Last night’s Game of Thrones was a tour-de-force of pathos and obsession. People died, queens drew up battle plans, and the people of the North celebrated last week’s victory. During that feast, for roughly 2.5 seconds, a modern day coffee cup sat in front of Daenerys Targaryen, Breaker of Chains, Protector of the Realm, Mother of Dragons, and Drinker of Lattes.
The reaction shot lasted less than a few seconds, but people noticed. Game of Thrones is an immaculately produced show with gorgeous sets and a budget around $15 million per episode. It takes a cast and crew of hundreds to create each episode and it’s hard to control that many people on set. Sometimes, someone is gonna leave a coffee cup behind by accident.
Motherboard reached out to digital effects artists to see if it would be possible to remove the errant coffee cup from future broadcasts and releases of Game of Thrones. Good news for HBO—digitally removing coffee cups is much cheaper than creating realistic dragons or bloodied dire wolves.
“That would be easy to fix,” Brett Ineson, president and CTO of Animatrik, a company that does digital effects work for movies and video games, told me in an email. “Maybe 15 minutes of time by a good artist.”
The process of hiding the cup would be fast, simple, and cheap, experts told me. “You could hand that over to some intern using [Adobe] After Effects and they could mask that out in a few minutes,” Jamie Clark, a digital effects artist who works on micro budget horror films, told me in a text message. “My primary work on [the most recent film I worked on] was to mask out lights, boom mics, and extras that wandered into frame. I had 20 of those and I knocked them all out in a weekend.”
Clark said that removing the cup would be as simple as digitally copying a cleared portion of the table and masking it over the coffee cup. “Hell, for that little amount of time you could Google Image search ‘medieval-goblet.png’ and just motion track the cup for the few frames it's visible, letting the new image sit on top. If I was off this morning I would love to just remove it myself and send it to them.”
A representative from HBO told me it was “well aware” of the coffee cup and it was checking into solutions.