We’ve experienced some pretty epic moments during Game of Thrones, but it’s hard to think of one that tops the Battle of the Bastards from the latest episode. Even with the show’s history of shocking ninth episodes for each season, they pulled out all the stops and made the fight between the armies of Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton an unforgettable part of Game of Thrones history. A lot of what made the battle so great were the special effects you didn’t even know were happening in all the shots. Variety Artisans sat down with SFX head Steve Kullback to discuss what went into making one of the largest skirmishes ever captured on film.
“For season six, I think episode nine is shocking in its audacity, and shocking even to me that we pulled it off,” Kullback told Variety. “There’s a shot in the Battle of the Bastards that we affectionately called ‘The One-er’ where Jon Snow is left in the middle of this battle looking like a guy who just got dropped in the middle of a highway dodging cars.” In this case though, it wasn’t cars but horses. And many of those horses were digital.
“They actually hit each other and go flying and impale horses, which obviously you can’t do,” he said with a laugh. “So we relied on CG, up close and personal in a way that I, beforehand, didn’t think we could pull off. This stuff is happening right in front of the lens, literally feet from it, and it’s pulled off in such an astounding way.”
As for how they fielded such large armies, Kullback revealed the secret behind that as well: “It’s the same 250 extras in different makeup and costumes playing on the one side one day and on the other side the other.”
That’s a lot of heavy lifting for the special effects team, and they pulled it off brilliantly. It’s a testament to how great the Battle of the Bastards was that few people are talking about the other huge battle in the episode between Meereen and the Masters, which was just as technically impressive in its effects. There’s a lot about that in the Variety Artisans video, but we’ll let you watch that for the details.