Of the multitude of tremendously cinematic shows that dominate our airwaves today, Game of Thrones is likely the most ambitious, and it's almost certainly the one with the highest production value. From the absolutely massive (and excellent) ensemble cast -- all fitted with highly stylized wardrobe items -- to the dynamic digital cinematography that showcases some brilliant production design, the show looks like nothing else on television today. However, perhaps the most stunning aspect of Game of Thrones is the unmatched aesthetic and sheer magnitude of some of the locations and visual effects. Like many of the period and fantasy pieces shot today, the effects are comprised of a unique blend of traditional photography and heavy compositing, although it can sometimes be difficult to tell which is which, unless there happen to be VFX breakdowns and BTS featurettes. For Game of Thrones, these things exist in abundance.
Several different VFX studios collaborate on the effects of Game of Thrones, much in the way that the show relies on multiple cinematographers. This breakdown from the show's fourth season, which just came to its conclusion last month, comes to us courtesy of Mackevision, a multinational VFX company based out of Germany:
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Of course, the effects of Game of Thrones go well beyond the creation of visually stunning, yet perfectly life-like environments. The second season in particular featured some tremendously creepy creature effects and in addition to all of the location and animal-based compositing. Here's a breakdown of the effects from the second season. Just as a heads up, there are a few spoilers in here:
As fun as these VFX breakdowns are to watch, they don't necessarily give the viewer any sense of just how complex the VFX process is. Here's a pair of excellent in-depth featurettes from the second and third seasons that provide a closer look at the entirety of the visual effects process, from pre-vis to the finished product. Like before, there are a few mild spoilers:
Ultimately, the visual effects in Game of Thrones are a unique combination of traditional processes and cutting-edge technologies. However, the point of the effects is not to be overtly flashy, which runs contrary to the ethos of many modern Hollywood blockbusters. Instead, the effects in Game of Thrones are used to engage the audience's imagination and fully envelop them in the one-of-a-kind world that is Westeros.