Production

Game of Thrones season 3 VFX breakdown

Kristofer Hivju scales the Wall

Spin VFX, one of the visual effects agencies that worked on season 3 of Game of Thrones, has released a video breakdown of their work on the show. Head over to their official site to watch it.

One of the big shots they worked on for this season was the scaling of the Wall. They describe the complexity of that sequence in a press release that accompanied the video.

Jon Snow, Ygritte and the Wildlings climb the Wall, triggering a devastating ice slide. Comprised of over 80 shots, Spin created a 700′ ft wall, a couple miles in length (real world scale) that would hold up from any distance and any angle. Spin then simulated the entire ice slide event, shooting it from all cameras set up in the sequence that created a sense of scale and continuity over the sequence, playing out the action in real time.

“The Ice Wall was one of the most compelling sequences for us. The 3D build provided the camera range required to deliver the drama and fear of the climb, and of course, the realism of the ice slide”, says Doug Campbell, VFX Supervisor (The Borgias, Jack Reacher)

Winter Is Coming: I always love these kinds of videos. I hadn’t heard of Spin VFX’s involvement in the show before this, but it looks like they did some strong work. Thanks to Spin VFX and the other teams who worked on the show this year, Game of Thrones is a good bet to walk away with the visual effects Emmy again this season.

67 Comments

  • I always love these videos!

    I wish they were much longer and had the VFX artists commentaries, but even the 3-minute videos are incredible!

  • That was very cool. My favorite kind of special effects are the ones that you don’t realize are special effects. You just assume they’re real. There’s a lot of those in Game of Thrones. The Twins was all CGI!? I assumed it was a real castle!!

  • Selmy,

    That’s my favorite form of VFX as well!
    I love how GOT creates the various castles or adds onto existing castles to create such a seamless visual. Just amazing work!

  • it was cool besides the fact that an ice wall would never ever ever crack like that.

    apparently the VFX people dont understand physics / have no understanding of real ice climbing either.

  • thecroce:
    it was cool besides the fact that an ice wall would never ever ever crack like that.

    apparently the VFX people dont understand physics / have no understanding of real ice climbing either.

    The same happens in the book. Isn’t that how Jarl got killed in ASOS?

  • thecroce:
    it was cool besides the fact that an ice wall would never ever ever crack like that.

    apparently the VFX people dont understand physics / have no understanding of real ice climbing either.

    I had no idea there were ice wall climbing nerds out there. You live and learn I guess…

  • Nezzer: The same happens in the book. Isn’t that how Jarl got killed in ASOS?

    No jarl is killed when the section of the wall he is climbing breaks off. this makes sense. The way protrayed in the tv show… completely unrealistic.

  • superkick: No jarl is killed when the section of the wall he is climbing breaks off.this makes sense.The way protrayed in the tv show… completely unrealistic.

    I felt the same way about the shadow baby birth. The FX crew completely screwed that up. Their depiction was a total farce. Shadow babies ooze out rather than puff out like smoke.

  • thecroce:
    it was cool besides the fact that an ice wall would never ever ever crack like that.

    apparently the VFX people dont understand physics / have no understanding of real ice climbing either.

    And that is one of the many reasons why episode 06 of season 03 is by far the worst episode of GoT. That climb was just ridiculous, Orell needing that much time to cut the rope? Bitch please, that rope should have gone in one cut.

  • superkick: No jarl is killed when the section of the wall he is climbing breaks off.this makes sense.The way protrayed in the tv show… completely unrealistic.

    Yeah, the one thing I heard from everyone I know after that episode was how unrealistic an ice wall cracking was. It ruined everything for them.

    To be clear, this wasn’t just a couple of anal retentive physics/ice climbing nerds, this was the vast majority of the show watching audience. Go back and look at the reaction to the episode… it was a travesty and everyone took to the airwaves and social media decrying how fake and unrealistic this event was. The producers should have known.

    And I’ll repeat one more time just to be clear… this reaction was UNIVERSAL. It was in no way just a handful of joyless physics/ice climbing enthusiasts. I need to be clear on this. EVERYONE feels this way.

  • Rygar: I felt the same way about the shadow baby birth.The FX crew completely screwed that up.Their depiction was a total farce.Shadow babies ooze out rather than puff out like smoke.

    i was at a panel from pixomondo at dragon days (germany), and they showed many diffrent versions of the shadow baby. they said they tried many diffrent versions of water and smoke effects and the producers settled on the final one.
    it was interesting to see the diffrent work steps creating the shadow baby (water. smoke, water/smoke without gravity…). maybe they screwed it up, but they put a lot of thought into it

  • Rygar: I felt the same way about the shadow baby birth.The FX crew completely screwed that up.Their depiction was a total farce.Shadow babies ooze out rather than puff out like smoke.

    The shadow baby birth was pretty lame in the book as well. Had that Deux Ex Machina written all over it

  • thecroce:
    it was cool besides the fact that an ice wall would never ever ever crack like that.

    apparently the VFX people dont understand physics / have no understanding of real ice climbing either.

    The wall is not just ice, it’s magical. “The Wall defends itself”

  • Off topic but I want to start watching Rome and I want to know if the series ENDED (had closure) or did it ended on a cliffhanger?

  • superkick: No jarl is killed when the section of the wall he is climbing breaks off.this makes sense.The way protrayed in the tv show… completely unrealistic.

    Thankfully there are dragons in the show to make it realistic.

  • Meraxes,

    Rome had a proper ending. Not the one the creators intended, because it was cancelled prematurely, but yes it is a proper ending.

  • Meraxes:
    Off topic but I want to start watching Rome and I want to know if the series ENDED (had closure) or did it ended on a cliffhanger?

    They knew it was ending around the halfway point so a lot of stuff was included in the final few episodes to cover what was supposed to be more seasons.

  • I can’t remember if it was here or Westeros, but it has been pointed out that the dragons in the books and the show are technically wyverns because wyverns have two legs and dragons four. Or maybe it was the other way around.

  • GeekFurious,

    Seriously, this is always a dumb thing to say. It’s about suspension of disbelief. We all accept that dragons exist in this world, that’s been established as a thing that’s possible. Other things can still break suspension of disbelief.

    “The wall protects itself”” and all that, so I didn’t have a problem with the scene myself, but trying to say that a show/film is above criticism of a certain type because of [x unrealistic element] is never a good argument.

  • Gunar,

    Your very thoughtful reply was to a very unserious comment. Read it again
    and rationalize the intent.
    Smile anyway, we’ve all fallen for much worse .

  • King Tommen: Sarcasm is often difficult to express through text.

    I cannot speak for EVERYONE, but I got the general idea of your comments. They
    rather stung a bit, while reading. That was the intent, perhaps ?

  • The wall is not ‘magical’, magic was (presumably) used to build it. The line ‘the wall defends itself’ was referring to the fact that, as it’s made of ice, it melts and cracks and renders itself very hazardous and difficult to climb over even without human defenders.

  • The thing that made that scene was Kristofer Hivju, he REALLY looked like he could actually climb a wall of ice that way! What an expression!

  • Not sure what just happened here, but my comments were reduced, and post
    labeled as ” Undefined “, WTF !

    The Post Comment feature has an issue, WIC.
    Is it something I did ?

  • King Tommen,

    It didn’t bother me… but I’m not a physics nerd. I know from the books that the Wall is built on ice, blood and MAGIC. Magic trumps physics sometimes, so suspend. suspend. suspend disbelief.

  • AngryRosFan:
    King Tommen,

    It didn’t bother me… but I’m not a physics nerd. I know from the books that the Wall is built on ice, blood and MAGIC. Magic trumps physics sometimes, so suspend. suspend. suspend disbelief.

    I guess I just need to be exponentially more absurd in my attempts to sarcastically denigrate the overserious and ridiculously nitpicky comments of others here on the site.

    I suspect the issue is that it’s very hard to be more absurd than the posters I’m attempting to mock.

  • I try not to look a those VFX things, they blow some of the magic away. But good job. Great job. Wall climbing was awesome.

  • WeirwoodTreeHugger:
    I can’t remember if it was here or Westeros, but it has been pointed out that the dragons in the books and the show are technically wyverns because wyverns have two legs and dragons four.Or maybe it was the other way around.

    This is an example of nerds getting overly nit-picky. Folklorists will call any number of variants a “dragon” even if they have nothing much to do with each other. People call 龙 “dragons” in English all the time, even though they have hardly anything in common with the European-style ones. I don’t think it matters too much if the ASOIAF ones fit into someone’s definition of what is or isn’t a dragon.

  • King Tommen: I guess I just need to be exponentially more absurd in my attempts to sarcastically denigrate the overserious and ridiculously nitpicky comments of others here on the site.

    I suspect the issue is that it’s very hard to be more absurd than the posters I’m attempting to mock.

    Made me chuckle at least :) People really do struggle with sarcasm on the internet.

  • Damn I didn’t really appreciate how much green screening they did this past year. Basically if the scene didn’t take place inside in a room, it was probably greenscreened or had vfx.

  • guffetryne:
    GeekFurious,

    Seriously, this is always a dumb thing to say. It’s about suspension of disbelief. We all accept that dragons exist in this world, that’s been established as a thing that’s possible. Other things can still break suspension of disbelief.

    So what I said is dumb but you tell me that “suspension of disbelief” is something violated when a fantasy climb on a fantasy wall violates a real-world climb mechanic that is known to like 0.0001% of the planet?

    Targaryen please.

  • Sort of related to this, but I really hope they keep the cliff-climbing portion of Sansa’s escape next season. For a character who really doesn’t do anything physical, that’s a pretty cool moment, and helps sell the difficulty of the situation.

  • i did suspend my belief by the fact that john snow or ygritte managed to move 20 feet off the ground they would have fallen or dropped their tools in the first ten seconds if they really attempted to simul-climb a 700 ft ice wall with zero experience…hence why it isnt presented in the book that way.. or that jons arms wasnt ripped off when he one arm belayed ygritte. Plus no one was wearing fricken helmet?!?!? One can only suspend their disbeleif so far!!!

    the ice crackign horzontally and exlpoding was jsut too much!!

  • they should have spent an entire episode on the climb, showing each person taking their time and climbing properly. way more exciting than when a main characters life is in jeopardy.

  • The Queen’s Hand:
    Too bad they cheaped out on the direwolves again.The worst was Grey Wind’s lame death.

    Grey Wind’s death was great, but I generally agree we should see more of the Direwolves… Well, now they’re mostly dead or gone so it’s not such a big deal anymore. Hopefully Summer and Shaggy get their due next season a long with surprise appearances Nymeria and Ghost to frame the season. I really hope they don’t cut Nymeria- she is the only thing that reminds No-one she is actually Arya Stark during her travels in Braavos, and it’s mighty cool too! I imagine Nymeria and her wolf pack will play a big role eventually.

  • Ice doesn’t have the strength to hold up a structure that comparatively narrow compared to its height. The Wall itself is impossible in real-life so I’m not sure why people are getting hung up on how it cracked.

    The rest (like the rope cutting) is standard movie physics.

  • thecroce,

    the ice crackign horzontally and exlpoding was jsut too much!!

    Have you ever seen an iceberg calving? I have and I think the visual effect was pretty accurate. Besides, most people aren’t physics nerds and wouldn’t know their bunghole from a hole in the ice.

  • GeekFurious,

    Sorry, I forgot to check back in this thread. Anyway:

    For that small number of people, yes. It is a fantasy wall in a fantasy setting, but that world has normal gravity and ice is still ice as we know it. I said in my post that I didn’t have a problem with the scene myself. I was criticizing your dismissive argument where you basically said that because the show has dragons, nothing else has to feel realistic. That’s simply not true and, like I said, always a dumb argument to bring up.

  • guffetryne:
    GeekFurious,

    Sorry, I forgot to check back in this thread. Anyway:

    For that small number of people, yes. It is a fantasy wall in a fantasy setting, but that world has normal gravity and ice is still ice as we know it. I said in my post that I didn’t have a problem with the scene myself. I was criticizing your dismissive argument where you basically said that because the show has dragons, nothing else has to feel realistic. That’s simply not true and, like I said, always a dumb argument to bring up.

    As stated by others above – there are so many things that are not “real world” in the concept to start with (e.g. real-world wall of ice couldn’t support that height with that thickness). So don’t make assumptions that it’s “real world” ice…

    And while we’re talking “real world” gravity etc, it isn’t even confirmed that Westeros is on a planet… for all we know it’s the discworld. GRRM has already said that real world genetics don’t necessarily apply here (as others pointed out to me) so who knows where the line is.

  • VFX’s best special effects is making D&D seem like competent writers. No wonder the show keeps blowing their budget every season.

    Come and get me, GoT fanboys!