Image Engine have released a showcase on the VFX/animation in Game of Thrones Season 7, and how bats and eagles were used as reference for the Game of Thrones dragons.
Daenerys’s personal mount Drogon, is one of the three dragons born in the Dothraki Sea along with Rhaegal and Viserion. The production used new motion capture/previz technology to place actress Emilia Clarke on Drogon’s back with a complex motion base.
In season 7, the dragons feature heavily in sequences such as their surprise attack on the Lannister forces, in the sequence known as the ‘Loot Train Attack’. The battle sees Jaime Lannister’s ground forces attacked by Daenerys Targaryen. Image Engine produced not only flying sequences with Daenerys riding her dragon Drogo but also, as shown below, key dramatic sequences as well. This includes the sequence when Daenerys sees Lannister charging towards her with a spear in his hand, hoping to kill her but unfortunately for Lannister, Drogon sees him too. The dragon shields Daenerys behind his head and breathes fire at the charging Lannister, who is saved from certain death when Bronn tackles him off his horse and into the river.
The character animation and image rendering quality is exceptional as this Image Engine ‘making of’ (above) demonstrates. The Loot Train Attack sequence was shot in Los Barruecos, Caceres Spain (see below) with 8 cameras for principle photography. The dragon footage plate photography was mainly coming from both a Spider Cam (wire rig camera setup) and a large drone from FlyCam. With these rigs the camera can move at speeds up to 70 miles an hour.
Image Engine had to place their animation into this tracked footage. The lighting matching is particularly hard for aerials, as not only does Image Engine have to match the lighting by eye but deal with complex explosion and fire breathing done with both real elements and CG flame light contributions.
Image Engine is based in Vancouver BC, it was founded in 1995, and the studio specializes in character/creature design + animation and digital environments. In July of 2015 they merged with Cinesite, the UK VFX industry veteran. We have previously cover how Image Engine has delivered VFX for the Academy Award-nominated District 9, Chappie, Jurassic World, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and perhaps most recently the digital doubles of Logan.
Below is the August HBO featurette on the key Loot Attack Sequence which also included work from companies such as Illoura.