HBO recently tapped creative strategy and production company BigStar to create the promotional teaser for the third season of Game of Thrones. The promo creatively captures the theme “Their World Returns to Ours,” with the show’s iconic raven of Westeros ominously soaring through contemporary real-world environments. The new season premieres March 31.
Having worked with HBO for several years doing a majority of the promo work for Game of Thrones, BigStar creative director Josh Norton said the latest promo introduces an exciting new approach to intriguing fans about the upcoming season. “Our previous promo work for the series was typically highly stylized with epic production value,” he said. “This go-around, HBO wanted to radically shift the direction to something more candid in nature and into the realm of cinéma vérité. Drawing from a successful tease we did a couple of years ago, they wanted to revisit the raven as an icon for the show and use it in a more modern context.”
BigStar began the project by defining the specific environments through which the bird would fly. Without being able to travel to HBO’s desired shoot locations, they recreated them using stock footage, still photography, 3D and compositing in After Effects and Cinema4D.
“Reshooting the environments in CG ended up being a much more economical way to capture the scenes,” Norton recalled. “We created rudimentary models to project the photography. This gave us the ability to move the camera 20 to 30 degrees, which made a world of difference. It’s all new photography and real places, which helped drive the concept of the raven visiting our present-day world.”
BigStar shot the slow-motion footage of the raven on greenscreen stage using a Phantom camera, then composited the bird into its various environments.
“HBO’s idea was to juxtapose this ancient character into the modern world in a way that felt organic and not forced,” explained Norton. “Representing the entire globe through our series of environments, we chose different types of architecture, from classic structures such as cathedrals and statuaries, to modern skyscrapers. Here, the challenge was compositing the raven with the right orientation to make it look realistic and feel seamless transitioning between scenes.”
BigStar paid close attention to visual cues such as weather (warm and cold mornings) and time of day, evoking dusk and dawn to set the tone for each scene.
“Time of day is ultimately what holds these shots together, more so than anything else,” Norton explained. “One shot, for example, was inspired by the Manhattan sunset, that magical hour on the Westside when thousands of windows capture the sunlight.”
The visual narrative also called for the company to convey a sense of population without actually showing people.
“Keeping the viewer focused on the raven while conveying an eerie sense of stillness in places you’d normally see life teeming was crucial,” explained Norton.
The promo’s music ultimately ties it all together. With a library of music that HBO provided from previous seasons, BigStar sought a track that would inform the emotion and concept behind the promo.
“The track we chose, ‘Rains over Castamere,’ has a beautiful melody and poetic prose,” remarked Norton. “The minute we put it to picture, we knew it was the right choice. It really helps drive the narrative and, above all, defines the whole piece as distinctively Game of Thrones.”
“The collaborative process with HBO was quite unique and inspiring,” said Katie Tricot, executive producer, BigStar. “With a great story and a solid concept, we embraced the opportunity to visually execute it all.”