Being huge fans of the Game of Thrones TV series, the team at RealtimeUK were excited when asked to produce this 135 second CG trailer for Yoozoo Games’ latest PC browser title, ‘Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming.’
We really wanted to go for the authentic look of this: the client really wanted us to sell it to gamers that this is the authentic version of Game of Thrones.
It’s all in the details
A lot of the performances in this show are quite subtle. It's about tension, it's about two characters looking at each other and having a connection just from eye contact or just from a little bit of a subtle performance, which in some ways is the most difficult thing to do.
The trailer was made up of two different sections: you've got the literal aspect: seeing the hero characters in their environments. And then between that, you've got more of a stylistic representation of the houses themselves.
Each one of those sigils is being covered with ice and frost. We wanted one single flowing camera move in and out of those sections. So, from the literal into the abstract, from the abstract into the literal.
In the whole trailer, there's a traveling raven and every character in the trailer is holding a scroll, which is like a call to war. It's a subtle thing, and I'm sure it might take a few watches of the show to realize it's a little tying element.
Developing character likenesses with references alone
By far, the most challenging aspect of this trailer was the likenesses. We didn't have access to the actors. We didn't have access to scanned data. And trying to get the likeness of a character that is so well know is very, very difficult.
You could push it to the point where you think it's getting there but it's missing the essence of the character. And then in trying to capture that essence, you can push it too far and it ends up turning into a bit of a stylized caricature version of it.
You can get the model looking accurate: you get the shaders looking accurate to do some beautiful turnarounds. You get animation involved and then very quickly, you can lose a likeness. I'd say finding likenesses was very difficult, but keeping them was probably even more difficult.
Because I was doing character from start to finish it really helped get to an end result quicker. I could do a model, stick a quick groom on it, throw a texture on it, put some shade design, do a render, and that would involve every single aspect. That's the main thing really – get as many iterations as quick and as fast as possible.
It was one of those things where the more eyes that you could get on something, you’d get more feedback from lots of different people, because each person that looked at it would spot something different that didn't quite feel right or look right whereas that may get past another pair of eyes. It was a real team effort.
Getting the camera just right
When you're not working with the scan data, one of the toughest things is trying to get the focal lens in your renders to match the photography. When you were looking at your renders and you thought this is what needs changing, they need to change it for the right reasons, it wasn't some other factor. You need to research what lenses were used.
We found, looking at Game of Thrones, for instance, they love a long lens. Minimum is maybe 100 mil. We did start off a lot wider than that. We started off at like 35 mil because we have this epic castle in the background. We changed the position of the camera as well. It was too low initially, but then you look at the show and most of the cameras are eye level or higher.
You could see that Daenerys wasn’t feeling right. She didn't look like what she looks in that show, because we just weren't shooting it the same way that the cinematographer was shooting it.
Building renders as separate elements
You can't just get a character to look amazing in a raw render. You build up the render in a way that you can then work with it in post. On Daenerys, at some point, we had about ten lights, so each of those lights is on its own element so that in post, you can then control each of the lights. What I find useful is splitting the highlights off an object because most of the noise is in the highlights. I'll separate the highlights, I'll clean them up, blur them, sort of interpolate between frames, and then I put them back on something. It looks like it's a more expensive render but it's not really.
Again, it's about familiarity. That's the whole thing with Game of Thrones, is you've got to feel like these characters are the kind of characters I've seen on the show. These are the people I fell in love with or who I love hating. So, it's not just about getting a nice shot – it's about getting the authentic shot.