October 19, 2020

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Game of Thrones got a bit dark... no, actually

Helen Sloan / HBO</p><p>Melisandre (Carice van Houten, left) and Arya (Maisie Williams) in Game of Thrones.</p></p>

Helen Sloan / HBO

Melisandre (Carice van Houten, left) and Arya (Maisie Williams) in Game of Thrones.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/5/2019 (535 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Game of Thrones cinematographer Fabian Wagner says there is a culprit to blame for Sunday’s dimly lit episode and it wasn’t him or director Miguel Sapochnik.

Wagner told TMZ he believes HBO’s compression diminished the viewing experience, especially for viewers who streamed the episode.

He told the outlet, "(Game of Thrones) has always been very dark and a very cinematic show," recommending viewers watch in a very dark place and not on a cellphone. Per TMZ, he also suggested fans tweak their TV settings before rewatching.

Even viewers who don’t mess with their TV settings are likely to see better video quality the second time around, since there’s less demand on your cable or internet service provider, who compressed the living daylights out of the show to make sure everyone who wanted to watch it live could. (That’s the pixelization or blistery effect that was evident Sunday night.)

Wagner said his lighting and camera choices were made in consultation with Sapochnik, who won an Emmy for directing Season 6’s Battle of the Bastards, as well as creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who all wanted the nighttime battle to look realistic, i.e. dark.

"We tried to give the viewers and fans a cool episode to watch," Wagner said before reiterating satisfaction with his work: "I know it wasn’t too dark because I shot it."

Running 82 minutes, The Long Night contained what the Thrones team and HBO billed as the biggest battle ever staged for the screen. But viewers had a hard time seeing the result of all that time (55 days of night shoots) and money. They said the visuals were too dark and blurry, aside from the occasional — and welcome — blaze of fire provided by the dragons or the red witch, Melisandre (Carice van Houten).

However, some viewers defended the realistic lighting choices of Sapochnik.

"Does anyone think naturalistic night cinematography is a good thing?" @DPD_ asked on Twitter. "I love Miguel Sapochnik. I think he’s a really interesting artist."

"Sure we can’t see anything on #GameofThrones without squinting, but the thing is, it’s DARK at night and the ice dragon show is extremely committed to realism," @carolineframke said.

@nezumean was having none of that.

"People are really out here defending the lighting choices in Game of Thrones and I have to squint at that. It’s not ‘authentic.’ It’s a fantasy TV show. ‘But the Night King can obscure their vision it’s simulating that!’ TELEVISION IS A VISUAL MEDIA. I’m weeping."

Still, opticians may want to brace themselves: the eye-exam calls are probably coming.

"Did I fail a vision test or did anyone else not see what the (expletive) was going on for like 90% of the episode?" @BJMendelson asked.

Finally, while Arya may have won the battle by shivving the Night King, the real winners of this episode may have been active-duty military personnel or anyone else with access to night-vision goggles.

"Finally made use of my night vision goggles to watch S08E3," @lararebel said.

"Hoping someone will loan me a pair of night vision goggles so I can watch it again!" @Dr_MDaniel wrote, adding the hashtag "#blindasabat."

— USA Today

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