How a Small Animation Company Created Game of Thrones' Greatest Battle Scene

It took a Iloura eight months to animate Game of Thrones' epic "Battle of the Bastards."

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Jul 1 2016, 7:50pm

Still from Iloura's 2016 Game of Thrones Season 6 breakdown reel on Vimeo

Iloura might be the best visual effects studio you’ve never heard of.

Comedy director Seth MacFarlane described their work on his movie Ted as “the finest character animation I’ve ever seen on film.” Last year they scored an Oscar nomination for their VFX work on Mad Max: Fury Road. They’ve produced sequences for WolverineThe Great Gatsby, and the new Paul Feig Ghostbusters reboot. How did a small Australian animation company end up working with some of the most powerful people in Hollywood?

For a start, the Iloura team has spent decades honing their craft. “I’m in my 20th year here,” Iloura’s Head of VFX Simon Rosenthal tells The Creators Project. In that time, he says, the company “has grown from a traditional post business working in advertising to a dedicated feature animation and VFX studio.”

Perhaps the studio's greatest recent coup was working on episode nine's "Battle of the Bastards," widely regarded as the pinnacle of Game of Thrones’ sixth season. Iloura’s involvement with the show was a long time coming, as Rosenthal explains: “We had been in conversations, on and off, with Steve Kullbeck [the Game of Thrones VFX Producer] for a number of years about the possibility of getting involved,” he says.

“I took a call from Steve in mid 2015, and the discussions around that sequence began. Steve approached Iloura because we have some history with photo realistic horses, which is obviously a key element of the series.”

The detailed battle sequence took eight months of hard work to complete. “We started work on it in October 2015, and for all intents and purposes had wrapped up by May of this year,” Rosenthal explains. Animating the battle was an involved process. “It was extremely complex,” Rosenthal admits. “Certainly one of the most complex pieces of work we have undertaken. The building of photo real horses, digital doubles, crowd duplication of both horses and humans, environmental work that included extensions and matte paintings, plus key frame animation...the list is endless. It truly was one with the lot.”

Iloura recently put together a montage reel that breaks down the "Battle of the Bastards" animation process. It provides awe-inspiring insight into the amazing special effects behind an episode that was grueling, even by Game of Thrones' standards.

Iloura 2016 Game of Thrones Season 6 breakdown reel from Iloura on Vimeo.

You’d think that after eight months of duplicating muddy blood-covered horses, Rosenthal would have taken a well-deserved break. Instead, he produced major animation sequences for Ghostbusters and Deepwater Horizon.

“Quite different projects too,” he says. “Ghostbusters is very much character animation-based, whereas Deepwater Horizon is VFX-based.”

He’s tightlipped on the studio’s future plans, but they sound big. “We have some very interesting opportunities in play, but I can’t mention them just yet.”

You can find out more about Iloura's work here.

This article originally appeared on The Creators Project Australia/New Zealand. 

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