It looks like the days where Dany’s dragons spend 90% of their time hidden away in boxes or off screen are over. The fifth season of Game of Thrones intends to put the growing monsters front and center, with visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer using some unique methods to realistically simulate Drogon, the largest of Daenerys Targaryen’s three dragons. Specifically, the world’s first and only fire-breathing crane.
The team began with a Technodolly–a motion-controlled crane with a 15-foot-high arm that moves in different directions while its base rolls along a track. The telescopic arm usually holds a camera, but instead the crew mounted a flamethrower that could shoot as far as 50 feet. “Standing 50 feet away from the dragon fire, you could get a nice tan,” executive producer D.B. Weiss says.
The crane was then programmed with Drogon’s movements, repeating the same sequence over and over again. This made it safer for the stunt team and more efficient for production, as both always knew exactly where the “dragon” and his fire would be.
It’s hard to know whether people would prefer interacting with a couple of green tennis balls or a giant flame-spewing crane. On the plus side, it’s great to have something physical to react to. But potentially getting set on fire for real doesn’t sound like fun. At the very least, the fear in the eyes of characters whenever Drogon shows up is going to look pretty convincing.