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Game of Thrones returns to screens at last with this hotly-anticipated prequel series
Outpost VFX Producer
Outpost VFX Supervisor
Since it hit our screens in 2022, Game of Thrones spin off House of the Dragon has delivered plenty of drama and bloodshed reminiscent of the wildly popular original.
Outpost’s UK and Mumbai studios contributed to a key sequence – The Battle of the Stepstones. In episode 3, we follow Daemon Targaryen’s conquest against pirate lord, The Crabfeeder. A lot hinges on the naval battle, which has political implications that resonate throughout the whole of series 1.
Outpost VFX Supervisor, Jesper Kjolsrud, said: “We got involved quite late in production; I think work had been going for about a year. But we absolutely jumped at the chance because it was Game of Thrones and an interesting sequence creatively.”
In one establishing shot, which is almost a minute long, we see hundreds of soldiers on a clifftop surveying the naval battle in the bay below, including trebuchets hurling flaming cannonballs from the coastline; sinking ships; a fire-breathing dragon and shipwrecks scattered throughout the bay. Given the length and number of elements that make up the sequence, the team had to work closely with the Client-side VFX Supervisor, Angus Bickerton, to learn the historical context and story beats of the conflict.
“We approached it by understanding the geography of the world."
Kjolsrud adds: “The way Angus described it was, if you imagine in between somewhere like Dover and Calais, we have these little islands. In Westeros, we have the Stepstones, as if you could almost walk across them. It’s the main trading route which is why it’s quite important to all these different houses. But where they shot the scene there are no islands, so we had to come up with that design.”
While concepts for key islands were provided, the Outpost team would have to populate the rest of the scene from scratch. Kjolsrud continues: “We had some basic geometry from them that (CG Supervisor) Ben Hart-Shea modified and kind of came up with our layout. So as soon as we look out over the ocean, that’s what we were looking at. We had it fully built in 3D and had people making really detailed updates of the models – sculpting and everything – so it looked good from any angle. That was a big part of the work. Plus, populating the shot with more soldiers, which was a different kind of challenge.”
As the team joined later in production, work on key elements was done in parallel to meet schedule, a huge undertaking on a high-profile show. Kjolsrud adds: “It worked out really well. In a few shots we did some extra top ups on this model, a little bit of DMP. But mainly it was this layout that we created that we put into all the shots; all the water interaction that you get from the waves hitting the islands, all of that was built into this major environment.”
Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon is available to stream now on HBO Max and NowTV in the UK.