Tobias Mannewitz took to crossing the street in his lunch break - whenever he had time for one - and entering a veritable village of craftsmen forging swords, testing catapults, painting murals and preparing four huge sets for filming.
"Essentially, all of Northern Ireland is the set for Game of Thrones," reveals the visual effects concept artist in the latest issue of digital art magazine Imagine FX. "But at the heart of it is the former wharf building Paint Hall," located on Belfast's reclaimed Queen's Island.
"Being able to walk into these sets gives you such a great feeling of being involved in the process, and our work on the CG pieces greatly benefited from that."
While the series locations include Malta and Iceland, it was his Belfast-inspired second season work that won Tobias an Emmy for special visual effects in 2012. Yet he nearly didn't work on it at all.
Restless after years of generating concept art for games, Tobias was looking for a new challenge. In 2011 his Berlin-based studio Karakter was told about a potential job for a new fantasy TV series, and it was, understandably, intrigued. In fact, hiring artists for the new HBO series A Game of Thrones wasn’t going great.
"The team had a very difficult time recruiting VFX concept artists for the show, because no one knew whether it was any good, or whether it'd be worth spending a full summer in rainy Belfast," admits Tobias. Then, inspired by a poster of a troubled Eddard Stark sat on the Iron Throne, Karakter threw its hat into the ring, and got the job...
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