Game of Thrones: Secrets Behind the Green Screen

Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert! I repeat again, frickin spoiler alert! If you plan on watching GoT and have still not gotten around to watching season 8 then log off this page as soon as possible, and if you are part of planet earth, like the rest of us, then you have come to the perfect place to see all of the best before and after green screen photos of season eight, coupled with some fun behind the scenes facts you may not have known. Game of Thrones has been around now since 2011, and sadly episode six will be the last hurrah for the super trilogy that is Game of Thrones. Scroll through and see some of the special effects that went into making this season’s iconic scenes, and stay tuned for our take on the final episode.

Winterfell

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The first episode of a Game of Thrones season is always a challenge. In the final season of game of thrones episode one, all of the show’s most essential characters would finally convene at the Winterfell castle. The SFX team and the production designers had to completely revision the Winterfell castle from the small castle it was in season one, to the big castle that would house Daenerys’s army in it. Here you can see the before and after of the Winterfell set.

The Opening Sequence

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In the opening sequence, we see a little boy running behind the crowds of people trying to find a place of vantage to be able to see the arrival of Daenerys’s army and his “King of the North,” John Snow. Director David Nutter said that he felt like that little boy since he had been gone for two seasons, going on to say that in some respects he kind of was that little boy.

George Lucas

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On the set of the first episode, the GoT production got quite the surprise from the one and only saga guru, George Lucas. It was such a surprise that most people on set thought that maybe it was a practical joke. One begs to wonder if he was involved in sets like this one. The boat where Theon saves his sister, and fun fact. The guard taken out in the gallows is no other than episode writer David Hill, but that’s too gory to show here.

The Dragons are Back

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When the GoT team set out to shoot the scene of John riding his dragon for the first time, they only had 6 hours of light a day to shoot. To get the most out of their short day, the team actually set up the set three hours early. The SFX or (Special Effects) team first took shots of the beautiful canyons around Iceland, and then inserted their CGI of the dragons into the shot.

Hours of Work

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CGI technology is no easy task. A well-done shot could take months to produce, and only then does it get revisioned and edited based on critique. Here we see the difference in contrast between an unfinished dragon and the final piece as John snow takes off to play tag with Deaneries.

Ask and You Should Receive

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According to special effects supervisor Matthew Rouleau, at one point of shooting, Kit, and Emilia asked if it would be a good idea to include a waterfall in their kissing scene. The SFX team set out to shoot a waterfall nearby, took a quick shot, went bag to the green screen and filmed the scene, and here you have it.

The Dragon Ride

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John and Daenerys may make it look easy to ride a dragon, well maybe more Dany than John. However, it is actually one of the hardest types of acting experiences the two have had to share on set. After all, both have to straddle a mechanical bull, while simultaneously pretending they are riding a dragon in the middle ages in a mythical land. One day you’re on a buck filming a flying scene, and then you fly to Iceland to film the actual screenplay.

Robotics

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According to VFX Producer Steve Kullback on “Game Revealed,” a significant portion of the show now requires robotics. The team starts by designing pre-visuals then in order complete the scene, the actors get shot in a green screen base where the two shots are combined to create the realistic ride you see on T.V. Try and see what you can make is happening on this next scene!

“My First Time Riding a Dragon”

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In episode one of season eight, John makes it clear to Dany that he had never ridden a dragon before and seemed a bit timid getting on for the first time. It was not only the first time for John Snow though, but it was also Kit Harrington’s first time riding a green screen dragon as well! He seems to be in a bit of pain in this scene flying through the clouds, that’s because he was! According to Kit, while he was filming the scene where he flies with Dany for the first time, his pants got caught in the bucking machine, and in a very uncomfortable spot if you catch my drift. We feel your pain, Snow.

Not Much Green Screen or CGI

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There are not too many photos that captivate the SFX work on episode two. This shot of Winterfell before and after is the only one we could find. That’s because this episode was all about the art departments ability to do beautiful work inside the castle without it. Episode two is all about closure, and character attention. Not much dragon shots, flying, or battle scenes to see here. Just some good old drama. That’s until episode three came to town.

The Long Night

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The shooting episode three “The Long Night” by far the hardest part of shooting season three. It took eleven whole weeks to shoot the episode. Director Miguel Sapochnik said that he never wanted to do something like it, 55 back to back nights of shooting from sundown to sunrise. One of the hardest special effects shots to be captured was that of Liana Mormont charging the undead giant who storms the castle. How exactly was this sequence of scenes made?

Going out Like a Pro

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Lyanna Mormont is one of the most beloved characters of the show. Played by Bella Ramsey, Lyanna is a very young lord of the Mormont tribe of the north. She is a smart, and brave leader who takes nothing from no one, not even a scaled-up CGI giant! Bella Ramsey was actually thrilled when she found out that she would be dying in this episode, and when she found out she would take a giant down with her, it was all the more fun! Here we see the look of shock when she sees the giant storm the gate, but really, she is just looking at a camera, but how did they make it look as if there was a giant in front of her?

Lyanna & Krom

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According to on set VFX supervisor Eric Carney, all the shots between Lyanna & Krom were actually very complicated to get and had lots of pieces to them. To piece it all together, the team started off shooting at the front gates of the Winterfell set. A lot of the backgrounds for the shots were shot at the castle, and when the team was making the frame for the giant, they used a technology called Ncam that allowed them to playback on the animation of how they felt the giants performance would be on set, and the camera operator could see the full scale of the giant on set while filming. But that’s not all it took to make the iconic scene.

The Giant is Real

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According to VFX producer Steve Kullback, the giant is real. He may be 3D, but regardless, Kullback prefers to shoot real organic people where ever they can. The giant performer is played by Ian White. White is seven foot five, and performed all the actions of the giant in front of a green screen, but how did they make him even bigger on scene.

Double Down

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The giant who storms Winterfell in episode three may have wanted to pick a better time to do it, had he known was about to face off with Lady Mormont, he may have waited a bit longer before entering. But this giant was much larger than seven foot five. In order to capture his size on CGI, the green screen had to be filmed in an angle that would scale up the height of actor Ian White.

Picking up the Lady

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For the shots where the giant is picking up Lyanna, the SFX team put tracking monitors on a small green doll that he picks up, the team then motion captures that scene, and use that same motion to drive a robotic arm that picks up actress Bella, and moves her around the same as she would have been moved had she been actually picked up by the giant himself.

David and Goliath

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The scene of Lady Mormont is a combination of both the lowest tech and the highest tech, together with great technique and digital scaling that made the scene of young Bellas lifetime. According to Bella Ramsey, it was a very fitting way for her to go. A real “David and Goliath” moment. Instead of running away, Mormont charges the giant to defend the castle, when the giant picks her up and looks her in the eye, he realizes that she is the last person he will ever get to look at.

The Fight of His Life

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The battle against the Night King and the white walkers was by far the most intense battle scene I personally have ever seen in my life, and for everyone on set including John Snow, there would be no dull moment. After getting knocked off his Dragon, Harrington goes on a chase behind the Night King that only gets him into more trouble.

Starring Fire in the Face

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After John Snow is knocked off his dragon, he spots from a distance the Night King calmly walking towards Winterfell to find Bran. John starts to run behind him, hopefully, to catch him in time. The Night King Then raises the Dead around John, and all hope seems to become lost. John miraculously makes it through, and back into the castle, only to be met by an undead dragon right at the entrance to the courtyard.

Viserion

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Viserion the dragon was one of Danys three dragon children. Earlier in the show, he had been taken out by the Night King and turned undead. Viserion actually has part of his face missing in the shots at Winterfell, and we can even see here the type of cuts that needed to be edited into his design, making the dragon leak fire everywhere.

All Hope Lost

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At this point of the episode, all hope seems to be lost, John cannot make it through the dragon into the courtyard, and is trapped behind a big pile of rubble trying to avoid the dragon. Meanwhile, the Night King is making his way towards Bran Stark, Bran at this point is being defended by no other than Theon Grayjoy who makes a final charge at the King to no avail. The Night King gets very close to Bran, and as the two lock eyes, out comes Aria jumping out of thin air and surprising the King from behind.

Truly “No One”

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Earlier in the trilogy, Aria Stark set out to train and devote herself to the Faceless God. There she learned how to be a stealthy, and agile warrior who can navigate obstacles without even being seen. However, she lost her focus for a short second as she tried to escape the undead. She was then reminded who she really was by the Red Woman “Melisandre” who had prophesized that Ariya would be the one to end it all.

“Woahh!”

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Emilia Clarke spoke about reading the script and telling herself, “oh! Maybe I’ll get him, and then you keep reading, and you say, maybe John will get him, and I remember actually reacting like Woahhhh!!” David Hill said Masey Williams was thrilled that she got the coveted scene of taking out the Night King. Kit was sure, on the other hand, that it would have been him, and expressed some disappointment that it was not him at the end.

Arias Time to Shine

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Throughout GoT John is always the savior, ever the hero. GoT prides themselves as being an unpredictable show So they thought it better to leave us in suspense thinking John would save the day. Meanwhile, Aria is sneaking around to get close and finish it all for good. Masey Williams was put on a wire rig, and combined her shot with a green screen. What comes out of the scene is the most iconic moment in GoT history by far! Now let’s jump to episode four.

“Feast for the Eyes”

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The fourth episode of season seven starts with the feast for the eye’s scene. The scene was 17 pages long in one room. The room was full of cast, and at every table, something else was playing out. The next morning all would come together to pay their respects to their loved ones. Here we can see the actual scale of the funeral, and how it looks like after SFX is applied to it.

The Funeral

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The funeral pyres shot is the widest shot of Winterfell in the fourth episode. The fire was reportedly incredibly hard to put out, so hot that Bran even got up off his chair to walk farther away from the shot. The real pyres were only 6 strong, and the rest was all put in by CGI to make it look like there were thousands built.

Final Farwell

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There are many intimate moments in the funeral scene, each hero had a different friend they were saying goodbye to. Dany says goodbye to Tormund. Sansa says goodbye to Theon. Sophie Turner says in the “Game Revealed” that this was especially hard for her as an actress to say goodbye to her co-hero that helped her character grow for so many seasons before. Things start to get really different from here, though.

The New Scorpion

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In the final episode of season 7, we see the first use of the scorpion crossbow, but it was not big enough to have an effect on Dany’s dragons. The new Scorpion was scaled up tremendously. Khyber’s first Scorpion was too small, and he went back to the drawing board to design a bigger one. The Scorpion would be used by actor Pilo Asbek who plays Euron Greyjoy. Euron surprises Danys fleet when they would least expect it.

Part of the Biggest Show in the World

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Pilo Asbek says, “You really feel like you’re part of something big when you’re on this thing.” Euron Grejoy shoots two shots at the dragon Raegaurd and downs the dragon into the sea. All of this scene would not be possible without very precise CGI technology. Click next to see how they did it.

The Dragons Demise

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The loss of Raegaurd would prove a devastating one for Daenerys at which point she becomes to become the mad queen she has already fought not to be. Her Dragons were in her eyes, her only children, and she loved them as such. Now that the mother of dragons was two dragons down, how could things get any worse? Well, they did!

Destruction

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After losing yet another dragon to battle, Dany rushes Eurons fleet at full speed and somehow is able to dodge all the shots he throws at her, she then flees, and Euron turns his aim at Dany’s fleet and devastates it. Here we can see Tyrion Lannister observing the sky as he watches in horror of what’s happening in front of him.

Desperate to Survive

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Tyrion is observing the fall of Raegaurd from the sky, from there we see Tyrion do what he does best in the saga, fight to survive. Euron’s Iron Fleet is attacking his ships with everything he’s got, and it devastates his Dany’s fleet.

Green Screen

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VFX supervisor Stefen Fangmeier speaks of the couple shots of the destruction of Dany’s ships. All of the shots of the boats up close, puncturing the vessels and tearing them apart all involve CGI, and green screen. The last shot is the most special of all.

Tyrion’s Survival

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The last shot shows Tyrion in a long shot running across the deck trying to avoid being hit by Scorpion’s wrath. The scene was full of special effects such as water effects and explosion tricks. All the boat work is done on the same ship on a location called Baron Bridge. Every scene that ever involved a boat was done on this location. Now that her fleet is destroyed, Dany is holding together not to snap and hoping that Cersei Lannister will surrender. What she gets instead is very different.

Rescuing a Friend

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When Dany comes with a small portion of her army to Kings Landing, she is met with Cersei and her court standing tall above the gates to the castle. Standing right in the middle of it all is Dany’s best friend in the whole series, her beloved personal servant Missandei. Missandei is being used as a pawn by Cersei to try to get the allies to surrender.

The City Wall

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The walls of Kings Landing are 57 feet to the top of the platform. So the VFX team decided to have all the closeup shots be shot from a smaller model with a green screen to keep things at a safe height for the actors, and also hide the plat from any people stalking the set.

Not Doing what She’s Told

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Tyrion Lannister asked Dany if he could go and talk to his sister, and talk her out of making more of a mess of things. Cersei listens to his words, but that’s about all she does with them, she then instructs the fate of Missandei giving Dany, and Greyworm the most shocking moment of their life in the show. Both loved Missandei very much and seemed to have gone dark inside from that very moment. When Missandei is asked if she had any last words, she had only one. Dracarys!

Coming to a Close

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Episode five of season three is the second to last episode of the show, the episode opens with a much starker version of all the characters. They all seem defeated, but in a much different way than usual. They look almost in fear of what Dany plans next for Kings Landing after losing everyone she holds dear. Here we see her stand beside John Snow as she announces her Dracarys penalty on Varys for attempting to betray her. This scene actually took 6 months to film, because there was so much scale to get right on the dragon’s size.

Taking Kings Landing

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Tyrion had been warned after this by Dany never to fail her again, or it will be the last time he does. It’s then when he realizes that she lost her mind, and begs her not to burn the city, and wait to hear the bells of surrender. She seems to be humored by his advice and does not give him a clear answer to what her actual decision making is going to be. She had a plan that was more along the lines of blow the doors open with fire. A scene that was very complicated to do.

Blowing the Gate

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According to VFX supervisor Joe Bauer, the hardest series of shots to film in the fifth episode was the moment that the front gate of Kings Landing is obliterated by Dany’s dragon fire. The shooting was covered by eight cameras and took a very long time to complete.

The destruction of the main gate of Kings Landing signifies what’s to come for the rest of the episode. Dany had already taken out the Iron fleet, as well as all the scorpions lining the walls of Kings Landing in a pre-emptive strike on the castle, she then finishes things off in her destruction of the main gate.

Waiting for the Bells

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At the beginning of the episode, Tyrion begins to see the deterioration of Daenerys’s and Greyworm’s psyche. He pleads with her to hold her fire if she hears bells ringing. If the bells of the city began to ring, it signified a surrender of the Kings Landing, but compared to past seasons, nothing goes right for Tyrion in season eight, and this his request to Dany is no exception.

The Bells Ring

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While Dany waits to hear the bells, things on the ground seem to be going somewhat in her favor. The Lannister army has dropped their swords in surrender, and after a long hard wait, on her CGI dragon, the breaker of chains hears the bells of Westeros sound off, but hold your sigh of relief, because the breaker of chains has by this point gone unhinged.

Losing Her Mind

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Emilia Clark in real life is no angry person, she is full of laughter, and joy. A very fun actress to interview and just hear talking. Full of jokes and humor, not the type of person who loses their mind, Clark had to act out a deeply disturbed mad Queen who loses her mind on a dragon overlooking a city.

Pulling it Off

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Despite it being a very hard acting job. Emilia Clark was able to put the green screens around her aside and imagine herself on a dragon, thinking about all of the friends she has lost, all the betrayal she has had to deal with in her life, and basically just snap to pieces into a whole other character.

Going to Town

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Dany, at this point, was looking at view much like the one that we see here. In the background the burning iron fleet that she destroyed, along with the red keep where her sworn enemy is waiting for her. You would think that she would go straight to the keep to end it all, but she instead turns on the city and begins a horror style rampage across Kings Landing feels like it lasts in eternity.

Street by Street

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Dany, almost with a smile on her face begins a rage of dragon fire despite hearing the bells of the city sound off (which seemed to have enraged her even more) meanwhile Greyworm recognizes that things are not over, and decides to keep fighting the Lannister army. John Snow very quickly realizes what is going on and tries to push his soldiers back.

Making Dragon Fire

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In order to make the dragon fire look realistic, the VFX team used different pyrotechnic shots behind a green screen, they would then apply these shots to CGI and what you end up getting is these spectacular shots of dragon fire ripping through the city streets.

Spider Cam

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Shots such as this one shows a spider-cam in a very dark room spitting out scorching fire almost looking like a dragon itself, but as if this was not enough, there is also the fact that the CGI then scales that fire to a much larger more terrifying size. The explosion shots would be used to show the impact on the ground when the dragon starts to spit into the streets.

Shots Coming Together

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In these shots, we can see all that pyrotechnic work come into play. A computer-generated dragon, combined with real fire that is then scaled up into size, and breathing fire into the crowd. We can only imagine after all this carnage what Dany’s attitude will be in the last episode to it all. Will she feel remorse for her actions, or is she a lost cause by now like the mad king?

The Battle of Brothers

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You may remember Aria and the Hound setting out on their own quest to Westeros at the end of episode four. Well, they make it to the city just on time to finish what they started. Or at least almost on time. By the time the two make it up to the Red Keep, Hound turns around and tells Aria that it is way too dangerous going up any higher. He is going to fight his now half zombie brother “the Mountain” and does not plan on coming out of it alive. The two-part ways, as Aria will have a different struggle to deal with soon.

Stairway to Heaven

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The set of GoT built the staircase of the Red Keep from scratch and had gone through a lot of effort to make it look realistic and almost never-ending. At first glance, it is like a stairway to heaven, but that’s the last place it seems these two go by the end of their fight.

Saving Cersei

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As Cersei makes her way down the staircase of the tower, with the Mountain and her hand of the Queen and the Queens Guard, the roof starts to collapse on top of them, and the Mountain basically blocks the impact with his body, as the two begin to go down a couple more steps they run into the Hound. “Hello, brother.” Cersei asks the Mountain or “Sir Gregor” to stay by her side, but he does not listen and even as a zombie, seems to remember how much he hates his brother.

A Fight to the End

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The Hound begins his fight against the Kings Guard and seems to take them out instantaneously. He then begins his battle against his sworn enemy. The Hound quickly realizes that he is no match for his brother’s strength. He quickly realizes that he needs to throw both of them through the wall and into the pit of fire below. Quite the opposite of a stairway to heaven, more like an express train to the underworld.

Aria’s Redemption

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Aria stark is by now in an awful place in the episode. Not only did she have to let her list of people she wants to take out go, but she is now running through the city all by herself as she tries to dodge stampedes of people trying to escape the dragon fire. She is now in the shoes of the innocent people of Kings Landing. However, she is given character armor and survives the dragon onslaught to find a white stallion seemingly being one of the only survivors amongst them. She straddles on and begins a journey that we will only find out about in the last episode. Will she go to warn Sansa, or will she try to protect John and use her many faces to do so.

Goodbye Lannister’s

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Meanwhile, through all this carnage, Jamie Lannister has some scenes that were so unnecessary that there is no need even here to mention them. The fight against Euron was so out of character for the show, and the screenplay even more bothersome, but what was nice is that he found his sister in the same place he left, her. He may not have led her to safety, but he at least made her feel safe again.

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