House of the Dragon quickly became the most popular show ever released on the HBO Max streaming service, but how much of its success is due to its use of technology and what secrets have we learned about how it was made?
The Return of Green Screens
The use of green screen technology might seem like an old-fashioned method for a big-budget show like this to fix problems, and you might imagine that it wasn’t used at all during the filming of the first season. But an error spotted by fans caused this solution to be brought up in online debates recently. The issue began when King Viserys lost some of the fingers from one hand and the following scenes showed the actor who plays him – Paddy Considine – with a full set of fingers, clearly revealing that green screen technology was used in this scene.
This mistake was immediately compared by viewers to the infamous coffee cup scene in Game of Thrones, and had to be quickly fixed using CGI. However, fans may be more confused by the relationships between different characters than by mistakes like this. This graphic of the Targaryen dynasty created by ExpressVPN shows us how the generations are linked. For instance, we can see that King Viserys has two children by different wives, which is a key element of the war of succession. By seeing each Targaryen who has sat on the Iron Throne, we can more easily understand the family history.
Virtual Production Techniques
The use of cutting-edge virtual production technology means that many of the scenes could be filmed without the need for a physical set or green screens. They don’t even need time-consuming CGO work once the filming is completed. This is because they used a full computer-generated environment with a wall of LED screens and real-time capture of virtual scenes. This varies from the traditional method of adding in computer-generated images as part of the post-production process, and can help to lower the production costs.
This approach is also a way of allowing the actors to feel more fully immersed in the scene, rather than filming in front of a green screen and adding the other details later. Among the various elements needed to pull this together, the show used motion capture, real-time game engine technology, and camera tracking. Over 2,000 LED screens and more than 90 motion capture cameras were used in this way.
A great example of how this technology was used to stunning effect came with the never-ending sunset shot that featured on the second episode of the first season, as Daemon Targaryen and Rhaenyra faced each other in front of a frozen sunset. HBO executives were so pleased with the outcome that they produced a short documentary explaining how it was only possible thanks to the technology used.
The technology used on shows like House of the Dragon is continuing to improve, and this is a good thing when it lets us visualize a fictional world more clearly and in a more immersive way. Yet, we need to hope that the directors behind these shows don’t forget that it’s the human stories behind the characters and how they all link together that brings us back for more.