Our reader Anna (who goes by the name Not Today around here) was kind enough to provide us with a translation of a recent interview with Sven Martin and Boris T. Duepré from Pixomondo, the VFX company, about their work on Season 3. Originally published on Dragon Days Festival website.
Photo by HBOQ: In the second season you took a dead chicken as a source for inspiration to get the movements of the dragons’ wings done properly. Has there been a similar inspirational source for season 3?
Sven Martin: The study of the dead chicken from last year was needed to figure out how to do the ‘rigs’ (which is a term for the digital skeletal and muscular system) of the dragons properly. Thus, the animators got a feeling of how the movements of a flying bird would look in reality. In season 3 we could build on that knowledge but we did studies of bigger birds and edited their anatomy. With regards to the animations we looked particularly closely at different methods of flight and different methods of how to dive into water.
Q: Could you reuse the material for the season 3 dragons from the second season or did you have to start all over again?
Sven Martin: We started with the basic model of season 2 but had to change them in their proportions since the dragons have grown by the start of the third season. Additionally, they have new features which you couldn’t see before but which become visible when they attack. This was done by us beforehand through 3D sculpting and conventional 2D concepts.
Q: What are you given by the production company and what do you have to develop all by yourselves?
Sven Martin: The production company sets the agenda. Usually this happens by means of movie recommendations and conventional dragon models, and then of course through real animals. We try to combine all these single ideas to a coherent overall concept – of course there are also a few ideas which get dropped during this process.
Q: In the third season there is a manticore. How did you research for this mythical creature?
Boris T. Duepré: We used several models for the manticore. The movements are based on a mixture of spiders and scorpions. The looks however are closer to those of scorpions and beetles.
Q: During the course of researching for the third season of Game of Thrones you went to Ireland for a week. What did you do there and why did you feel the need to go there?
Boris T. Duepré: Nothing is more real than reality. So we visited a lot of castles throughout Ireland and at times we even went to shooting locations. We took a lot of pictures to enhance the Game of Thrones landscapes with as much detail and love as possible.
Q: What are the steps necessary for the production of visual effects? For example, what do you need the visualization of skeletal and muscular system for?
Sven Martin: To us, one of our main challenges for the characters in GoT was the biggest possible believability. Every fantastical animal should become as vivid and animalistic as possible; as if they performed next to the actors on set. Since living creatures are obviously very complex objects, the lack of muscles, breathing, realistic wrinkles and skin tightening, saliva or the moisture on the eyes could destroy these illusions quickly.
Q: Is the work on Game of Thrones a job like any other or are you fans of the series or the books as well by now?
Sven Martin: There is indeed a big difference to have a team of fans who do the work since the motivation is a lot bigger this way and what is more is that you can add all the additional knowledge you have from the books. Therefore, there are ideas in our designs or shots which aren’t even in the scripts.
Q: In 2012, you won an Emmy for your work on Game of Thrones. Where did you put the award and what does it mean to you?
Sven Martin: We won an Emmy and VES Award for the second season, which are the biggest two awards we could possibly get for our work. Of course this makes us incredibly proud, especially since behind-the-scenes work most often goes unnoticed.
Boris T. Duepré: The Emmy Award is, in the TV business, the biggest award you can get worldwide. Therefore, we’re very proud of our team to have created all of these stunning pictures and to have won this award. Unfortunately, you don’t get that precious statue for every single member who was a part of the project. The received awards are at the peoples’ places who received them and are brought to the office only on special occasions.