VFX designer elaborates on the Red Keep 3D model
By Hear Me Roar on in Production.

Here is a comment that deserves highlighting. A member of the VFX team stopped by and commented on the preview show thread, discussing the details of the Red Keep (and King’s Landing) layout in response to a querry from one of our readers.

We design the VFX shots for King’s Landing.
It’s all pretty accurate, in which we take great pride, so thanks for asking.

We’ve been using the same 3D model of the Red Keep ever since S2, with only minor changes. Our rough 3D model of King’s Landing also remains pretty consistent. However, we do have to adapt them when new locations are being introduced or certain sets dictate those alterations.

If you look carefully, you’ll see that the remarkable S1 gate of the Red Keep with the corkscrew pillars and the Baratheon Stag head is still around. With great regrets, we had to modify the lowest yard behind it a bit by comparison with S1 as a result of an overall reshuffling of elements for the improved S2 model.

Slightly up on the right side the where Joffrey’s nameday tournament took place in S2. The small tower between the tiny yard and the lower yard was damaged in the Battle of Blackwater Bay and had to be repaired during S3.
The S4 wedding is imagined to take place in the park areas right under the main building mass, but as the pavillions aren’t permanent, you don’t see them in the Dragon shot.

The king’s private marina, from which Margarey  [WiCnote: they mean Myrcella] was sent away, would be further to the right along the walls, but is not visible in this shot. It’s right under the bastion from which Tyrion and Varys discuss gods in S2 – about 1/5 of the way towards Mud Gate. That’s also where the riots were. I believe a glimpse of it is in this footage, 0:24, far left side, but it’s very much in the shade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE4D0attDaw.

The amphitheatre from 00:37 of the Foreshadowing feature would be further to the left along and below the city walls.

The Sept is much further away from the Red Keep and cannot be seen in the aerial shot, but there’s a chance that there might be a shot where the spacial relationship between these landmarks in the urban context will be explained.

The only shot that, in the overall context of all seasons thus far, really doesn’t work out any more is the tourney ground shot of S1 – taking place in the Kingswood accross the bay, the red keep would be much smaller – probably entirely obscured by the trees.

Thank you very much for sharing the info with us, tmannewitz!


44 Comments

  1. Jehoc
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Is it just me, or does it look a bit like a mid-2000s video game?

  2. Jéssica De Freitas Maciel
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    As an architect struggling to learn 3d modeling myself, i find it utterly gorgeous! Thank you and your team for all the hard work and details tmannewitz. We are so lucky to have this show with so much quality =)

  3. A Wildling bastard
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Amazing work as always .. the red keep Looks marvelous in this shot .. and we need more of these aerial shots :D

  4. Abyss
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Jehoc,

    You mean like this? – No, not really…

  5. Winter Is Here
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Any speculation as to where or which tower is the Tower of the Hand?

  6. dragonreborn
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    I hope HBO makes a red keep guide like they did with the westeros map!
    thanks a lot tmannewitz!
    I think Wic shouldn’t only post vfx interviews but actually make some themselves.
    There are so many questions to ask with the perspective of fans rather than the usual technical q/a’s.

  7. jkb
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Abyss:

    You mean like this? – No, not really…

    there’s something off about it tho. doesn’t look very real, you can tell at first glance it’s CGI and doesn’t blend very well with the real smaller buildings.

  8. Abyss
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    jkb,

    That may be (I personally think it’s fine for trailer footage), but comparing it to a video game from the mid-2000s is just disrespectful in regard to the creators.

  9. Stark
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I think that its very CGI, I prefer the view of kings landing from the first season. This shoot seems to me as trying to do something magnificient without the necessary budget. It looks cheap…

  10. davyJones
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    The vfx done for this show has been amazing. As someone who is trying to find work in this industry, work like this is inspiring and motivating!

  11. Hollyoak
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Abyss:
    jkb,

    That may be (I personally think it’s fine for trailer footage), but comparing it to a video game from the mid-2000s is just disrespectful in regard to the creators.

    Agreed. Maybe it “seems off” because, um, it’s not real.

    I swear, people are so jaded by CGI now everyone’s an expert.

  12. dragonreborn
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    jkb,

    but the smaller buildings are also CGI.
    and what do you expect? even CG scenes in movies like hobbit look fake to be honest!
    this is a tv show, and CGI tech still has way to go to be perfectly realistic.

    I think the problem here is your disrespectfulness.

  13. Tattered Prince
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I hope to see that model recycled for more dynamic aerial shots in future seasons. Makes sense to have a permanent model for the most persistent location featured in the show.

  14. Omar Brown
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I loved model trains as a kid, an eye for detail is always so cool.

  15. Omar Brown
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Jehoc:
    Is it just me, or does it look a bit like a mid-2000s video game?

    It’s just you. ;)

  16. King DBC
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    jkb,

    I think I know why it seems off… I read once that the human brain is very good at pointing out CGI when it’s based on something we know, like faces, or red tile-roofed cities, perhaps. Remember in Tron they made that dude look young with CGI? Even though that was ground breaking CGI, it seemed off to our brains. Our brains have no reference as to what a dragon should look like, that’s why the dragons can look so amazing to us!

  17. jkb
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    is the whole thing actually CGI or just the red keep? cause the rest of the city looks more realistic and i kinda though it was dubrovnik ;p

    Hollyoak: Agreed. Maybe it “seems off” because, um, it’s not real.

    no shit? it looked much better when they didn’t use a 3D model imo and it wasn’t ‘real’ then either:

    http://i.imgur.com/RpIKO0u.jpg
    http://media2.policymic.com/786a956729966706fb487c19eff2ceec.jpg

  18. T
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know what’s up with the dragon shadow from the previews? Why is there one there? It ‘s not from the book. Is it some dream?

  19. Skipjack
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the explanation, that is really impressive how the whole city is kept track of in that way. The hard work and talent you have all put in really does shine through.

    For anyone complaining it doesn’t look real, that’s the nature of the mind. If someone is sure it isn’t real, and is looking at it to look fake, then it just won’t look real. Think of all the people who complained how fake the deer Tywin was gutting in Season One looked. They were saying how it took them right out of the story and how stupid it looked. Of course, it was a real deer.

    I think the same thing is true here to a certain extent. I would like the city to look as lived in as possible, right now it strikes me as not having any questionable architectural choices like any real city would. It might break someone’s heart but they could include some hideous building. Call it Jaehaerys’ Folly within the show. Maybe add some derelict houses or something, urban decay medieval-style. I’m just musing, and your artistic choices have been really good so far.

    ETA: beaten by King DBC above. Interesting to hear the science behind the fakeness phenomenon.

  20. Reza
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I kind of dont buy the explanation! To me Kings Landing has been the most inconsistent location in the show, obviously partly because they changed shooting location from Malta to Croatia. It seems to me they shoot many different scenes in the same place but from different angles and it all looks different to average viewers. Like where Joeffry was attacked by mob is same place where we saw Jaime return to KL. The interior except for throne room is even more confusing/inconsistent. But anyway, this is all minor stuff, the show is still great…

  21. Lin Beifunk
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    T,

    Yeah, that’s my question, too. Unless I missed something?

  22. Declizzy
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry I don’t like it. It is way too ‘digital’. Remember the first episode of season 1, with that beautiful shot of King’s Landing, that’s much better looking.

  23. Neil
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I honestly think it is the shadow itself that makes this scene look fake. It must be really hard to make the shadow move across photo-realistically. If you watch a part of the scene away from the shadow it looks much better.

  24. KG
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    I kinda thought so, too :x

    Jehoc:
    Is it just me, or does it look a bit like a mid-2000s video game?

  25. House Mormont
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Declizzy,

    agreed, it looked crazy real in season 1

  26. Hollyoak
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Skipjack:
    Thanks for the explanation, that is really impressive how the whole city is kept track of in that way.The hard work and talent you have all put in really does shine through.

    For anyone complaining it doesn’t look real, that’s the nature of the mind.If someone is sure it isn’t real, and is looking at it to look fake, then it just won’t look real.Think of all the people who complained how fake the deer Tywin was gutting in Season One looked.They were saying how it took them right out of the story and how stupid it looked.Of course, it was a real deer.

    I think the same thing is true here to a certain extent.I would like the city to look as lived in as possible, right now it strikes me as not having any questionable architectural choices like any real city would.It might break someone’s heart but they could include some hideous building.Call it Jaehaerys’ Folly within the show.Maybe add some derelict houses or something, urban decay medieval-style.I’m just musing, and your artistic choices have been really good so far.

    ETA: beaten by King DBC above.Interesting to hear the science behind the fakeness phenomenon.

    Same with the “fake doll” wildling girl in S1 Episode1. She was a real person!

  27. TimeforTravel
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    They should avoid doing this kind of CGI. I don’t get it, the shot of Meereen from the 15 minute preview looked absolutely stunning and this looks very awkward…

  28. Fatio Corcyn
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Well, Gods be blessed that was the question I asked in a previous comment thread! How cool is that! :)

  29. loki
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Jehoc, late 1990 more like. They shouldn’t bother with adding full 3d shots to the show if they can’t find the talanted enough folk for the job at this point.

  30. Adam Whitehead
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    jkb:
    is the whole thing actually CGI or just the red keep? cause the rest of the city looks more realistic and i kinda though it was dubrovnik ;p

    I believe the rest of the city is CGI as well. Whilst they’re clearly using the rooftops and design from Dubrovnik (and may be using photos as textures), the city itself doesn’t have remotely the same lay-out as KL so would need to be changed around in this kind of aerial shot.

    no shit?it looked much better when they didn’t use a 3D model imo and it wasn’t ‘real’ then either:

    http://i.imgur.com/RpIKO0u.jpg
    http://media2.policymic.com/786a956729966706fb487c19eff2ceec.jpg

    That’s still the 3D model in both shots.

    I think what you mean is that the model of the Red Keep looks better when it’s used for a static digital matte painting/background shot (which is what both of those count as) than in motion. That’s an aesthetic argument. Broadly, I’d agree with it, especially if they suddenly started using swooping aerial camera shots of 3D models as establishing shots which would be inconsistent with earlier seasons. However, from the context this appears to be a dream sequence or maybe even a specially-made-for-the-trailers shot, with the Red Keep shown how it would from the air on dragonback, in which case it works.

    I agree that the model could be better (it looks kind of surprisingly low-res here), but in these situations the CGI team always starts off with meh-to-okay work and then gets better and better as they go along. They can learn from these kind of shots to sell more ambitious ones later on (like Dany on a dragon in flight) better.

  31. Reza
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Funny how a lot of people feel the same way! That season 1 KL looked so much better!

    This is just me but somehow I liked the tone of Season 1 the best, in terms of the way the scenes were shot, I dont know what happened from season 2 onward, did they change the cameras? But everything started looking much darker and less smooth , I guess in a way its become more realistic but to me season 1 was much more pleasant to the eyes!

  32. barak
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    To be honest it looks perfectly good to me, and it’s way above what you’d normally see on TV with a TV budget, anyway. So thanks, VFX team, for doing a good job!

    (Complainers should also consider that they’re looking at a small, LQ video and not the “real” thing.)

  33. Balerion
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    The shot is simply beautiful. It may not look as photorealistic as the “2D” shots of the Red Keep but that is expected. Remember the aerial shot of Yunkai in s3? Yeah, this one it 2x better. It’s clearly that with every season the vfx artists are getting better. GoT has the best visual effects on TV atm, thank you for that guys.

  34. adense
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I think the dragon shadow contributes to making it look less realistic.

    And I also seriously think the scene was created for the series and will be in the series, but WITHOUT the dragon shadow. That part was added for the trailer only.

  35. Nighthands
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Reza,

    Maybe it was to keep up with the mood/atmosphere that the storyline was going through. season 1 was arguably the most “light” toned one out of all of them especially on the first half of the season

  36. Ye Olde Wolfe
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Reza: Funny how a lot of people feel the same way! That season 1 KL looked so much better!This is just me but somehow I liked the tone of Season 1 the best, in terms of the way the scenes were shot, I dont know what happened from season 2 onward, did they change the cameras? But everything started looking much darker and less smooth , I guess in a way its become more realistic but to me season 1 was much more pleasant to the eyes!

    I think the biggest thing with overall tone is the locations… Season 1 had a lot of interior shots, or at least shots in an established castle/keep and their surrounding areas, where seasons 2 and 3 had a lot more travelling characters where they’re not in well-kept keeps. I would also argue that the overall tone of the show has gotten darker ever since Ned lost his head, so it’s also possibly intentional.

  37. Reza
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Nighthands:
    Reza,

    Maybe it was to keep up with the mood/atmosphere that the storyline was going through. season 1 was arguably the most “light”toned one out of all of them especially on the first half of the season

    I definitely agree, the tone of the story did become much darker so yeah I could see that as their motive to change how the show looks overall.
    Nighthands,

  38. Reza
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Ye Olde Wolfe: I think the biggest thing with overall tone is the locations… Season 1 had a lot of interior shots, or at least shots in an established castle/keep and their surrounding areas, where seasons 2 and 3 had a lot more travelling characters where they’re not in well-kept keeps. I would also argue that the overall tone of the show has gotten darker ever since Ned lost his head, so it’s also possibly intentional.

    I agree with the tone change, even for interior scenes; for example if you compare the the scenes where Tyrion meets rest of his family for breakfast in Winterfell (S1) to the scene at the same table when Theon is arguing with his sister in front of their men (S2), you see how different it looks (much darker in S2)

  39. Reinier
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I love shots like this! Makes the ‘world’ look so much more epic and real. Love the details like the same gate from season 1. Amazing. Also: the shot of Meereen in the Foreshadowing preview is my favorite thing of the preview. So beautiful.

  40. matt
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Its definitely a combination of of real footage and CGI. You can see that it’s a shot of Dubrovnik that serves as the basis for this shot.

  41. Johnny SD
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    I think it looks amazing and it gets tiring with everyone always complaining about CGI looking fake. I agree with the poster is that you see what you want to see. If you have a bias against CGI it looks fake no matter how accurate it is. I think the VFX have been uniformly excellent. The scene of Mereen is stunning. But I agree that Bluebolt did a fantastic job with the establishing shot of Kings Landing and the background shots, but this is incredible as well

  42. vlad
    Posted February 12, 2014 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    He should have been talking more about that dragon shot. What the hell is that?? :). That’s the thing that makes me the most curious about Season 4.

  43. Adam Whitehead
    Posted February 12, 2014 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    matt,

    I don’t think so. They’ve certainly used the Dubrovnik buildings as references, and maybe used photos to get higher-res textures, but they’ve still got a bit of that CGI feel to them. The way the camera moves back and the buildings change perspective doesn’t feel like a helicopter shot, and we have to remember that GoT doesn’t do helicopter shots (to David Benioff’s eternal anguish) in the first place.

    Hopefully the CG guys might stop by again and clarify.


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