Computer Graphics World

September / October 2017

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s e p t e m b e r . o c t o b e r 2 0 1 7 c g w 1 1 ust as location shooting for Game of Thrones spans continents, so does the series' pool of visual ef- fects vendors. With seven seasons on HBO now behind it, Game of Thrones maintains a roster of VFX studios that's as big as ever. It includes Rodeo FX and Image Engine in Canada, Iloura in Austra- lia, El Ranchito in Spain, Mackevision and Pixomondo in Germany, Screen Scene in Ireland, Weta Digital in New Zealand, and Rhythm & Hues Studios and Lola Visual Effects in the US. In addition, HBO maintains a small team of compositors working remotely across the country on greenscreen composites, paint, and production fixes. They are Ca- dence Effects and Clearcut FX on the East Coast and Exceptional Minds, a school and studio for young adults on the autism spectrum, in Los Angeles. "The sun never sets on Game of Thrones' VFX vendors. We like to make sure we get emails all hours of the day," quips Steve Kull- back, VFX producer on the series since 2012. "Many VFX houses return from previous seasons, but we test three or four hopefuls every year and bring on one or two," notes VFX Supervisor Joe Bauer, who has been with the show since Season 3. "The largest new studio is Weta. Peter Jackson is keen on the show, and it all finally worked out [for his schedule]. We also stepped up the work for Screen Scene in Dublin and Lola in Los Angeles, which provided lighter support before." That said, live-action photography – whether plates shot on location or element shoots – plays a key role in the show's VFX. "We're very photography-heavy," says Bauer. "It serves the aesthetics of the show, which is so mud-and-dirt. We try to stay as real world as we can by using a lot of practical methods of shooting – plates from location shoots, Spydercam, motion control – which gives vendors something to be involved in very early on. This show has to be married to the photographic image." upping the ante Season 7 featured more use of Spyder- cam, the suspended camera and specialty rigging system, for both production and element shoots. Aerial work overall has grown through the years, according to Kullback. "Spydercam, drones, helicopters. We plotted out one drone move for the Volantis Bridge sequence in Season 3, and now we have our own drone air force!" Storyboards from production drive the VFX effort; The Third Floor in Los Angeles fills previs and techvis requirements. VFX needs change season to season as determined by the story line, and so does the firepower to achieve them. "We have beefed up the dragon effort," says Bauer, due to the bigger on-screen roles of Drogon and his cohorts. "Dragons used to be all Pixomondo's German office. In Season 5, we added Rhythm & Hues, and in Season 6 we took on Image Engine aer we saw what they had done on Jurassic World, and their work for Season 7 was top-notch." In terms of sheer numbers, "Season 3 had around 800 shots. Season 7 had around 2,200, all done in the same amount of time," says Bauer. Kullback points out that Season 7's Episode 6 contained "al- most as many VFX shots as all of Season 2. We like to say that the level of com- plexity of the seasons has grown in direct proportion with the size of Drogon," which was introduced in Season 3 as a three-foot dragon and now spans nearly 200 feet. Dragon shots numbered fewer than 70 in Season 6 and climbed to more than 200 for Season 7, including 80 or so of queen Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) riding Drogon – up from about a dozen last year. "Every year they send us work that raises the bar of what we can do as a company," says Matthew Rouleau, VFX supervisor at Montreal-based Rodeo FX, which has been with Game of Thrones for four seasons. Rodeo FX won three VES (Visual Effects So- ciety) Awards for its work on the spectacular "Battle of the Bastards" sequence in Season 6. "This year we did around 300 shots, which is in line with previous seasons, but there was a lot more simulation work, more de- tails, more complexity in general," he says. Game of Thrones ups the ante for all of the show's VFX vendors each season. "It begins with the delivery of outlines and scripts," says Kullback. "Episodes are always significantly more complex and beyond the j IMAGES COURTESY HBO

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