Sven Sauer is a digital artist that specializes in matte paintings. Sauer is part of the VFX (visual effects) team that brings the Game of Thrones world to life, creating the illusion of environments like King’s Landing, Harrenhall, Dragonstone and Qarth. While these locations don’t exist in the real world, they are integral to the show and are steeped in their own history that shapes how they look and feel in present day.
Through the use of green screens, real-world environments and digital artistry, Sauer and team create the backdrops and environments for the live-action stories to be told by the actors in front of the camera. When these two elements work seamlessly, a fantasy world comes to life.
Below you will find a collection of stills that show how the matte paintings help bring the Game of Thrones world to life.
“Because of the numerous plot threads, there are a lot of relocations in Game of Thrones. The cuts lead from moment to moment in the snowy north of Westeros, to Qarth, the desert city—and then to the Mediterranean-like King’s Landing. Thereby, the Matte Paintings play a particularly important role: they contribute enormously to the establishment of the settings.
Most of them are the so-called Establisher or Establishing Shots that allow the viewer to enter the space of action and to pursue an orientation in it. The specific and recognizable landscape images show the respective place, often at the beginning of a scene, usually in a long shot. So they show the audience where and when the story is just playing.” – Sven Sauer
“Perhaps the most important law is: nothing in our world exists without a past! Our environment is always peppered with details of past events. These details make the world tangible and authentic. This is exactly what pertains to our pictures. A good Matte Painting is full of memories, telling stories about the past. The credibility of Game of Thrones is critically dependent on a scrupulous compliance with this law, because the plot is based on a complex and above all, on an old world. Similarly to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Westeros seems to have a vivid past.” – Sven Sauer
“The Visual Effects Team tried to include all these sub-stories in the paintings. The artists exactly analyzed the descriptions of the castles and landscapes in the books. How did the castle towers of Pyke look like before the weather had stricken them? The walls of the castle of Harrenhall once melted under the fire of dragons. In the book, this was just mentioned in a few lines – but anyway, it had to be considered carefully how a fortress would look like after having been overwhelmed by a huge fireball.” – Sven Sauer
The VFX in Game of Thrones
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