The Battle Of Winterfell Wasn’t Too Dark At All, Insists Guy Responsible For Lighting It
Apparently we were just watching it wrong.
The latest episode of Game of Thrones season 8, called ‘The Long Night’ was an absolutely epic and immense battle between the living and the dead, that left audiences shook — if they could actually see it, that is.
Pretty much the prevailing criticism of the episode is that it was around 80 minutes of pure darkness, punctuated every so often by a flaming sword.
It was dark! And famously, darkness conceals things, making a lot of scenes quite hard to understand. Was that bearded man being beheaded just a random wight, or one of my favourite characters? No idea.
how do u switch this show from night mode
— Desus Nice (@desusnice) April 29, 2019
In an interview with TMZ, cinematographer Fabian Wagner explains that he’s aware that people are upset, but also has an excuse. Wagner also worked on such famed episodes as ‘Hardhome’ and ‘Battle of the Bastards’, so he has some good Game of Thrones pedigree.
First, Wagner believes that any pixelation and muddy dark colours on TV were due to HBO’s compression of the episode.
He also puts the blame on streaming services with a weak connection, or rooms that are too bright (which basically describes the entirety of Australia).
He goes on to say: “[Game of Thrones] has always been very dark and a very cinematic show and should be watched in a dark environment. Ideally, this means viewing it like you would a movie — in a dark theatre.”
Some helpful tips include “adjusting your TV settings”, not watching on an iPad or phone, and not watching anywhere lit up.
Talking to Vanity Fair‘s ‘Still Watching’ podcast, Wagner said that the show tends to rely on sunlight, moonlight, candlelight, and fire light for lighting.
Fabian says, “We tried to give the viewers and fans a cool episode to watch,” and he believes they did, adding … “I know it wasn’t too dark because I shot it.”
However, the fans who spent ages squinting at an ambiguous black screen tend to disagree.
I’m sure it looked awesome in a cutting edge editing bay with the full, raw HDR digital workflow or whatever. But when their output was compressed to shit for networks and streaming, the result most viewers got was a dark, imperceptible mess. #GameofThrones
— John André (@WeGameEpicly) April 30, 2019
It’s a compression thing. That’s ALWAYS going to be tough, but it’s certainly not an actual fault in the cinematography itself, as you know.
It’s just laughable that people think they know more about lighting and cinematography than Fabian Wagner 🤦🏽♂️
— Kori Reay-Mackey (@KRMFILM) April 29, 2019
I can assure Fabian Wagner that had he been at my house he would have been horrified by how badly the picture looked.
65" properly calibrated TV, in a dark room – and the blacks and all shadow detail was just crushed. The problem was NOT the viewers. pic.twitter.com/5tuN3HDmvp
— …and all through the row houses (@Mateo_in_ATX) April 30, 2019
That said, some of the shots in this episode were made breathtakingly beautiful precisely because of the contrast of fire against darkness. That early scene with the Dothraki horde was at first beautiful heroic, and then bone-chillingly scary.
Or the reflection of flame in Melisandre’s eyes? Amazing.
And pretty much every instance of dragonfire.
Personally, as frustrating as some of the darkness was — particularly the long scenes inside Winterfell’s walls in the middle, the show made up for it in other ways.
“With a lot of hype comes a lot of criticism. People love to find something to talk about, and so that’s totally fine.” – Fabian Wagner#GameOfThrones #GoT #Cinematography #TheLongNight pic.twitter.com/zMbU7UvlJZ
— Matt Neglia @Tribeca (@NextBestPicture) April 30, 2019