Behind the Scenes of Game of Thrones' Battle for Winterfell [Spoilers]

As much of a Game of Thrones fan as I am, the scene in Sunday's episode that has had everyone talking, "Battle for Winterfell" or "Battle of the Bastards," resonated with me for two reasons. The first is the same as most people who watched it: the scene was epic — not epic in the way kids these days use the word, but in the sense of it being truly gargantuan and awesome. The second reason was the curiosity of the photographer in me on how something of that scale could be shot.

Well, it turns out a lot more of the scene was real than I had expected. In fact, I hadn't actually considered that there would be enough genuine videography on location that it would be of interest to photographers and videographers outside of those specializing in visual effects. I was wrong. The preparation for this scene must have been unfathomable. There were 80 horses, hundreds of extras, and even more props; that's without the crew and their equipment. Much of the footage was filmed by a cameraman who was in the midst of this fake but also scarily realistic battle. The video mentions that the cavalry charging Jon Snow was real (and they narrowly miss one another), as well as the cavalry coming from behind Kit Harrington. All I could think when I heard this was that a cameraman was having to film this while being essentially blind to his periphery and hoping not to get trampled to death.

The other question I had of how the horses were speed-matched and tracked so smoothly was answered. A Russian Arm is attached to a 4x4 and then remote-controlled to enable careful tracking of the subject. I looked up the specifications of the Russian Arm, and it really is an incredible piece of kit; it reaches up to 4.1 m and can climb as high as 2.4 m from the ground, it can rotate 360 degrees in 6 seconds, is fully remote controlled with a joystick, and requires a minimum of three technicians. You know your kit means business when it has a minimum crew requirement!

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8 Comments

Chris K.'s picture

It's pretty mind blowing how large the budget they have to work with is for GOT! It was an amazing battle sequence very much on par and even surpassing other "epic" films!

Brian Dowling's picture

Their budget is only 6 million an episode. Pretty amazing what they can do with that amount of money.

Chris K.'s picture

I think it was in Forbes, but the season was $100 million or $10 million each episode. Which for TV is pretty big. The only other similar show I could think of with a similar budget was Band of Brothers/The Pacific

Bert McLendon's picture

Such an amazing show. From the story, obviously, to the perfect casting, to the mind blowing production quality. These battle scenes surpass some of the all time best battle scenes (at their times) like Braveheart and Gladiator. Such an amazing job by all involved. Thanks for posting this, I hadn't see it yet! So cool.

Christian Berens's picture

on top of being an amazing show, the thought that goes behind many of the scenes is just WOW

Jason Lorette's picture

It's $10M a season on average now. That battle apparently took 25 days and 86 hours of film to complete...it's mind blowing. I don't remember the last time I was that moved by something, I was literally yelling at the tv, the scene where Jon was being buried, I literally felt suffocated myself, I cheered when Sansa brought in the cavalry, I was heartbroken in the final scene with the giant...in ten minutes of tv...I was exhausted. It was quite incredible...

James Pardon's picture

My cousin is the stunt director on GoT. What an amazing job

Could we please quit this high-tech rubbish.