NAB Roundup: Behind The Scenes Look At Game Of Thrones

Panelists from left to right: David Geffner, Bernadette Caulfield, Anette Haellmigk, Geg Spence, Jonathan Freeman

By: Marjorie Galas

NAB looked a little more like Comic-Con as attendees of the four-day expo joined a line snaking through the Upper North Hall to attend “Game of Thrones: Behind the Scenes with the Filmmakers.”  Presented by the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG), the panel featured executive producer Bernadette Caulfield, producer Greg Spence and cinematographers responsible for many of the episodes in season six, Anette Haellmigk and Jonathan Freeman.

Moderated by ICG Magazine’s executive editor David Geffner, the panel focused on key ingredients for handling multiple units shooting in diverse locations including Ireland, Spain and Croatia.   Upon reviewing clips from Haellmigk’s work on “Book of the Stranger” and Freeman’s handling of “The Door,” several keys to shooting “Game of Thrones” were exposed.

As hard as it is to imagine now, the future of “Game of Thrones” was uncertain when the show began.  Caulfield indicated that, after the series was embraced and greenlight, a distinct shooting style was secured: natural resources would be used whenever possible.  This includes lighting.  Freeman stated that all DPs shoot around 800 ASA with sync filtration and diffusion and use organic light sources.

“Sun, moon, candle, torch,” said Freeman.

For the challenging fire scene in “Book of the Stranger” Haellmigk indicated the scene was shot in multiple stages. Four different crews worked on this particular sequence, which was shot in multiple locations: the exterior temple shots were done in Spain, while the interior was shot in Belfast.   While VFX was incorporated at segments to ensure the safety of actors, majority of the flames in the segment are real. Pipes covered in glass mats that blasted flames for five minutes were used to obtain the majority of the fire effects.  Haellmigk shared her exposure settings with the VFX team to ensure the digitally added flames matched what she shot.

“Gas fire burns white, so we had to bring up the ambiance level,” said Haellmigk.

Storyboarding and previs are essential tools when it comes to shooting “Game of Thrones.”  Freeman illustrated the layers of action that were worked through in the previs stage to successfully shoot the cave sequence in “The Door.”

“It helped to clarify the camera moves, and clarify with the director what it would actually take to make the shot,” said Freeman.

Because there were multiple layers of characters added into this segment, Freeman had to be very specific with his camera placement.  If the camera was to drop down even slightly, the image would be out of alignment with all that came before it.  Previs also helped the camera time establish their lighting pass to ensure source points were accurate for every moment the characters were involved in.

Not to be overlooked in the process of shooting “Game of Thrones” is the value of teamwork.  No one working on “Game of Thrones” sets their own style: everything from color to camera movement is discussed and understood amongst every team member.

“One DP sets the assets that the two or three others use for the entire season,” said Freeman.