‘Game of Thrones’ Special Effects Creators: Villain’s Gory Death Was Scaled Back

Ramsay Game of Thrones
Courtesy of HBO

Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers from Season 6 of “Game of Thrones.” Proceed at your own risk. But honestly, if you haven’t watched it yet, what are you waiting for?

Ramsay Bolton’s death at the hands (or should we say paws and jaws) of his own dogs was one of the most satisfying moments of the most recent “Game of Thrones” season.

As graphic as Bolton’s demise was, Image Engine — the company that created many of the memorable scenes for Season 6 — intended it to be even more gory.

“They shot the scene with multiple takes,” explained Image Engine visual effects supervisor Mat Krentz. “They did a pass of the dog on green screen, then Ramsay on green screen, and then we also had a background plate, which we put together.” Artists also created a CG jaw for Bolton, and animated it to reveal the flesh ripping between Ramsay’s skin and gums. The effect was too gruesome even by “Thrones” standards, so they pulled it back a bit, using a 2D composite instead.

Image Engine’s creative team was also behind the season’s 72 on-screen deaths — spread over 10 episodes. This is how the death count broke down: 22 by sword, 14 by slit throat, 1 by pike, and 1 by dogs (Bolton’s aforementioned death following his loss at the Battle of the Bastards).

A lot of work goes into each death to make it memorable. “Some shots were really specific, like someone getting their head smashed directly against a wall,” explained composition lead Edwin Holdsworth. “To get the look right for that we filmed real meat being smashed. We used the same technique for shots where one character has their hand pulled apart. The best way to match the level of gore needed was to pull some meat apart, and use that in the comp. It all felt more realistic that way!”

Yep, those smashed brains are meat you’d find in your local grocery store.

The most realistic results come from the combination of practical effects and computer-generated ones. For example, Jon Snow’s wounds were applied with makeup and digitally enhanced. His uncle Benjen Stark’s frostbitten, afflicted face was also accomplished that way.

Image Engine doesn’t just do the blood and gore, the company was also responsible for many of the beautiful environs, including The Citadel, its giant astrolabe, and even the icy Wall where the Night’s Watch is stationed.

See all the death and environments that Image Engine created for Season 6 below:

Game of Thrones Season 6 – Breakdown Reel from Image Engine on Vimeo.

“Game of Thrones” Season 7 will debut in mid 2017 on HBO.