Game Of Thrones runs with ChamSys
Thursday, 13 June 2019
gameofthronesphotocredit-helensloanKeith Shanks programmed the lighting throughout the entire eight-season run (photo: Helen Sloan)
UK - Long since it had stopped building ships, The Harland and Wolf Shipyard in Belfast - where Titanic was built - was again thrust into the limelight as the main studio for the HBO series Game of Thrones.
A visit to the shipyard-turned-studio with a gaffer friend in early 2011 plunged Keith ‘Shanksy’ Shanks into the fantastical world of Westeros and Essos as the lighting programmer for Game of Thrones throughout its entire eight-season run. With him all the way, on every one of the 73 episodes (plus the pilot), has been a series of ChamSys consoles.
“I met the producers through my gaffer friend and was given the opportunity to work on the pilot,” said Shanks, owner of Key Console Systems in Belfast. “We never looked back, as I’ve been programming the show ever since that day, right up to the final episode.”
Shanks had never used a ChamSys desk before working on the Game of Thrones pilot. “I was primarily a rock touring LD up until then,” he recalled. “However, I felt the console I was using would not be up to the task of this project.”
After carefully evaluating his options, Shanks selected a MagicQ MQ200 with a Playback Wing for the pilot show. He soon added a second MQ200 to his setup, followed by an MQ500 Stadium. By the series reached its eighth season, he had four MagicQ MQ500 Stadiums and two MQ200s with Playback Wings at his disposal.
The increasing number of consoles reflected the growing complexity of the set lighting, which went from 14 universes to 19, as it moved from extremely high levels of illumination to more subtle and natural ones. More consoles were also needed to accommodate the variety of different sets used in the series.
During the last season, Shanks positioned the consoles at different locations throughout the Harland and Wolf facility (now the largest film studio in Europe). “We had six consoles here, one of which was in a van for when we shot at remote locations,” he says. “Our production schedule was so sharp that we had to have everything ready to go at every set, as well as the van, at a moment’s notice. Every console has a full system built into it, so we could move from one to the other with no hiccups.
“Speed was of the essence in this project,” continues Shanks. “There were a great many plans for Game of Thrones, and we had to move very quickly from one to the other. The multi-screen feature of the console was invaluable. Having everything at eye level let me get to anything I wanted very quickly. I’ve seen a lot of consoles that have way too many buttons to push to do the same thing that you can do far more quickly with ChamSys.”
On the subject of time, Shanks was amazed at how quickly it flew in his eight seasons with Game of Thrones. “It was a great experience,” he says. “I enjoyed the series, but it was the camaraderie of the crew that I will miss most. There was a sense of family as we all pulled together working on a project that we knew would be remembered for a very long time to come.”
(Jim Evans)

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