Prestige TV today is all about staying on the cutting edge of technology. In 2019, The Mandalorian changed the game with a couple of new toys — a 360-degree LED screen powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine — to make up most of its backgrounds. This tool, known as The Volume, became the It thing for pretty much every new fantasy and sci-fi production, including House of the Dragon.
Star Wars shows started using The Volume in everything — The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi both heavily relied on it. Marvel movies like Thor: Love and Thunder also employed The Volume. But it’s not all been roses: The Volume has also encountered some serious backlash, and House of the Dragon may be its death knell.
On October 19, days before the Game of Thrones prequel’s Season 1 finale, The Hollywood Reporter ran an explosive feature on The Volume, including quotes from the creatives in charge of its use in various projects. Clare Kilner, director of House of the Dragon, is quoted in the story speaking about the advantages and disadvantages of using The Volume in the HBO series.
“It was a big learning curve, and I think it worked really well for some moments and less well for others,” she says in the Hollywood Reporter story. “It’s especially good for never-ending sunrises and sunsets, for example.”
The “never-ending sunset” Kilner references in the report can be seen in the Episode 2 standoff between Daemon Targaryen and his niece/future wife Rhaenyra. After the episode aired, HBO ran an entire featurette revealing how the scene wouldn’t be possible with traditional filming techniques.
But while House of the Dragon made serious use of The Volume in pivotal scenes, Star Wars’ Andor forgoed it altogether. Without using The Volume, the other shows that championed the technique seemed incredibly flat in comparison. It seems the cons may have outweighed the pros.
The Hollywood Reporter states in the report that “the virtual production stage at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden in London, which opened in 2021 and was used for Dragon, is already shutting down.”
In other words, this could be the end of The Volume in House of the Dragon. A Warner Bros. rep says in the report that visual production technology will still be available as needed, but it’s not a great sign for The Volume’s future use in building the Game of Thrones universe.
The Volume is ultimately a tool in a kit. Just as you wouldn’t use a square hammer for a round nail, there’s no reason for any production to rely on The Volume alone. If House of the Dragon chooses to forgo The Volume next season to create its world, it could lead to an even better world-building innovation.
House of the Dragon is now streaming on HBO Max.