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'House of the Dragon' creator knows that one scene was too dark, says he's learned 'we are making the show for people's television sets'

Business Insider logo Business Insider 10/25/2022 tclark@insider.com (Travis Clark)
This official image from HBO is lit brighter than what appeared on many viewers' screens. HBO © HBO This official image from HBO is lit brighter than what appeared on many viewers' screens. HBO
  • "House of the Dragon" showrunner Ryan Condal acknowledged how dark scenes in episode seven were.
  • He said he has to take more into account that "we are making the show for people's television sets."
  • The episode, "Driftmark," received backlash for dimly lit scenes.

HBO's "House of the Dragon" concluded its first season on Sunday with 9.3 million viewers, about on par with the series debut and showing that the series maintained a consistent audience throughout.

By most accounts, the show was a massive success for HBO, proving that the "Game of Thrones" brand is alive and well.

But that doesn't mean it didn't ruffle any feathers. Episode seven in particular, titled "Driftmark," was criticized for scenes that many viewers said were too dark to see on their TV screens.

Enough people complained on Twitter that HBO Max responded to some fans by calling it "an intentional creative decision."

But cocreator and showrunner Ryan Condal has heard the criticism, and suggested in a recent interview that future episodes won't make the same mistake.

"What I learned in the making the season is that you do have to take much more into account the fact that we are making the show for people's television sets versus in a perfectly calibrated movie theater environment," Condal told Variety.

The scenes in question were shot during the day and dimmed in post-production to appear like it was night.

YouTuber Vincent Teoh recently measured the brightness of the episode in a video on his channel HDTVTest, and found that some TVs would automatically dim because of how dark the segment was.

"The unique challenge of making television post-production is that you're making it in this highly calibrated facility with millions of dollars' worth of equipment and high-end professionals," Condal said. "At the end, if you're making a movie, you turn over those files to movie theaters, where you know that there's a reasonable sameness in quality in terms of the way the media is going to be exported and the equipment that it's being seen on."

He added: "When you're making television, you're turning it over to not only tens of millions of different television setups — rooms with curtains and no curtains, lighting and no lighting, speakers and no speakers — but you're also turning it over to these different distributors who are going to take the file and compress it or not compress, or show it and 1080P or 4K."

The episode was directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who also served as co-showrunner on the first season. Sapochnik also directed a "Game of Thrones" episode that received some backlash for being too dim, the season eight episode "The Long Night." Fabian Wagner served as the cinematographer on both episodes, as well.

Wagner had blamed viewers not adjusting their TV settings in response to criticism against "The Long Night."

"A lot of the problem is that a lot of people don't know how to tune their TVs properly," he told Wired in 2019. "A lot of people also unfortunately watch it on small iPads, which in no way can do justice to a show like that anyway."

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