- Warning: Spoilers ahead for HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
- “Game of Thrones” is a dark show. Literally. Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s going on.
- Robert McLachlan, a cinematographer who worked on eight “Game of Thrones” episodes, told INSIDER this is because of a desire to keep the series as “naturalistic” as possible.
- Since winter is here at last, the directors of photography on set are using only candles to light interior scenes sometimes.
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
If you’ve watched an episode of “Game of Thrones” in the past several years, odds are you’ve noticed how dark the HBO show can be at times.
And no, we’re not talking about thematic darkness of murder and torture and the pending apocalypse of a never-ending night. We mean literally dark. In some scenes, like the teaser for the coming third episode of season eight, fans can barely see what’s going on sometimes.
Though this darker palette is a trend in television outside of “Game of Thrones,” one of the HBO’s hired directors of photography says the lack of extra lighting is intentional.
“I think we’re all very much on the same page where we’re trying to be as naturalistic as possible,” Robert McLachlan, a cinematographer, told INSIDER in 2017.
‘Game of Thrones’ has gotten darker partially because of the change in seasons on the show
On earlier seasons of “Game of Thrones,” not only was it still late summer and early fall, but the cinematographers were using extra lighting on the set.
“If you watch season one again, there’s a lot of unmotivated backlight,” McLachlan said. “Even day exteriors, you can tell that they have been lit. The cinematographers who’ve been doing it since then, I think we’re all very much on the same page where we’re trying to be as naturalistic as possible.”
They wanted “to make these sets and locations feel as if they’re absolutely not lit by us, but only by Mother Nature or some candles,” he continued, “so that it feels more naturalistic, albeit enhanced in some cases.”
McLachlan was the lead cinematographer for eight “Game of Thrones” episodes, including season three’s memorable “Rains of Castamere,” season five’s “Mother’s Mercy,” and season seven’s “The Spoils of War.”
“In season seven, of course, winter is here,” McLachlan said. “In the past, we had the shutters open out of necessity for the day interior [scenes] in Winterfell or Castle Black or Eastwatch, so that some daylight could make its way in. That was your primary lighting source. There was this rule there that nobody in this world would burn candles in the daytime because they’re a luxury item, they’re far too expensive.”
“What’s happened is now, with winter really here, there was a consensus that it would seem daft for them to have the shutters open when it’s so bitterly cold out,” McLachlan said. “Why would they do that? But on the other hand, it really makes it a lot harder for a cinematographer to justify some naturalistic light in there without so overdoing the candles or the fire or what have you.”
And so as winter became progressively gloomier in the North, the show’s indoor scenes got increasingly dark.
The photos fans see accompanying articles or videos about “Game of Thrones” often come from the show’s set photographer, Helen Sloan, who’s able to capture scenes with a bit more brightness in her camera than we see on the screen. It’s likely that photos you see that weren’t distributed by HBO were brightened using a tool like Photoshop or Preview.
So there you have it. Next time someone tells you that “Game of Thrones” is intensely dark, you can credit the commitment of the show’s teams to making its fantasy drama as realistic as possible. In the meantime, we recommend adjusting your TV or computer settings for maximum brightness.
- Read more:
- Every new change in the ‘Game of Thrones’ opening credits you might have missed
- 15 details you might have missed on the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’
- Next week’s ‘Game of Thrones’ episode will be nearly 90 minutes of epic battle
- 5 reasons why Bran cannot possibly be the Night King on ‘Game of Thrones’
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