This week's episode of Game of Thrones depicted one of the most anticipated events of the entire series, featuring the Night King and his army of White Walkers descending upon Winterfell, only to be confronted by Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, and the huge army they had amassed. The event became one of the most tweeted about episodes of scripted television in history, though not all of those comments were positive, as many viewers noted that the low light levels of the episode made it difficult to discern certain sequences. Cinematographer Fabien Wagner, however, notes that the issue is from viewers having improperly calibrated devices.
“A lot of the problem is that a lot of people don’t know how to tune their TVs properly,” Wagner shared with Wired. “A lot of people also unfortunately watch it on small iPads, which in no way can do justice to a show like that anyway.”
In Season Two of the series, fans witnessed the massive Battle of Blackwater, which took the scope of the TV series to an all-new level. In subsequent years, audiences have seen all manner of combat in a variety of terrains and conditions, with the Battle of Winterfell marking an opportunity for the showrunners to deliver viewers something unexpected.
“The showrunners decided that this had to be a dark episode,” Wagner admitted. “We’d seen so many battle scenes over the years – to make it truly impactful and to care for the characters, you have to find a unique way of portraying the story.”
One of the biggest concerns for viewers is that, as the carnage of the combat was unfolding, they were worried that an important character moment could be missed. In retrospect, the important character moments were highlighted as necessary, with the darkness being an opportunity to heighten the chaotic feel of the story.
“Another look would have been wrong,” Wagner noted. “Everything we wanted people to see is there.”
He added, “Personally I don’t have to always see what’s going on because it’s more about the emotional impact.”
The production value of Game of Thrones is unrivaled on the small screen, leading many audiences to view each episode as an actual film as opposed to one chapter in a longer journey. Wagner noted that the intent of the production is to create an experience similar to what you'd enjoy at a theater, which requires the episodes be consumed in similar conditions.
“Game of Thrones is a cinematic show and therefore you have to watch it like you’re at a cinema: in a darkened room,” the cinematographer revealed. “If you watch a night scene in a brightly-lit room then that won’t help you see the image properly.”
New episodes of Game of Thrones air Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
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