“You’re Watching It Wrong” Game of Thrones Cinematographer on Why the Long Night Episode Was Too Dark

Game of Thrones
Courtesy HBO
Game of Thrones
Courtesy HBO

If you’ve watched Game of Thrones’ latest episode, you may be among the many viewers that couldn’t see what was going on.

The Long Night episode, the third instalment in the series final season was figuratively and literally dark.

The episode drew 12.02 million total viewers in just linear viewership this past Sunday and came close to the all-time high of 12.07 million viewers for the season 7 finale episode. But across all platforms, the Long Night episode amassed 17.8 million viewers.

The episode was an epic one as many of its fans have been waiting for this battle at Winterfell where the living faced off against the dead. Episode 3 received a lot of praise and criticism as well for the low lighting and got the meme treatment too.

Some users had to freeze-frame certain shots to see if a particular character they loved or hated lived or died or which dragon bit which just to avoid the confusion. It’ll be too murky to track who died.

So far season 8 has had 3523 on-screen deaths bringing total death to 5862 implying that the Battle if Winterfell showed more death than the whole rest of the series together.

The battle took place at night and the darkness was a creative decision by the showrunners but it was hard to follow up on what was going on especially with high stake fights happening in each corner of Winterfell. Not only did fans complain about this episode but as the first one saw similar complaints from frustrated viewers who for it were not for the subtitles saying Footsteps, would have thought that their TVs or whatever device they were streaming on turned themselves off.

In an interview with the Wired UK, Fabian Wagner, the director of photography for Game of Thrones said that if you were squinting while watching the climactic scenes then it’s your TV settings problems and not them. He adds that watching it on other devices didn’t do the episode justice. Fabian continues saying that even the room that you watched the show on could impact the visuals.

“Game of Thrones is a cinematic show and therefore you have to watch it like you’re in a cinema – in a darkened room”

Fabian notes that the darkness was to match the characters sense of confusion and that everything they wanted people to see was there. “It’s more about the emotional impact rather than the need to always see what’s going on,” he adds.

The director didn’t deny that the cinematography for Sunday’s episode was on the darker side of the colour spectrum but his decision to not overuse lighting on the battlefield was intentional.

The darkness is a metaphor for darkness – Bojack Horseman producer

Fabian Wagner has shot several episodes for the fantasy show – six to be exact including Hardhome and Battle of Installments.

Speaking to TMZ, the cinematographer concludes that the episode wasn’t too dark and he knows that because he shot it and believes that his experience behind the camera to be the final word.

It’s unfair for showrunners doing the mixing on these episodes without taking into account where it’s viewers will finally went to or stream it. Unfortunately, very few homes TVs are calibrated for cinematic and dark scenes as most of them set them up with the default settings which are designed for showrooms.

To be fair, there were some scenes that were good on their own taking advantage of the darkness such as the dothraki charge and some that even calibrating your screen wouldn’t solve such as the dragon fights.

Courtesy HBO

Generally, the showrunners could have opted for other methods to get the idea of the night across than sacrificing visual legibility. These deliberate decisions done by filmmaker Miguel Sapochnik(he directed Hardhome and Battle of Bastards episodes too) backfired so hard such as the dim lighting, silhouette shots that concealed people’s faces among others.

If you’re planning to rewatch the episode or the coming episodes, here’s how to address this problem, according to the Verge.

  • Find the best-quality stream such as from Amazon Prime Video which has 10Mbps output as opposed to HBO’s 5MBps
  • Drop the brightness down on your TVs so the dark look blacker and less grey but be ready to lose details.
  • Adjust the backlight of your LCD TV to a higher level
  • Switch off the lights in the room
  • Get an OLED tv for those perfect blacks
  • If you’re patient enough, buy the Blu-ray which comes uncompressed

Things are about to get better with the next episode as revealed by the trailer with most scenes happening during the day.

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George Kamau
I brunch on consumer tech | first.last at techweez dot com


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