Game of Thrones

The Game of Thrones season 8 epic “Battle of Winterfell” depicted the long-anticipated fight against the Night King and earned the show’s highest ratings of the entire series. The episode was full of big moments, yet the biggest shocker, in a show that is known for surprising twists, was how hard it was for the audience to see what was happening onscreen.

It wasn’t just your TV, but was it by design? Apparently so.

The show’s cinematographers and directors said they explicitly designed the episode to portray some of the terror, confusion, and murkiness of what it is like to be in a real battle. But many viewers didn’t buy it.

Everything to the battle on the ground to the dragon riding scenes were confusing to watch, and it was extremely difficult to see your favorite character showing off their skills (let alone keep up with where they are at all). Though the episode was well-received, many fans were nonetheless disappointed by the look of the smoky, dark episode.

The show’s creators responded that anyone who had their TV picture settings exactly as they should be experienced the show as it was intended. Even though it sounds like it was on purpose, let’s get into some of the technology behind why scenes appeared so dark. We’ll also give you a DY hack so your television can screen future episodes as sharply as possible regardless of the brand or technology you’re working with.

Challenging Bandwidth And Video Compression Issues

Game of Thrones is one of the largest-budget shows ever produced with sweeping and detailed visuals. This translates to lots of data for the video of each episode. Getting this video from the source to each household requires a combination of video compression and the maximum amount of bandwidth possible on the viewers’ internet connection. The way that these technologies work may have impacted the show.

Just as a larger plumbing pipe lets through more water, a larger bandwidth connection will allow for sharper video quality to be received on the viewer’s device. In the simplest of terms, lower quality of bandwidth translates to a trickle of data and a lower picture quality on the viewer’s end. But bandwidth issues amount to just one part of video delivery.

With a show that has as much data as Game of Thrones, even the largest amount of bandwidth can’t accommodate an episode’s video requirements. At this point, video compression is required in order to scale down the data. Sure, compression technology is improving, but it can still only do so much. One of its weaker points is how it handles data related to color and brightness. That’s part of why this episode’s images weren’t as sharp as they could have been.

Simplified Color And Contrast

Any problems with replicating colors and brightness are more pronounced in scenes where colors were similar shades of the same basic hue. If you think about it, scenes in “Battle of Winterfell” would be particularly susceptible to this problem. After all, many of the battle scenes took place at night and during fog and snow. What are the colors of these types of scenes? Generally, they are shades of a single hue of black, blue, or gray.

Discerning between these shades can pose a technical issue because there are only so many shades of a color that can be identified on screen after compression. Specific shades of indigo or inky blue may be bunched together as a single royal blue, for example. The simplified version of colors that viewers saw may not represent the differentiation that the cinematographers intended. Simply brightening the entire screen doesn’t help either. The entire complex group of color shades is already simplified and adding more light will whiten the view everywhere rather than showing differences between shades.

Consider Your Device And Television Settings

There is a wide range in the capabilities of most televisions and devices. Some of them are simply not up to the challenge of portraying the visually complex video of “Battle of Winterfell.”  Even televisions with built-in debanding capabilities and other features would have been challenged by this episode. However, if settings for brightness and contrast and color aren’t set at the right levels, your device or television has a much poorer chance at handling everything that “Battle of Winterfell” was throwing at it.

How can you be sure your TV is set properly for the next episode? First, turn off anything in your settings with a weird or special sounding name or anything that smooths video motion. Sometimes these special features don’t help as advertised and the way they simplify things only makes the picture worse.

After that, you may want to find your brightness, color, and contrast settings and play with them. Be ready to adjust them during the next episode you’re struggling to see. Lastly, if your TV has any color presets, such as “cinema mode” play with them in advance of viewing the episode to find the one you like best. You can also be ready to change it during the episode if it isn’t looking like you thought it would.

What Scenes Would Look Like

For kicks, some people are creating images that show what scenes would have looked like if there had been more visual contrast and color differentiation. Elite Daily published altered versions of certain scenes and the results are nothing short of gorgeous. Yet, as beautiful as the scenes are, they probably aren’t the visuals that directors intended fans to see.

How can everyone know for sure? Fans will have to wait to watch the episode on Blu-Ray to compare what they saw on download with a screening unimpeded by streaming factors. At that point, viewers can tell if their current criticisms are deserved or if they, not the images on the screens, need to lighten up a bit.