When the Night King’s frozen undead forces ripped through the Wall in the season finale of Game of Thrones, your first thought was probably shock and horror. Your second thought had to have been how did they do that?
When winter came in a gust of subzero wind that brought with it ice zombies, desolate frozen wastelands and one terrifying ice dragon, that was the sorcery of VFX company El Ranchito. They complex layered effects that brought the Army of the Dead and their wight commanders to life go beyond the Wall and the green screen. This is special effects on steroids. Those weapon-wielding skeletons in furs? They start out as weapon-wielding humans in furs with skull masks and green Spandex suits. When the green is edited into brittle bone, that’s when the magic happens.
Zombie hordes are then added to the rear of the Army of the Dead to make their numbers appear way more threatening as they run through computer-generated snow.
Winter’s grim scenery is also a breathtaking illusion. The shapes of the wall and the snow-crusted mountains are first cut out to reveal the green screen which the live and undead actors are fighting against then overlaid with layers of strikingly real snow and ice effects. No one is actually drowning in freezing water, just appearing to swim against a green screen before the green is transformed to the murky depths.
When the dragons are in flight, CGI blasts of fire melt ice and take out entire sections of the Army of the Dead. And the ice dragon? What starts as a hulking green shape is covered in a solid white digital overlay that looks more like a 3D drawing than a dragon, which morphs into something reptilian as virtual scaly skin gets layered on with mind-blowing detail. That eye though.
The Night King has his own beauty regimen. He is an actual human actor in a latex mask and clawed gloves, but effects are layered over these already nightmarish prosthetics to really glam up that icy complexion.
Watch the video and prepare to get chills.