When Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal first appeared at the very end of Game of Thrones' first season, they were tiny little creatures that barely powerful enough to cook a piece of meat thoroughly. Fans have enjoyed watching them grow over the course of the show's last seven seasons, almost as though the creatures were real. That is in no small part due to the tireless efforts of visual effects artists, such Sven Martin, a visual effects supervisor at Pixomondo.
The effects company recently uploaded a video showcasing the development of the dragons on Game of Thrones and how each one was animated. The montage plays to the sorrowful "Light of the Seven" by Ramin Djawadi, which is fitting as the dragons themselves have a saddening story, what with the loss of one of their siblings in season 7.
Bringing the dragons to life is no easy feat. The team behind the dragons consists of 30 to 40 artists. In an interview with CNET, Martin described the processes behind the dragons, which are all reliant on computer generated effects. Martin stated, "no puppets or animatronics were ever used on Game of Thrones."
As the video shows, creating the dragons involved creating virtual muscles and skeletons on which to apply the flesh and incredibly detailed scales.
"Following the idea of grounding the dragons in reality, we started to build them from inside out, meaning having a real skeleton structure as the base, muscles with fat and skin on top," Martin said. "Based on the initial design and the baby (dragon) model from season 1, we altered the design more towards birds, knowing the dragons have to fly in later episodes. Researching bird and bat anatomies led us to increase the chest bone and change wing body proportions."
In fact, according to the visual effects artist, every aspect of the dragons was inspired by a different animal out in the real world, from cheetahs to store-bought chicken.
The amount of work required would be daunting for anyone, but Martin has experience and engages in this project with great care and understanding for what the audience expects and needs to feel. The artist stated, "their overall treatment as real living animals with just enough expressions to understand their feelings makes the audience to connect with them, similar to the emotional connection with pets" which is an approach that has clearly worked.
Although Martin was unable to divulge any secrets in the interview, he did tease audiences by describing the final season of Game of Thrones "amazing."
The eighth and final season of HBO's Game of Thrones, featuring six episodes with longer than usual runtimes, premieres on April 14 at 9 p.m. EST. The HBO drama stars Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams and Kit Harington.