'Game of Thrones' shoots with Alexa
June 14, 2011

'Game of Thrones' shoots with Alexa

LONDON — Arri Media in London and Arri Lighting Rental (www.arri.com) provided equipment for the production of HBO’s popular series, Game of Thrones. The show is based on the bestselling fantasy book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin, and chronicles the power struggle among warring families for control of a kingdom. 

Arri’s Alexa digital cameras are being used on the program, which has been picked up for a second season. Alik Sakharov, ASC and Marco Pontecorvo, AIC, shared cinematographic duties on the show, though Matt Jensen took over for Pontecorvo when he left to direct a feature. 

Production took place in Northern Ireland and Malta, with footage being recorded to HDCAM SR and SxS cards concurrently. It was the first experience the cinematographers has with the Alexa, so they performed extensive tests to select the camera format. 

“It's remarkable, the latitude of the camera, its look, and also its ability to so closely represent the curve of film; I was just flabbergasted,” recalls Sahkarov, who won an Emmy for his work on the HBO series Rome. “We tested a film camera and two digital cameras very extensively for a full week and took the tests all the way through post production, working with Gary Curran, our colorist at Screen Scene. There was so much information in the Alexa images that it just won us over.”

“Both Alik and I are more used to shooting on 35mm and it remains our first love, but Alexa is very, very close and after we'd seen the test results we didn't have any doubts that it would deliver both in terms of budget and quality,” adds Pontecorvo. 

Alexa’s wide latitude and dynamic range were useful in achieving the high contrast look the filmmakers were going for and dealing with the extreme lighting conditions they shot in. Sakharov shot scenes at 1600 ASA and says he witnessed very little noise. 

“One of these scenes was set in a crypt and I barely lit it at all — it was basically all done with candles. The colorist sent me a message

and said that I obviously knew what I was doing because the image was perfect, but I had no idea what I was doing, I just relied on the camera! In general I lit it very much like I would a film set.”