'Game of Thrones' effects reel shows VFX magic that built Westeros

See a before-and-after video that reveals how the stunning effects in "Game of Thrones" are put together, as CNET speaks to one of the VFX masters who helped craft the spectacular on-screen visuals.

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Hang on -- so the Red Keep isn't real?! Mackevision

Forget R'hllor, the Lord of Light -- the real magic on "Game of Thrones" flows directly from the show's many visual effects geniuses. As a new effects reel showcases the visual tricks that created some of the show's most impressive moments, CNET spoke to Emmy award-winning VFX pro Jörn Großhans about creating those spectacular scenes.

Spoiler alert -- while the video itself doesn't contain any major plot spoilers, it does feature some actors from the show, so if you're new to 'Thrones and don't want to know who's still alive in the fourth season, look away now.

One of the most striking effects in the video, which is embedded below, is that of the Titan of Braavos -- the vast statue that straddles the entrance to the fictional port town. Großhans calls the effect "one of the most complex shots we worked on."

"It took almost three months from start to finish to complete the shot," Großhans says, "and there were six artists involved (also not all were working on it at the same time)."

The before-and-after effects reel was put together by VFX company Mackevision, which is one of the studios that worked on the fourth season of HBO's hit TV show. When we asked about the software that was used to craft these fantastic vistas and mythical architecture Großhans said, "We use 3ds Max including various plugins and V-Ray as our main 3D Software, but some stuff like the CG crowds were done in XSI. For the compositing we rely completely on Nuke and our matte painting department use Photoshop."

The video deconstructs entire scenes, showing how individual elements of a shot are separately dropped into frame, also showing quite how much of any given scene is, believe it or not, a visual-effects fabrication. I was particularly surprised to see that a shot of Arya Stark on the prow of a ship at the 3m,50s mark was a composite of different bits of footage.

"Hopefully most of our stuff integrates seamless into the live action plates so that people can't tell that is an effect shot," said Großhans, who is VFX supervisor at Mackevision and previously won an Emmy for his work on "Game of Thrones." "When that is the case we know we did our work right."

"Game of Thrones" is filmed in a Belfast studio, but location shots happen in far-flung environments from Northern Ireland and Malta to Croatia, Iceland and the US. The last episode of season four broke piracy records, with around 2 petabytes worth of data reportedly downloaded following the finale.

About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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