on different animals, particularly snakes, as further reference.

Clips also showed how the dragons interact with the actors, including a video of a stunt person being set "on fire" via practical effects.

Fiedler noted that the pipeline developed to manage the work between the various locations is the one put in place for Hugo, which won an Oscar for VFX. But he added that they still try to keep shots in the same location when possible.

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA

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