Over six months of working on a tight production schedule for their third season involvement with HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones, Rodeo FX says the challenges were greater than anything in the past two years.
The company, based in Los Angeles, Montreal and Quebec City, has won two Emmy's for their work on seasons 4 and 5 of the television series. Their work includes the Meereen temple and destruction of it, the Smoking Sea of Valyria and the slave-owning city Volanits.
Working on 152 cinematic shots throughout eight episodes in season 6 has earnt the studio another Emmy Award nomination.
The team worked on the Dothraki army and their steeds, Volantis bridge in episode 7 and the epic battle at Meereen in episode 9 – the pinnacle of the season.
See the breakdown of how Rodeo FX created key sequences below.
Rodeo FX created a CG Dothraki Horde and horses used in two episodes for season 6.
The Dothraki army and their steeds trudging across the plain toward the gates of Meereen were simulated, rendered and composited with practical crowd.
3D horse and rider assets were created alongside crowd simulations and blended with photography.
The Broken Man (Episode 7)
Twenty-three artists working at the Montreal Rodeo FX studio were the man power behind a 443-frame sequence for episode 7.
The final shots feature the studio's Volantis bridge from season 5 – a completely CG environment.
Production VFX supervisor for Game of Thrones Joe Bauer says the creation of the city of Volantis "lives and dies by the lighting".
Volantis was introduced in season 5 in broad daylight, but in season 6 it was seen at dusk – a beautiful combination of photography and CG surfaces.
Battle of the Bastards (Episode 9)
Episode 9 is the pinnacle of the season. Fans will associate it most with the Battle between Jon's and Ramsay's armies – but the episode started with the fully CG slave-city of Meereen is under attack by a huge fleet of ships firing flaming pitch at the city.
Rodeo FX created FX simulation of flaming cannonballs shot from ships in the harbour, while CG smoke and particles filled the air.
"The destruction of the ships was a huge undertaking as we had to model a completely different version of our asset for this scene," says president of Rodeo FX Sebastien Moreau.
Then Dothraki Horde comes to the rescue, Daenerys climbs on Drogon, flies across the Meereen gates and gets the dragon to breathe fire to destroy the ships.
Rodeo FX completed 65 shots during this episode, and shared many with Rhythm & Hues – the studio behind the dragons.
Rodeo FX also simulated sails, water and fire, and used matte painting to fill details in the skies, distant mountains and cliffs.
The visual effects company has also worked on feature films The Legend of Tarzan, Warcraft, The Walk and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the opening sequence for NBC’s NFL Super Bowl in 2015.
It won Visual Effects Society (VES) awards for its work on Game of Thrones and Birdman.
HBO has confirmed a seventh season for Game of Thrones, consisting of seven episodes and set to shoot later this summer.
Watch the first teaser for season 7.