The Queen of the Dragons, Daenerys, cradles her animated adolescent dragon brought to life through visual effects.

The Visual Effects Behind The Game of Thrones Dragons

A life for a life. The birth of the last surviving dragons in the Seven Kingdoms brought with it the fifth Ruler in the War of the Five Kings as well as some incredible visual effects. Daenerys, queen of the Dothraki, uses Drogo’s funeral pyre to hatch the last remaining dragon eggs in the world; eggs from magical creatures that had been thought to be extinct for hundreds of years. Apart from skeletal remains and three dragon eggs believed to have turned to stone, dragons had disappeared from the earth. From the ashes they rose. For “a dragon cannot be killed by fire.”

The revival scene featuring the dragons, along with all other visual effects related to the fire breathing creatures, was designed by a major visual effects company contracted for Game of Thrones. The graphic designers of Pixomondo based the dragons on of the original concept paintings from the shows designers and created 2-D models. From there they would begin to bring to life such magical and mythical creatures. The Pixomondo team relied heavily on robust computing power, quick render times, and reliable technology.  Pixomondo has been awarded a 2014 Creative Arts Emmy Award “Outstanding Special Visual Effects” for Game of Thrones Season 4: The Children for their excellent work on the dragons.

Behind the Dragons: A Look at Their Visual Effects

The Pixomondo team utilized the digital sculpting tool Zbrush for the beginning stages of the dragons. Zbrush is known for the ability to sculpt medium to high-frequency details which are traditionally painted in bump maps. The visual effects software gave the team access to features used to help develop unparalleled graphics. Through 3D brushes, poly paint, illustration, and other features, the Pixomondo team integrated ideas into real-life characters.

Another program used was MARI, capable of handling high-resolution textures and millions of polygons without ever compromising on speed or efficiency. MARI offered the developers the freedom and flexibility to work and focus their energy on the details that mattered most. Andrea Giordana explains how she used MARI’ visual effects to give birth to the writer’s imagination,” “I used MARI for the initial 3D texture concept and again to create the final detailed texturing for the dragons. MARI was extremely useful for this job, fitting easily into our pipeline. I took my 3D assets (hard surface or character) from Maya into MARI where I would do the initial look development. Once signed off, I created high-resolution textures to bring the asset to near completion before final touch up.”

The seamless integration of visual effects and physical filming creates an experience that has launched Game of Thrones to the top of television. The Season 6 Premiere date will be upon us on April 24! We cannot wait to see what life technology will breathe into to this upcoming season.

“When you play a game of thrones, you win, or you die.”

George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones