Last night was the much anticipated final season premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones. In addition to feeding the fans their fill of Winterfell, Jon Snow and his Dragon Mama, we got a brand new opening sequence for Season 8 from the incredibly talented people at Elastic.
Season 8 Game of Thrones Opening Sequence
The impressive computer-generated opening credits for the show have long been a subject on our blog and more than once. They have changed from season to season by adding new locations and altering the narratives on the Astrolabe (that weird metal gyroscope-like thing).
Creative director Angus Wall and CG Supervisor/Art Director Kirk Shintani of Elastic spoke to Buzzfeed News in detail about the extensive changes and the thinking behind the rebuilt opening sequence.
Faithful fans were sure to notice that the the original credits, which always followed roughly the same pattern: starting at King’s Landing before winding their way up to Winterfell and the Wall, were reversed this season.
Instead we open on the fall of the Wall (which, by the way, we showed you as a giant cake last year) and end on the Iron Throne in Kings Landing.
The old credits always ended at a location far from the central action in Westeros, either tracking Dany’s journey through Essos, or sweeping over to the remote locales of Dorne or Oldtown. This season, however, the credits end at King’s Landing, diving down through the Red Keep before concluding at the Iron Throne.
“The show is called Game of Thrones, and the Iron Throne is in King’s Landing,” Wall said. “I don’t know that this is going to be the case or not, but the entire show is moving towards the Iron Throne. … So it made sense to end there.”
In order to have the model be large enough to fit all the necessary interior detail, the Elastic team had to create a massive CG structure. If it had been built to scale in the real world, Wall estimated it would stand roughly 20 feet tall.
“Every season, we’ve been talking about, ‘We should try to redo stuff,’” said Kirk Shintani, who led the CG team for the credits for the first seven seasons, and was the art director for the Season 8 credits.
The Elastic team knew they wanted to maintain the fundamental visual language they developed for the credits in Season 1, and keep the map of Westeros looking like a model someone from within the world of the show could conceivably build themselves. But with eight years of advancements in visual effects since GoT’s premiere in 2011, the team could make that map considerably more elaborate and detailed:
“You can go so much further and deeper with the tool set now than you could back when we did Season 1,” said Wall. “The first seven seasons, there’s an impressionistic aspect to the title sequence that I really like in an 8-bit way, in the same way that you would like Minecraft. But the new sequence is rendered with so much more accuracy and fractal detail.”
“The wood grain is to scale. The metal is all to scale. Everything is rendered in a way that is much, much more accurate to a specific size,” said Wall. “I’m sure that we will have detractors who will prefer the old look. But what we were going for was something that was less impressionistic.”
“To me, in Season 7, all the storylines and all the interactions between all the characters became a lot more intimate,” Shintani said. “You became acutely aware of the relationships between everybody, and how these things are going to come to a point.”
“You’re not getting this overarching view anymore. You’re getting this down-low, really specific micro view of what’s going on,” he said. Added Wall, “We wanted to explore the idea that there was more under the surface than previous seasons, and that there was an interior and a depth in terms of the layers beneath the surface that we had only hinted at before.”