The Third Floor wins big with Game of Thrones
September 14, 2016

The Third Floor wins big with Game of Thrones

LOS ANGELES — As HBO’s big winner Game of Thrones stacked up an impressive 16 trophies (including Outstanding Special Visual Effects for its “Battle of the Bastards” episode, considered as one of the series’ best to date) at this year’s 2016 Creative Arts Emmy Awards in LA this past weekend at the Microsoft Theater, some of the industry’s leading VFX houses also came out on top, including artists from international visualization studio The Third Floor, Inc. (

The team was recognized for its previs contributions on the GOT crew with 2016 Creative Arts EmmyAwards for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The studio’s visual effects plate supervisor Eric Carney (photo right) and previs supervisor Michelle Blok (London — photo left) were awarded Emmy statuettes for contributions in helping lead creative and technical previs and planning work for Season 6, Episode 9,“The Battle of the Bastards.” 

Through previs, the show’s many visual effects and establishing shots can be visualized in advance and mapped out as detailed shooting schematics. In addition to creating previs and “techvis” for the series since Season 4, The Third Floor’s team supports on-set filming using a variety of visualization and virtual production techniques. 

The Third Floor won Creative Arts EmmyAwards in 2015 and 2014 for contributions to the visual effects of GOT in previous seasons, with Eric Carney as the first previs- titled contributor in Emmy history to be nominated (and win). This year’s recognition for Michelle Blok marks the first Emmy Award for a female previs supervisor. 

“Season 6 is special because of its sheer ambitiousness,” Blok says. “From huge action-packed battles in the North to the fiery retaliation of Daenerys and her dragons, it was amazing to work with an incredibly supportive and collaborative team — from the directors and DOPs to Joe Bauer, Steve Kullback and the entire visual effects crew. This includes all the extremely dedicated and talented previs artists from The Third Floor, whose skill and creativity helped realize some of the most memorable moments. To be given the opportunity to contribute to such an outstanding show that continually pushes the boundaries is the real accolade.” 

“It’s an absolute honor to work on the show, to interface each day with one amazing department after another and be entrusted with helping map out creative ideas and shooting approaches for some of the most ambitious scenes in series television,” adds Carney.


The Slaver’s Bay Attack involved all three dragons, the fictional city of Meereen and locations from Spain to Belfast. The Third Floor modeled the environment in previs, ensuring the 

geographic locations could be tied together with the CG world and that the animated CG dragons would be able to swoop and land, interacting in real-life locations. Shots of Dany riding Drogon were done in a separate greenscreen shoot. The Third Floor, with virtual production work led by Casey Schatz, was responsible for driving the motion base and the live- action motion control camera crane, programming moves for both so that the actor would fit seamlessly into the final shots with realistic, dynamic action. The team also programmed a motion control crane to do fire elements for the dragons burning the ships. 

Shots of the dragons attacking the ships were previsualized with Joe Bauer and techvis helped determine requirements for the camera cranes and greenscreens used on the Banbridge exterior set. Wide shots of Meereen were visualized by incorporating location elements such as the castle walls from the Muralla at San Cristobal in Spain. These architectural elements were shot using drones, using techvis data for flight paths and speeds as well as lens information. 

The Third Floor collaborated with virtually every department to support the production 

shoot for the Battle of the Bastards sequences set near Winterfell. Working from storyboards 

and with director Miguel Sapochnik, artists visualized layouts for the battlefield, including huge 

armies that were created using groups of low-res cached previs models with varied animation 

cycles for archers, cavalry and soldiers. 

The sequence was then broken down into action beats, using specific battle formations
and various camera shots (wide shots, crane shots, vehicle-mounted shots) to establish the geography for viewers and ensure hero characters remained visible in the crowd. Previs artists also worked with the art department on layouts that guided placement of props and piles of bodies at the physical shooting set. 

The “one’r shot,” which stays on Jon Snow in thick of the fighting through a series of obstacles and close calls, required particularly close-crafted choreography. Via techvis from The Third Floor, each pass required for the multi-layered final composite was mapped out with color- coded diagrams and Quicktimes to show what would need to be shot using practical cameras, stunt elements and CG effects. 

All shots including the character of Wun Wun, played by a real actor, required a secondary plate shoot and all of the main plate shoots needed to account for the giant’s virtual position for natural interaction and eyelines. Techvis calculated the height and position of the absent character and was used in designing shots and seamlessly believable coverage using both full- scale and miniature-scale Winterfell sets.