Award-winning VFX supervisor working on pilot

Robert Stromberg, an Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated visual effects designer, has been more or less confirmed to be working on the Game of Thrones pilot in the capacity of visual effects supervisor. This confirmation came via a series of Julia Frey (VFX producer) tweets, in which she mentioned she was sitting down for dinner with Robert in Belfast and responded to a question from Ran about whether he was working on Thrones by saying it would be an “extreme coincidence” for them to be in the same city together.

Winter Is Coming: Stromberg, most recently, was production designer on James Cameron’s Avatar and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Adding his experience and expertise to the project is another feather in the cap for the producers. So what does this mean for the direction of the show? Brude echoes my sentiments and sums it up quite nicely over at the Westeros forums.

Stromberg is a FX guy, he’s been doing FX work in various roles at the highest level since 1991 starting as a Matte Artist and moving on eventually to FX Supervisor and Designer. He has recently graduated to full blown Production Designer, though he has done so serving under two directors who are themselves first rate artists/designers: James Cameron and Tim Burton. Not only that, he is doing so on what are probably going to be these two directors’ most FX laden productions to date with Avatar and Alice in Wonderland. Avatar, which I think has some sort of FX in probably 90% to 95% of the shots in the film, and much of the film being completely rendered and Alice looks from the photos seen so far to be largely FX throughout, too. Needless to say, it doesn’t get any bigger!

I’m certain this show will have far, far less SFX than these two movies, but if you are getting an FX guy with his pedigree to be your FX supervisor, I think it’s being done for a specific reason, and that is you plan to have rather a lot of FX, at least for a TV show. I’m guessing rendered backdrops and the like might be fairly common on this show and perhaps they do expect, come second season, to do a pretty large scale Siege of King’s Landing. If that’s the plan, this is the guy to get to do it.

UPDATE: In the comments Mauberly pointed us to an Irish Film and Television network article that states that Sean Bobbitt is the director of photography on the pilot. Bobbitt recently was nominated for an Emmy for his DP work on BBC’s Sense & Sensibility.


  • Thoroughly exciting … this is pretty much the best team possible you could hope to have for a tv show, and we know their expertise will have the opportunity to shine on screen in its full glory being a part of such a project as GOT.

  • It's like great news keeps piling up. How does something like this not get picked up?

    Like that McCarthy guy, I'm chuffed.

  • Decided to do a quick tally of the number of awards received by those working on Game of Thrones now. Here is what I got:

    4 Emmy wins
    2 BAFTA wins
    2 Emmy noms
    2 Oscar noms
    3 BAFTA noms

    Now, I haven't followed other TV series' productions very closely, but that seems like a lot of awards to me.

  • Who are they hiring next, Howard Shore? (just a name, not trying to start a discussion who would be the best composer)

  • Unrelated: I have collected the thoughts Martin had on some of the members of the cast to update your list. You can add them at your discretion.

    … think of all the challenges that await the boy in this role. We think we've found a young actor capable of handling them, however. Isaac is a bright young talent and he gave a great reading … I'm looking forward to seeing him bring Bran to life.

    Jason's auditions were terrific, displaying all the fierceness that our khal requires, but showing warmth and tenderness in the softer scenes as well.

    Tyrion will be very pleased to make her acquaintance.

    … another fine British character actor.

    A little thing to fix in the FAQ:
    Filming for the pilot is currently scheduled to start October 24, 2009. -> Filming for the pilot started on Ocober 24, 2009.

  • Marko: You're always keeping me on point. I like it. :)

    I went ahead and made those changes. Thanks!

  • You're welcome, and thanks. Because I like your blog, I also like to contribute what I can to help it keep perfect :P
    Not too OCD, I hope … or even CDO (which is pretty much like OCD except for it is in the alphabetic order as it should be :D)

  • somebody asked on the last thread, but i will put it out there again … aside from having a great director and a great VFX Supervisor the look of any film or tv show is heavily influenced by the Director of Photography … does anybody have any idea who is working on AGoT? Any ideas, rumours etc?

    and i also will restate that getting Robert Stromberg is huge! I didn't see Avatar or Alice on his IMDB but there are any number of really visually stunning projects he has supervised. Golden Compass was a pretty bad adaptation of a great book .. but it wasn't because it looked bad … it looked amazing (well, some of the CGI daemons weren't great but) … 3:10 to Yuma remake was exceedingly good looking for a gritty western, for all the bashing Sky Captain got I still think it was a visually great movie … not to mention Memoirs of a Geisha and the last Pirates movie. He also worked on Pan's Labyrinth so nuff said …

    but i am still wondering if each director will work with a DP who they bring with them or if they can/will have a "standing" DP to hold the consistent look of the show on film thru the various directors? any idea of how this normally works on a series like this? (for our resident industry experts)

  • Jacopo Belbo: Funny you should ask because I was just reading the article Mauberly, ummm, tried to post (Cameras Roll on 'Game of Thrones') and it mentions the DP is Sean Bobbitt. I think this is the first time that has been announced. I will add the info to the post.

  • @WiC: i have never heard of that guy Sean Bobbit. looking at his IMDB i don't see anything i have seen myself and nothing that seems particularly noteworthy for being 'visually stunning' … i still wonder if that means he is the DP for the pilot? the whole series? the regular DP that works with Tom McCarthy?

    of course the guy I'd like to see dp, Frank Griebe, who did Perfume: Story Of A Muderer (and other Tom Twyker films) is probably out of the question … =(

  • Hehe, seek and you shall find.

    I see Bobbit was the DP on Sense and Sensibility as well, where Clapton was the costume designer. Just quickly looking at his references, it does not seem as impressive as Stromberg's perhaps, but I do not know enough to judge.

  • i am not saying that Sean Bobbitt isn't good. i never saw Sense And Sensibility (and it seems to have won an award) but the job of DP is hugely integral to the entire visual feel of any production …

    all you have to do is look at any single frame from Perfume: Story Of A Muderer or True (both from the Tywker/Griebe team) to see just how astoundingly important a DP can be. i am not saying that AGoT has to be at the visual level of the two aforementioned films (very very few things are) but it would be nice to be close n'est pas?

  • Ok, given Silverstar's reminder on Ehle, the list is obsolete again :) Very impressive, once more.

    Now I'm pretty sure Sense and Sensibility got Bobbitt the job. Didn't know he was nominated, but it makes sense that his best work is a period piece and therefore he fits our beloved project well.

    P.S. @WiC: when adding Bobbitt, could you also capitalize the new sentence in Sumpter's profile? Ta!

  • from looking at Thomas McCarthy's IMDB it looks like he used the same DP on both of his films (Station Agent/The Visitor) … Oliver Bokelberg … but his 'resume' doesn't have anything that jumps out at me any more or less than Sean Bobbitt's so … i would be interested to know where they got the information for that article? had none of our WiC super-sleuths ferreted out this information before? do we know that it is 100% correct?

  • "Amazing, the number of award-winning actors we have here. Ehle has two Tony wins as well."

    Quoting myself, but she has an Olivier award nomination too, apparently.

  • and let's hope that Tom hit up Peter Jackson for lots of tips and advice on adapting epic fantasy to the screen when he worked with him (as an actor) on The Lovely Bones … i mean who better to be your "mentor" for such a project eh? =)

  • We have speculated that other directors coming to work on the series in the future will have an 'epic' background to complement Tom McCarthy's 'character' one.

    In other news: Tatiana S. Riegel is now listed at the film editor for GOT on IMDb. Quite some experience according to her resume.

  • and the 2nd unit/1st assistant director has some pretty impressive stuff on his resume as well .. the brothers bloom, penelope, the last hangman

  • Marko: Interesting about the editor. Haven't been able to find any other sources to verify that info. Will have to wait and see, I guess.

    Mauberly: No problem. You did the hard work anyway, I just had to google IFTN and it was like the top news story. Great find!

  • The Stromberg news is exciting but looking at his credits we need to keep in mind that his TV experience is limited to first episode/pilot work. He has never committed to a full series or even a whole season of a series. Perhaps he can "set the tone" by doing the pilot but I don't expect him to work on the entire series or even necessarily season one.

    Sorry to be a downer on this one.

  • I just tweeted this, but thought I'd post it here for those who don't check my twitter:

    Been told there is no filming planned for today. Crew will use the day to move operations from Doune Castle to Belfast.

  • It is shaping to be the LOTR of television. There's no chance it won't get picked or wont succeed.
    Way to jinx it. *knocks on wood all over the place*

  • I tend to agree with gofalcons.

    I mean it's cool that Stromberg has been involved with high profile projects, but he was production designer in Avatar and Alice and that sounds like a fairly different role than VFX supervisor – so while it's cool it doesn't exactly excite me.

    And as gofalcon points out, he has mostly been involved in movies. My thoughts are that doing VFX on a James Cameron film… or any other big budget picture is going to be a completely different animal than doing VFX for a tv series. While HBO isn't exacly network TV, it is still TV, so they are going to need somebody who has experience getting the most out of sometimes a limited amount of funds. That being said, they also need someone who is good at what they do because creature CGI can looking really bad when done poorly.

    The length and health of the series could very well be determined by how expensive it ends up being to make an episode. So while it's cool we have somebody who is high profile, it's not something I'm exactly jumping for joy over.

    Of course, that's if he even sticks around passed the pilot….

    My longterm hope is what they did what BSG did, create an inhouse effects team that is used just for the show when they start needing a lot of effects on a weekly basis. I've heard a couple of times that that ended up being a really good move for BSG keeping costs down but also keeping the quality quite high.

  • Didn't have any doubts about Stromberg's qualifications. I've seen enough of the movies he's worked on to know I like what I've seen.

    I just question the view that he'll do anything more than work on the pilot. Somebody who's working with Cameron and Burton is going to tie himself to a full tv series or even a full season of a tv series.

  • Cool thing is that even if Stromberg is only doing the initial design work or only working on the pilot, he will probably be very integral in planning or developing much of what we see throughout the series. For instance:

    The Others: not sure how other-worldy they will end up being, but I imagine there may be some CGI making them look a little less than human.

    The Direwolves: I'm sure they have at least talked about and planned how they are going to handle them. Maybe they end up sizing them down, but at least having someone so experienced can help them to make the right decision one way or another.

    Dragons: Same as above, I'm sure they have at least decided HOW they are going to do them, might even have them drawn up with people ready to start modeling them upon greenlight.

    All the other less obvious CGI: castles, unique geographies such as The Godswood, all kinds of other stuff yet to even be imagined by us peons.

    So even if he is only involved in the early stage of the show, he will probably be very instrumental in determining how these things are going to work on screen, so its freaking amazing to have such an experienced person on board. They are either dishing out boatloads of cash to be getting all these people on board, or people just realize there's a whole lot of potential in the show and want to be a part of it. (Probably a little bit of both…)

  • Peeter, not only that, but I'm betting this will be the exact thing that they end up using.


    I still don't know what's going to happen with the dragons, but maybe Stromberg will be on board for the final episode, too.


  • seriously. everyone should go to the link that peeter posted (i will do it here again as an actual link: HBO: John Adams Digital SFX … no offence meant to peeter)

    it is a perfect example of how just about anything and everything in an epic scaled production can be digital/sfx … i watched every minute of that mini series and watching that behind the sfx clip i was amazed that even things like burning ships in the harbour and long shots of city streets were digital … maybe i am naive but all of that looked so real in the show i never noticed … that is EXACTLY what AGoT is going to need not even including things like dire wolves, others and dragons … seeing that is making me just giddy with excitement of how they can go crazy with Pentos and the other free cities not to mention all of the other places Dany goes should we get more than season/book 1.

  • Jacopo,

    I think this is great for every single non-living thing they need. However, there's still an issue with me and organic beings that are pure CGI.

    That said, combinations of humans and CGI can look really good, such as Davy Jones (at about 1:32). Stromberg worked on this, too, so I figure we're in pretty good hands should they decided to do some CGI enhancement with the Others.

    I'm hoping that, since they're using real animals in the beginning, the direwolves will likewise be real animal actors with CGI enhancement

    The dragons are still a concern for me, as I'm sure they'll be the things folks will be tempted to go pure CGI with. If you look at the Avatar trailer at about 1:30 there's a beast-looking thing, and a sort-of-dragon-looking at 1:40. Both of these things, to me look like CGI. I can't imagine that if they use 100% CGI for the dragons that they'll look any better to me. I'm still hoping they come up with a solution that involves some real-world materials.