Game of Thrones is known, among other things, for its exemplary special effects. We can expect some truly spectacular ones come season 8, but right now, Vulture is looking back at some highlights from seasons past, including Daenerys Targaryen’s burning of the Dothraki temple in season 6’s “Book of the Stranger.”
This is still a chills-worthy scene. According to Game of Thrones special effects supervisor Sam Conway, the hardest part was the planning. “The exterior was done in the south of Spain, Almería, and the interior was done in Belfast, in a parking lot behind the production office in the cold winter.” The set had a steel framework — there to make sure it maintained its structural integrity during the fire — but had wooden panels, wooden panels, and a straw roof — there to make sure it went up like a light.
Once all the pilots were lit and the cameras were all rolling, we brought it on bit by bit, section by section, until eventually we got to the height and intensity that was required. It must have gone up about 80 feet. Basically, because of all the straw and all the thatch that was on top, it would carry on burning up with embers in the air. It was a night shot, so it was spectacular. I think you could probably have seen it from quite a few miles away.
Also, note the very quick shot at 3:48, where Daenerys pushes over the brazier:
It ends up that this shot, which passes by so fast, was achieved through good old fashioned movie magic, aka trickery:
We had her at a safe distance so she wasn’t actually touching the bowl. She was a good foot and a half away. And as she went to push, we pulled the bowl over with a wire at the same time so it had the appearance of her touching the bowl, pushing it over. We put the flame-bars around the floor, so when the bowl comes down, it ignites them. We must have had about 150 flame-bars in the roof, along the walls. In a production meeting in the early stages, I was trying to explain that shooting in the interior set would be like being inside of a pizza oven. You couldn’t have high flames, ‘cause everywhere you’d feel it.
The full article is well worth a read; Vulture interviewed dozens of SFX professionals, asking them to talk about the most difficult effect they ever pulled off. It covers everything from Rogue One to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to Die Hard.
We’ve heard a lot about an enormously ambitious action set piece coming in the final season of Game of Thrones. With any luck, it’ll blow everything else the show has done off the map, as dizzying as that is to consider.