MGoT: Meet the VFX guy
By Hear Me Roar on in Production.

In the next installment in a series of short interviews with the crew on set, Cat Taylor talked to Niall McEvoy, one of the VFX people responsible for collecting the technical details of the shoot, especially the lighting, so that the visual effects can later be incorporated successfully. Follow the link over to Making Game of Thrones for the entire piece; here is the most salivating bit, upping the excitement concerning the dragons and the direwolves:

I would like to see how the dragons have grown, progressed and improved. They appeared late in Season 1, right at the end of episode10. In the upcoming season, we see a lot more of them, and that’s really exciting. And the direwolves. We’ve been involved in creating them this season, and we’ve shot a lot of elements with them. These things are big, the size of small horses, and I can’t wait to see how they look.

Hear Me Roar: I am sure none of us can wait to see the end result either! If they manage to reach the same quality as with the new-born dragons last season (though this year’s task is admittedly harder), I will be extremely happy.


41 Comments

  1. Johan Sporre
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Oh… sounds promising!

  2. Happy Henry
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Hooray for CGI direwolves.

  3. Liesie
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    So does this also mean we’re going to see more of the wolves? Or still the same glimpses, since they are way more expensive?

  4. Tar Kidho
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Ooooh, really can’t wait to see the direwolves finally make their appearance in the show (the dogs last year were cute…). Although I’m concerned that it is almost impossible to get them right, I’m a bit more hopeful now after this interview that they will Naill it!

  5. Lisa
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    “the size of small horses” … that statement makes me really really happy. Now, I just hope that they get their overall look right but I’m sure they will!

  6. G_Lee
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    OMG can’t wait for the direwolves! I’m wondering how they will manage the looks. Are they going to keep them the shape of normal wolves so they just look like the dogs from season 1 grown up or are they gonna make them look completely different (which might lead to some confusion)? I imagine it’s gonna be real tough to make the patterns of the dogs’ furs look the same in CGI.
    Looking back it would’ve probably been easier and cheaper to make them CGI from the beginning.

  7. John
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Cat Taylor officially confirmed on Twitter that Season 2 of GOT has been wrapped . Just wanted to get that out here .

  8. Olisgood
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    “These things are big, the size of small horses”

    I can’t wait…
    please put some direwolvs in the teaser. please.

  9. Hear Me Roar
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Tar Kidho,

    Nice one ;)

  10. sjwenings
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    The size of small horses already? Wow, they’re growing faster than in the books!

    Really, it seems to me that they should have them grow more gradually, but it’s not a big deal.

    I’m just a little bit worried. It’s SO difficult to make CGI animals look good on screen. And GOT isn’t exactly the most fantasyish fantasy, so people will demand that much more believability, I think.

  11. Charlie
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Yay! Direwolves! Can’t wait to see them on screen.

  12. Lise Bollum
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Promising, promising!

    I can’t deny that I have my worries about furry things that are CGI – there have been too many bad examples of that, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed. CGI good or bad – I REALLY hope we’ll see some wolves or dragons in one of the forthcoming trailers.

    One final word: GHOST!

  13. James
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Not excited about CGI direwolves, even in big budget hollywood movies like the Twilight films they still look fake. I know they are huge in the books but it’s not essential for the wolves to be huge to tell this story. They could have kept the dogs they had last year they just needed to find better trained dogs.

  14. spacechampion
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    What if Isaiah Mustafa is cast as Daario Naharis?

    “Hello khaleesi. Look at your dragons. Now back to me. Now back at your dragons. Now back at me. Sadly, they are not me. But if they stopped eating baby-scented barbecue and switch to Old Tyroshi Spice then they could smell like they are me. Look down. Back up. Where are you? You’re on a boat with the man your dragons could smell like. What’s in your hand? Back at me. I have it. It’s a kingdom with two crowns for that Iron Throne you love. Look again. The crowns are now diamonds! Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Tyroshi Spice and not a dragon.”

    Do do doot doot doot do doot doot.

  15. sjwenings
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    James: Not excited about CGI direwolves, even in big budget hollywood movies like the Twilight films they still look fake.

    Well, I don’t know, but they said something about making them a cross between CGI and real animals. I don’t know how that would work, but it sort of sounds promising.

    I’m sure they tested what they were able to do with CGI, and since they decided to go ahead with it, it should mean it looked pretty good.

  16. Iker Gernika
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Olisgood:
    “These things are big, the size of small horses”

    I can’t wait…
    please put some direwolvs in the teaser. please.

    Too soon, if they have to do it properly, the only way for us -the fans-, they need time and money, I do not know about the budget but I can give them the time they need.
    Where are the fraking Reeds? Meera, Jojen, we miss you!

  17. rad
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    spacechampion:
    What if Isaiah Mustafa is cast as Daario Naharis?

    “Hello khaleesi. Look at your dragons. Now back to me. Now back at your dragons. Now back at me. Sadly, they are not me. But if they stopped eating baby-scented barbecue and switch to Old Tyroshi Spice then they could smell like they are me. Look down. Back up. Where are you? You’re on a boat with the man your dragons could smell like. What’s in your hand? Back at me. I have it. It’s a kingdom with two crowns for that Iron Throne you love. Look again. The crowns are now diamonds! Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Tyroshi Spice and not a dragon.”

    Do do doot doot doot do doot doot.

    spacechampion,

    This!

  18. ralia
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Job description:
    “We gather as much information as we can from a shooting day, be it lighting information, camera information, lens tilt, height…anything that helps us integrate non-existing elements into the final frame. The only way to make these look real is to light them correctly, and shoot them correctly so they fit into the original plate. If you’ve ever seen poor visual effects, I guarantee that it’s because it wasn’t lit right. So we take all the references, categorizing them all, so when we go back at a later date and shoot an element, we can recreate everything accurately.”

    That sounds promising. Although I’d have to agree that CGI wolves don’t give me much hope. I mean, Twilight might be horrible but it has a lot of money invested in it, far more than GoT has (talk about unfair). If the wolves in Twilight look fake, what chances do we have?

    Joffrey was fantastic. I mean what a little bastard. Jack Gleeson is such an amazing kid in real life, all the kids have been amazing, but Jack in particular, being such a nice guy in real life and such a bastard on screen.”

    Yay. I approve of every mention of Jck Gleeson. The kid deserve the most credit for Joffrey, yet he’s completely overlooked by the media, the fans and HBO’s marketing department. Imo he’s a much more talented actor than Kit or Emilia who are constantly promoted.

  19. JackSparrow
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    sjwenings: Well, I don’t know, but they said something about making them a cross between CGI and real animals. I don’t know how that would work, but it sort of sounds promising.

    I’m sure they tested what they were able to do with CGI, and since they decided to go ahead with it, it should mean it looked pretty good.

    The idea that they wouldn’t do it unless it looked good is pretty dubious reasoning. Directors and CGI people always convince themselves that it will look good, that the technology has improved, that it’s better than it was in whatever previous movie where it looked really fake. The Wachowskis and their producer (Silver) were convinced their CGI fight scenes were going to look great, and would mesh with the shots of the live actors: they looked bad. They did impressive work, better than what had been done before, but it still looked like live action cut with a cartoon, and it was impossible to feel a sense of reality while watching those fight scenes. Peter Jackson is a smart director, and knew to use a lot of practical effects while making LOTR, but he still threw in some shots of a CGI Legolas, like during the fight with the cave troll in ‘Fellowship’, and it looked bad. I would stick with the dragons when it came to CGI (other than backgrounds, buildings, etc.). And even with the dragons, I’d like them to use animatronics when possible (and dragons are easier to animate: like the dinosaurs in the ‘Jurassic Park’ movies, their skin is scaled and not flexible, and easier to make look real). I really hope they use a less is more philosophy with both dragons and direwolves, but I’m afraid Robb and Jon are going to be walking around with cartoon sidekicks.

  20. sjwenings
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    JackSparrow,

    Others have made bad decisions, therefore D&D must too? Either way – when CGI fail, it’s usually because they don’t really have any other option. With GoT, they could have just done it with dogs once again, but chose not to. That, to me, seems promising.

  21. Chai_latte
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    spacechampion,

    Bravo! *clap clap clap*

  22. Chris77
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I think that a lot of the scenes with the direwolves will be shot at night, which will make it easier to make them convincing than in full daylight. Same with the Blackwater. I think the making of was a good indication. S1 was bright and colorfull but S2 is dark and full of terrors…

  23. JackSparrow
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    sjwenings:
    JackSparrow,

    Others have made bad decisions, therefore D&D must too? Either way – when CGI fail, it’s usually because they don’t really have any other option. With GoT, they could have just done it with dogs once again, but chose not to. That, to me, seems promising.

    I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t know how you get that out of my comments: I was responding to your claim that they wouldn’t do it if it wouldn’t work. I pointed out that some very smart directors, who have a lot more experience in the film industry and with special effects, have made these types of decisions and it didn’t work. And I don’t think filmmakers only use CGI when they have to, and that’s been their mistake. I wished they’d filmed that Legolas climbing the chain on the cave troll with Orlando Bloom against a greenscreen, and saw how that worked. I wished they’d used Toby or a stunt double swinging on ropes against a greenscreen for the ‘Spider-Man’ movies instead of a CGI Spidey (I’ve heard that in the new ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ they are going for practical swinging effects instead of CGI, and I’m curious to see how it looks). And I wished they’d just used real people for the fight scenes in the ‘The Matrix’ sequels. Etc., etc. I’m not actually as pessimistic as my last post sounded: I think there are advantages and drawbacks to going either with dogs or with CGI, and I think that the producers will try to make the best use of the effects (I personally would try to keep shots of both dragons and dogs to a minimum this season). Also, I am curious to see what they’ll look like. Still, I think it may have been a smarter choice to save money on probably fake-looking CGI wolves and put it elsewhere.

  24. raw_bean
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    People’s reservations about CGI direwolves are understandable, but the Twilight films are a terrible example for comparison. Those films are made fairly cheaply and *extremely* quickly, and their target demographic of teenage girls are in it for the ‘romance’ more than the special effects or production values. While they may have a bigger budget than the GoT crew, they don’t really have any more time (those films are really rushed out, we’rcoming up on number 5 soon soooremember) and I guarantee you they don’t have passionate filmmakers committed to creating believable and aesthetically pleasing visuals like GoT does.

  25. sjwenings
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    JackSparrow: I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t know how you get that out of my comments: I was responding to your claim that they wouldn’t do it if it wouldn’t work.

    I know – and I still get the same thing out of your comments.

    I’m not saying it’s not possible that it would be bad, just seems unlikely. At the very least I’m not expecting anything cringeworthy as that Legolas thingy.

  26. JackSparrow
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    sjwenings: I know – and I still get the same thing out of your comments.

    I’m not saying it’s not possible that it would be bad, just seems unlikely. At the very least I’m not expecting anything cringeworthy as that Legolas thingy.

    I have some confidence in Dan & Dave, but they aren’t that experienced as filmmakers, from what I know. Based on what they did in season one, I have some confidence in some types of things I think they do well. I don’t know of any experience they have with CGI animals, other than the dragons in the last scene of S1. My level of confidence in them in that regard is going to be determined by what we see going forward, and it’s an area where I’ve seen many, many directors fail. I have confidence in James Cameron when it comes to CGI animals and humanoids. I have confidence in David Fincher in special effects in general, and in knowing enough not to even try to do CGI people (except for de-aging them, I guess; I suppose that’s probably some kind of CGI/live action combination). But not only do I not know what Dan & David’s knowledge is in this area, I don’t know of any TV show that’s pulled off special effects of this type. I stopped watching ‘True Blood’ after S2, and I think they did some CGI wolves, but I’ve heard that they were dodgy. Maybe I’ll try to look up some videos of that to see how they did.

  27. Hollyoak
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    CGI is a curse and a blessing. In its first incarnations, when the technology was a new frontier, we all thrilled to giant dinosaurs, space aliens, explosions in space and a gamut of imagined creatures. Then as Homo Fanboyus became more and more used to seeing these things found only in books come to life on film, they began to…complain.

    We are all so jaded now when it comes to special effects. Sometimes, a film is judged wholly on its CGI and effects. I have always believed that if you tell good story, the CGI elements should add to it and not become the story itself. Sadly, that is not usually the case.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, some people will never be satisfied. Well guess what people? Dragons, Direwolves, Hobbits, Ringwraiths and Gollum don’t really exist. They’re not real. We just have to suspend our belief for a moment and go with the flow.

    I have faith that these direwolves will look great. This is a HUGE leap from season one, where we had dogs standing in for these mythical beasts. It’s HBO, and I have every confidence that the dragons, direwolves and whatever other imagined places and creatures from GRRM’s world are going to be fantastic.

  28. MatMcC
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Hi all,

    Long time lurker….

    I hope the VFX guys have the dragons looking like Christopher Burdett’s art.

    http://christopherburdett.blogspot.com/2011/05/game-of-thrones-queen-of-dragons-part-1.html

    Drogon looks amazing in the above link. :)

  29. KG
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    sjwenings: The size of small horses already? Wow, they’re growing faster than in the books!

    So are the kids ;D

  30. JackSparrow
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Hollyoak:
    CGI is a curse and a blessing. In its first incarnations, when the technology was a new frontier, we all thrilled to giant dinosaurs, space aliens, explosions in space and a gamut of imagined creatures. Then as Homo Fanboyus became more and more used to seeing these things found only in books come to life on film, they began to…complain.

    All of those things, dinosaurs, space aliens, explosions, various imagined creatures, existed in films before CGI, some of them a lot better than some of the CGI versions. Just like anything in film, CGI, and various other methods used for special effects, are at different times used for better or worse effect. There’s a lot of CGI in GoT S1, and it all looks pretty good to me. I don’t complain about the dragons in the last scene because, for one, I thought they looked pretty good, and also I know that there are difficulties with making dragons without CGI and I know that the show doesn’t have the same resources as, say, ‘Avatar’, so I’m not surprised that the dragons don’t look as good as some of the creatures in that movie. But they don’t need to make CGI wolves because they already have dogs, so it’s certainly reasonable, to some degree, to complain if those wolves don’t end up looking very good.

  31. the goat
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Tar Kidho: Ooooh, really can’t wait to see the direwolves finally make their appearance in the show

    Thank you very much for supporting my performance!

    Sincerely,
    Lady

    sjwenings: The size of small horses already? Wow, they’re growing faster than in the books!

    No, they are not. They were that size by the end of A Clash of Kings.

    JackSparrow: I have confidence in James Cameron when it comes to CGI animals and humanoids.

    Sure, but I have a billion times more confidence in D&D when it comes to screenwriting.

    JackSparrow: I have confidence in David Fincher in special effects in general

    Alien3?

  32. JackSparrow
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    the goat:
    Sure, but I have a billion times more confidence in D&D when it comes to screenwriting.

    Well, we weren’t talking about screenwriting, but, just IMO, Cameron’s maybe the best screenwriting director in sf, at least back in his heyday. ‘Terminator’, ‘Aliens’, ‘The Abyss’. He’s been one of the few guys working in sf in Hollywood that can write decent characters, and just knows how to structure a screenplay.

    the goat:
    Alien3?

    I haven’t seen that movie in years, but my recollections were that the effects weren’t the problem. It was his first major movie, too; not everybody starts off at their highest point.

  33. the goat
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    JackSparrow: Cameron’s maybe the best screenwriting director in sf, at least back in his heyday.

    “Back in his heyday,” being the key. Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), Abyss (1989). His other screenplays have been horrendous. I would SO MUCH RATHER have D&D direwolves/dialogue than Cameron direwolves/”dialogue”.

  34. Lars
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Geez, who in knew that there were so many visual effect wizards here? It is always amusing to read people’s opinions on things they have no clue about.

    For example, the Twilight films are not good. But their “Wolf” effects are pretty darn decent from a technical perspective. (Yeah, aspects of a film can blow majorly without affecting other elements – It is true!) The problem with the Twilight wolves is more about overuse rather than poor technical execution. The overuse causes the effects manpower to not be used wisely.

    True Blood have also had pretty some pretty good CG werewolves.

    As long as the CG is used properly, a relatively low budget can go a VERY LONG way.

  35. Hollyoak
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Nice tease!! Renly looks awesome!

  36. userj
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid the CGI Direwolves are gonna look terribly cheesy. I’m not worried at all about the Dragons, though.

    The issue isn’t budget/quality/hardwork, etc. The issue is that we all know what wolves are supposed to look like. We know what they look like when the move, when they stand, how they emote. Therefore, if they look even slightly wrong – if the fur is wrong, or the ears are wrong, or the legs are wrong, then we are going to notice that. Even if it’s only really subtle.

    With dragons, this problem doesn’t exist. There are no such things as dragons, so there’s no “way” they are supposed to look.

    I wish they could have made it work continuing with Dog actors… but it sounds like they were more trouble than they were worth…

  37. raegenhere
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    JackSparrow: The idea that they wouldn’t do it unless it looked good is pretty dubious reasoning.Directors and CGI people always convince themselves that it will look good, that the technology has improved, that it’s better than it was in whatever previous movie where it looked really fake.The Wachowskis and their producer (Silver) were convinced their CGI fight scenes were going to look great, and would mesh with the shots of the live actors: they looked bad.They did impressive work, better than what had been done before, but it still looked like live action cut with a cartoon, and it was impossible to feel a sense of reality while watching those fight scenes.Peter Jackson is a smart director, and knew to use a lot of practical effects while making LOTR, but he still threw in some shots of a CGI Legolas, like during the fight with the cave troll in ‘Fellowship’, and it looked bad.I would stick with the dragons when it came to CGI (other than backgrounds, buildings, etc.).And even with the dragons, I’d like them to use animatronics when possible (and dragons are easier to animate: like the dinosaurs in the ‘Jurassic Park’ movies, their skin is scaled and not flexible, and easier to make look real).I really hope they use a less is more philosophy with both dragons and direwolves, but I’m afraid Robb and Jon are going to be walking around with cartoon sidekicks.

    I wouldn’t worry about that… CGI is very time consuming and probably not cheap. So I guess they won’t use it more then necessary.

  38. Tar Kidho
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    userj: I wish they could have made it work continuing with Dog actors… but it sounds like they were more trouble than they were worth…

    Although this would have outraged the fans (me included), maybe it would have been wiser to leave the wolves out of the story from the very beginning. Truly, what did they bring to last season? We saw and heared so little of them that the symbolism of the Direwolves for the Starks was completely lost anyway. I hope us sceptics will be proven wrong, but unless Direwolves lose all their hair when they reach adulthood, the VFX team seems to be facing an impossible task. And even if they get the hair right, as you say, we know so well how wolves are supposed to move that it will be difficult to get the movements right. Even the last shot last season of Dany just standing and swaying a little looked slightly off, and that was the easiest bit of CGI possible in terms of living creatures…

  39. Lina
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    If the direwolves are even half of what the dragons were, I will be a very happy fan.

    After last year’s finale, I have nothing but faith in the SFX team. Bring me Ghost!

  40. surfKraken
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    The dire wolves are essential to this story. Even if they look ‘a little off’ it will serve and be acceptable.

    The fact that they are putting re$ource into the dire wolves shows the respect they have for this story. They could easily put that money into the large battle scenes like nlackeater, where it’s badly needed.

  41. john
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    It’ll be so hard to pull of cgi Direwolves well. Here’s to hoping they can do it..

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