Dragons weren’t the only thing flying the skies on the House of The Dragon, our drones were too!
With the long awaited arrival of the Game of Thrones prequel, the team at Visualskies are proud to showcase their work for the series. Our 3D digital assets are not only featured in the trailer and the main body of episodes, but our groundbreaking VS Scout app was also crucial in designing shots used throughout the series. This article explores the ways in which we were able to help the creators of the show realise their vision and bring the world of Game of Thrones back to our screens. Lydia, Duncan, Jandira and Joe were our team to tackle the task, combining all areas of their expertise to create extraordinary 3D models of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Bermeo, Spain and St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. It is amazing to see the team’s work finally released and available to the public to enjoy. Wanting to innovate and push the boundaries of 3D scanning; this accomplishment from Visualskies is a tell-tale sign for the future use of lidar and photogrammetry in the industry.
The VS Scout App was created with the intention of allowing recces and shot planning to seamlessly transition from the real world to one close to what we end up seeing on our television screens. Joe worked tirelessly with the in house art director Tom Wingrove and House of The Dragon VFX team to include a wide variety of functions that would allow them full insight into the world that they were building. They ranged from being able to see dragons and models in real time with augmented reality to full access to each 3D environment scanned for shot exploration. The user is also able to import any model into a blank canvas for key concept creation. The entire app was built using Unreal Engine; which has provided an invaluable platform to craft our work within.
The AR Function allows the director to visualise dragons or actors on location immediately. When on a recce, being able to see exactly how the dragon would look on a mountain, roof top or from underneath is an amazingly sophisticated visualisation tool. It allows them to keep thinking about what the audience would eventually see; as well as facilitating logistical planning. The utilisation of AR for this type of production is essential in being able to bring the fantasy world into the real one. Knowing how models will size compared to locations helps the Director and the VFX artists to suspend disbelief when viewing the shots. It is even more useful when you can view the model environment within the app with a wide range of customisation. Simple yet necessary tools such as being able to adjust the focal length, aperture and height of the camera were crucial to setting up the perfect shot. Key extras such as the ability to influence the solar position, fog level or adding an actor into the scene; made it possible for the filmmakers to envisage a wide variety of lighting and action sequences without having to leave the office. As we all know during Covid the film industry had to adapt. To a series renowned for using a lot of international filming locations you can see how this would have been an integral part of the pre-production process.
The video is a snapshot of the tools and functions this app brought to the House of The Dragon team. You can see how adjusting the solar position, fog and lens length create shots that are the same as the final output in an episode. Being able to fly through the location with AR directing the camera where you are looking makes it a seamless experience to play, position and plan all you need on set.
Watch this insightful video from the creators of House of The Dragon about their smart LED screen. Just another way in which our work can be utilised.
Drones, Lidar and Photogrammetry
This type of data capturing for 3D models is where our company comes into its own. As you can see in the section above our high resolution 3D model can be used in a variety of ways. The Dragonstone steps and Castle were scanned using our LiDAR, aerial and ground photogrammetry capabilities to provide a base in which the VFX artists can work; crafting the required look that was imagined in concept with our app. It has allowed them to build Dragonstone around the bridge with various assets. Our team was allowed access to St. Michael’s Mount that even the other production teams weren’t, allowing us to capture the data needed to complete the models.
Our combination of LiDAR, aerial and ground photogrammetry was the key for these offshore areas of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and St Michael[‘s Mount. At Visualskies the drones we operate provide a safe, low cost alternative; perfect for these unpredictable environments. Each day the team had to take a boat across to the castle with all the equipment which in itself was a great way to start the day but also a sign of just how tidal the island was. Capturing the entirety of the cliff’s edge by foot would not have been logistically possible due to tide requirements, potential danger of slipping/falling and also the simple sheer size of each area needed. The causeway was a constant race against the tide so that we could get a substantial amount of scans before being cut off. The visuals of the show as a whole meant that these cliffs were an important feature to creating the environment that these castles reside in. I mean one is called Dragonstone after all. The M600 with its multi camera payload meant we could systematically capture the entirety of the islands formation with ease, switching to our long range setup for specific areas of importance; to provide ourselves with the best possible data for processing and final delivery. Of course there is only so much the drone can do and for the areas that require greater detail such as the Dragonstone stairs or castle walls. Combining our close-up ground camera with the aerial photogrammetry meant that even in these large scale models we can provide high resolution detail of each step and crack in the castle wall.
On the left you can see how the model we created of St. Michael’s Mount was used to adjust the environment needed. Adding battlements and re-shaping the landscape to realise the exact vision of Driftmark, home of house Velaryon within the show. Further to capturing the entire environment, we also digitised and captured textures of a multitude of different rock/beach formations in the area. Through this additional data we were able to provide the VFX artists with stand alone assets so they could make a wide array of adjustments that would look completely natural in that environment. It goes to show the amount of thought that has gone into creating a world that the audience can be transported to. As well as the possibilities of our work.
Drones not Dragons
DJI M600 Drone
M600 is our heavy payload drone that we used up to 5 photogrammetry cameras on. Set to pre determined flight paths it provides generous air time to capture all the data needed.
Sony A7R IV
A robust camera by Sony that we can't go with out. One of the highest resolution full frame cameras on the market it boast 60.2mp sensor for extremely fine and clear detail of any subject.
Leicar P50 Lidar Scanner
A long range durable lidar scanner perfect for large areas such as those on house of dragons. It has a fast scan rate of 1 mio points per second at ranges of up to 1 km.
Leica RTC 360
Light, portable and fast lidar scanner. It is extremely fast capturing up 2 million points per second. With the advanced HDR imaging system, coloured 3D point clouds can be created and completed in under two minutes