What makes House of the Dragon so different from Game of Thrones? The biggest clue is right there in the name: Dragons. While Danaerys Targaryen’s three dragons were epic, House of the Dragon apparently has 17 dragons, all with distinct designs. More dragons, however, means more dragon riding scenes. More dragon riding scenes means a complex combination of special effects and rigs to capture the actors “flying” on saddles.
Based on past episodes, it seemed like House of the Dragon was equipped for this. But Episode 6 proved otherwise.
Episode 6 introduced the marriage of Daemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon with a scene of them flying their respective dragons over Pentos. However, something seemed... off. It was hard to suspend your disbelief and buy into a sense that Laena (Nanna Blondell) was on a dragon and not strapped into some mechanical rig in front of a greenscreen.
A feature in The Hollywood Reporter stated that House of the Dragon would use the Stagecraft technology, better known as The Volume, for its dragon riding scenes. This technology, often used in Star Wars and Marvel properties, is great when you need to replicate a specific setting or light, but fans often criticize it for looking flat and lifeless.
House of the Dragon seemed to be a compelling counterargument in favor of its use. The Volume was used in Episode 2 to show the standoff at Dragonstone, allowing the crew to “freeze a sunset” and capture the vast landscapes at an eternal golden hour.
But if that scene looked so good, why did this one dragon riding scene look so artificial? The behind-the-scenes feature following Episode 6 showed the filming of the scene, including a glimpse of Nanna Blondell on the quasi-mechanical bull rig in front of a bluescreen, which was the exact setup used in Game of Thrones.
It’s unclear why this older technique was used. Maybe the dynamics of including two dragons was too complex for the Stagecraft set, or maybe it was purely a logistical or timing issue. The Volume will still be used in the show’s future — Emma D’Arcy (who plays Rhaenyra going forward) told The Hollywood Reporter about working with the technology.
“From everything I’ve heard, it’s radically different from what people on Thrones had to put up with,” they said. “I loved it. It’s like going to an Ikea and trying all the kitchen taps.”
The Volume technology has faced reasonable criticism for its overuse. However, this Episode 6 scene shows that when the Volume is used well, the effect is not only seamless, but it’s missed when it’s gone. The Volume is ultimately just another tool in the toolbox. It’s up to filmmakers to use it well.
House of the Dragon is now streaming on HBO Max.