Cinematographer Fabian Wagner clarifies his remarks about filming Game of Thrones' Battle of Winterfell episode. Last April, HBO aired the highly anticipated episode “The Long Night,” and viewers subsequently complained about the visuals being too dark. Wagner then defended his work, and offered various explanations, some of which were poorly received on social media.
Wagner has filmed numerous television series over the past decade. During Game of Thrones’ HBO run, he served as director of photography for eight episodes, including “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter.” Prior to Game of Thrones’ eighth and final season, which concluded in May, it was reported that the Battle of Winterfell would feature the longest battle sequence ever depicted on film or television. When “The Long Night” finally aired, the lighting became a hot topic of debate. And so what was supposed to be one of the most epic Game of Thrones episodes quickly became one of its most criticized. During the rest of Game of Thrones season 8, viewers identified blatant production mistakes.
Wagner discussed “The Long Night” controversy during an interview with ComicBook Debate. According to the Game of Thrones cinematographer, he understands why his initial comments may have been perceived as too brash, but also stands by his remarks. As for the Battle of Winterfell’s lighting, Wagner suggests that his initial comments were taken out of context, and maintains that “we didn’t shoot it too dark.” He speaks about his creative intentions, and that subsequent re-watches on numerous devices revealed what he “needed to see.”
In addition, Wagner firmly believes that viewers need to watch “The Long Night” in the “right environment.” From his point of view, the episode was filmed at night, and so it should be watched in the dark. Wagner also believes that streaming compression issues could be a "big problem" for viewers, and also that some people, but not all, simply don’t understand how to tune their television settings. As a whole, Wagner stands by his original comments, and addresses fan backlash: “Some of it was pretty nasty… pretty eye-opening, really.”
Wagner is no stranger to fan frustration, as he previously collaborated with Zack Snyder for the 2017 DCEU film Justice League, a box office disappointment that was famously taken over by Joss Whedon, thus inspiring “Snyder Cut” debates. Wagner also shot the 2018 film Overlord, and will serve as director of photography for the upcoming serial killer-themed film Monster Butler.
The recent Wagner interview shows that he’s cognizant of viewer concerns but also confident in his creative approach. While Game of Thrones’ Battle of Winterfell episode will forever be criticized, the fact remains that many viewers don't necessarily stream under the most ideal conditions. For those watching “The Long Night” on a phone or tablet with the lights on, the visuals will indeed seem too dark.
Source: ComicBook Debate