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How Visual Effects Have Changed the Television Industry

Escrito por Marjorie DeHey el 07/05/2019 a las 22:36:25

(Co-founder of MediaMojos)

Marjorie DeHey

For the past few weeks, there has been one topic on most people’s minds – what will happen on Games of Thrones?  The epic battle scenes, the elaborate dragons, and unexpected deaths have had viewers around the world tune in in eager anticipation of what will happen next.  An estimated 17.4 million viewers watched the season premiere, with social media exploding in anticipation (and then experiencing an hour of silence as many didn’t want social media to reveal any spoilers).


If you are a fan, one thing you may have noticed is how elaborate the sets, and how intricate the dragons, have become throughout the years.  The increased use of Visual Effects (abbreviated VFX), which is the “process by which imagery is created or manipulated outside the context of a live action shot in film making,” has allowed shows like Game of Thrones (often called “GoT”) to develop into the worldwide phenomena they have become.  Visual Effects allow creators to seamlessly integrate live-action footage with digital effects to create realistic environments that would otherwise be too dangerous, expensive, or, impossible to capture on film.


Juego de Tronos


When GoT began, VFX was at its early stages, so much of the show’s special effects were practical effects with little Computer Graphic Imaging (CGI).  Today, the show utilizes about 600-800 VFX/CGI shots an episode (versus a previous 600-800 shots a season).  HBO even created a video that features GoT Visual Effects Producer, Steven Kullback, and GoTs VFX Supervisor, Joe Bauer, detailing the intricate process they go through to create the show and how Game of Thrones has evolved on a technical level:


The evolution of VFX is interesting. Disney’s Tron is credited as the first film to utilize Computer Graphic Imaging (CGI) in 1982, with 1995’sToy Story (Pixar/Disney) acknowledged as being the world’s first feature length computer animated movie – both a far leap from the intricacies created for film and TV today by such franchises as The Avengers films and the Jurassic Park/World films. 


While VFX has rapidly evolved to create epic worlds, the cost of the effects can be staggering.  Money Inc. profiled how much VFX cost in Game of Thrones.  In this analysis of Game of Thrones’ CGI costs, there are two main costs – people and computer resources.  Typically, CGI productions are an assembly line of 10-12 people who process shots in several stages: Modeling, Tracking, Animation, Dust Busting, BgPrep, FX, Compositing, Lighting, etc.  As noted by Money Inc., taking into account wages and production time, a 1 minute CGI shot could cost a minimum of $80,000; 10 minutes would be a minimum of $800,000, and, adding in computer processing and web services, the VFX costs can jump to over $1M per 10 minute segment.  One can easily see how Season 8 of Game of Thrones is estimated to cost over $90M with an average cost of $15M per episode


Even with the expensive production costs, according to New York Times, this TV series generates "slightly more than $1 billion annually.”  It is amazing to watch how technology has evolved with the series over the past 8 seasons and how technology has helped creators make more realistic and engaging worlds. We’re “breathless with anticipation” to see what happens next, in the final few episodes, but in the meantime… What is your favorite Game of Thrones’ VFX moment?