How New CGI Brought Reality to the Beasts in ‘House of the Dragon’

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Given its title, it should come as no surprise that HBO is new game of thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, will have a lot of damn dragons. Seventeen, in fact. All owned, flown and maintained by House Targaryen, and each with their own quirks of personality, character design and name created by George RR Martin.

In the following 11 years thrones HBO’s first hit, CGI technology has advanced by leaps and bounds and House of the Dragon he was able to bring his beasts to life like never before. WIRED spoke with Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, the showrunners of the series, about what’s new this time around.

This conversation contains spoilers and has been edited for clarity and length.

WIRED: Miguel, you started working first game of thrones in 2015, directing episodes like “hard house” and “Battle of the Bastards.” How technology has changed, in terms of TV production, and what that means you can do with it House of the Dragon that you couldn’t necessarily do before?

Miguel Sapochnik: I used to have to get everyone out of the background. If you wanted to put them in a different setting, you’d have to put them in front of a green or blue screen or some sort of chromatic key color so it would be easier to get them out of the background and put them back in later. you replaced the background with something else, which you often end up doing.

Now, as technology has advanced, the need for this has lessened due to the speed with which programs can automatically identify which is the foreground versus which is the background. That means we don’t have to bring in these big chunks of green screen and set them up so we can put people in front of them and do multiple passes. Increased efficiency gives you more time to be creative and shoot.

There’s the classic, “We’ll fix it by mail,” which is frustrating on the one hand because people get lazy and don’t do it on set, which is usually better. But it’s also incredibly useful as a tool if you know when to use it, because it allows you to focus on things that absolutely must be done on set, like acting.

There are a lot of dragons in the new show, and a poorly executed dragon can really take you out of a scene. How did you notice these unreal creatures?

Sapochnik: Everything is a work in progress because you keep working on it until it’s taken away from you. Much of what makes it feel real is usually the last 5 percent of the work you do, which is often the most time-consuming and the most expensive.

With our dragons, you can get the animation, the things they touch and how they interact with real objects, like the ground they stepped on and left footprints. This kind of thing, you can do well. You can hide problems with smoke and atmosphere and things like that. But what you want are details that you wouldn’t otherwise notice and that in any normal situation would be considered a luxury you don’t have time for.

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