Since HBO’s Game of Thrones is also taking this Memorial Day weekend off, let’s take a look back at this oldie-but-goodie interview from Art of the Title of Elastic, the company that crafted the now iconic title sequence for the epic fantasy show.
Elastic was given a tall order: Give viewers completely unfamiliar with the series or epic fantasy in general an unforgettable sense of where everyone is in this new world. Obviously, they succeeded, but there were some fascinating steps they took along the way. Below, the highlights from their process.
You can read the full interview, and peek at piles of gorgeous hi-resolution concept art at the above link. Some of the more interesting tidbits from it:
1.) You’re not supposed to wonder what’s beyond the edges of the map.
As fans of epic fantasy, the concept of containing one’s interest in a world to known maps is complete anathema. We always want to know what’s lurking in the cloudy edges just beyond our knowledge. But we are already familiar with the series and HBO was aiming at an audience that would include those familiar and brand new to the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. For the sake of clarity, that meant focusing attention as much as possible on the continent of Westeros. This is the prize, the title sequence is meant to convey, and even the characters elsewhere in this fantasy world covet it.
This approach ended up changing the shape of the globe itself!
2.) The Dyson sphere shape was instituted to make your perspective on the world more personal.
Elastic’s Creative Director Angus Wall details the thought process that led the Game of Thrones title sequence from being a flat map to a Dyson sphere:
The fact that I wanted to be able to move the camera anywhere led us to the fact that this whole world had to exist on the inside of a sphere, which took us a while to figure out.
I had initially thought, okay, the shape of this thing… imagine it’s in a medieval tower and monks are watching over it and it’s a living map and it’s shaped like a bowl that’s 30 feet in diameter and these guys watch over it, kind of like they would the Book of Kells or something… they’re the caretakers of this map.
Sketching out stories, indeed entire sagas, on the interiors of domes is nothing new, as the above image of the Duomo in Florence, Italy can attest. (Fun fact! There’s a huge creepy depiction of the Devil in it that you can only see from the apse. So only those who were closest to God could detect the devil. Wait. Not so fun fact….)
The Elastic team took that idea of the map being viewed by monks quite literally:
Next question was “how is it lit?” And obviously, If you have a whole world inside a sphere, what would be in the middle of that sphere? The sun! Or whatever the light source of this world is.
3.) The title sequence is only made from materials that the Westerosi would have access to.
Although the entire sequence would be rendered with computers, it felt important to Elastic that the title sequence feel as real and rough as the world that the series is set within. All the materials in the clockwork landscape are supposed to look as if they’re made from wood, metal, leather, and the available fabrics of the time.
These three decisions were the main guidelines behind how the world of the Game of Thrones title sequence was shaped. Check out the full interview for images, more about the story that appears on the astrolabe sun, how HBO and the author reacted to the sequence, and much more!
Chris Lough is the production manager of Tor.com and would buy a Game of Thrones astrolabe lamp, HBO Store. Yes he would.