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HBO's Game Of Thrones Unleashes Bold Visuals With ARRI ALEXA

Following the highly successful début of the new series Game Of Thrones with a viewership of 4.2 million viewers, HBO immediately ordered the second season into production.
The show is based on the bestselling fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, which chronicles the violent power struggle among warring families for control of the kingdom. New York Post's Linda Stasi wrote: "The art direction, acting and incredible sets are as breathtaking as the massive scope of the series."
To enhance the epic scale of the production, ARRI ALEXA digital cameras were chosen to bring cinematic visuals for the television drama.
Alik Sakharov, ASC and Marco Pontecorvo, AIC, shared cinematographic duties on the show, though Matt Jensen took over for Pontecorvo when he left the series to direct a feature. Production took place in Northern Ireland and Malta with camera equipment supplied by ARRI Media in London and lighting from ARRI Lighting Rental. Production recorded to HDCAM SR and the SxS cards concurrently.
As this was the first experience shooting on ALEXA by both cinematographers, the two cameramen did extensive tests to select the camera format. Notes Sahkarov, who won an Emmy for his work on another HBO Series, Rome: "It's remarkable, the latitude of the camera, its look, and also its ability to so closely represent the curve of film; I was just flabbergasted. We tested a film camera and two digital cameras very extensively for a full week and took the tests all the way through postproduction, working with Gary Curran, our colourist at Screen Scene. There was so much information in the ALEXA images that it just won us over."
Pontecorvo, who also shot episodes of Rome, said: "Both Alik and I are more used to shooting on 35 mm and it remains our first love, but ALEXA is very, very close and after we'd seen the test results we didn't have any doubts that it would deliver both in terms of budget and quality."
ALEXA's superior dynamic range and wide latitude were extremely useful considering the high contrast look the filmmakers were going for and the extreme lighting conditions they shot in. Sakharov shot scenes at 1600 ASA and witnessed very little noise. He explained: "One of these scenes was set in a crypt and I barely lit it at all - it was basically all done with candles. The colourist sent me a message and said that I obviously knew what I was doing because the image was perfect, but I had no idea what i was doing, i just relied on the camera! In general, I lit it very much like I would a film set. I wasn't a slave to the technology; the technology was there to help me and the results were the same if not better than film.
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