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Drogon Creature Research

We g.o.t. inspired by the dragons of Game of Thrones and decided to challenge ourselves by researching and rebuilding Drogon from scratch.


We are

Mario, Justus and Till. We are planning on developing a creature for our upcoming diploma. For this we challenged ourselves by replicating a marvellous creature like Drogon from Game of Thrones. This research project was important for us to gain a better understanding high end creature production workflows. For this we also had really helpful mentoring sessions with Sven Martin and his PIXOMONDO Game of Thrones Dragon Team. 

Till Sander-Titgemeyer

Till Sander-Titgemeyer

Modeling / Texturing / Animation

Justus Schmidt

Justus Schmidt

Rigging / Muscle Simulation

Mario Bertsch

Mario Bertsch

Shading / Lighting / Compositing

Skeleton Structure

Till: “The first step was to build the skeleton. For us it was critical to understand the anatomy of Drogon. For the base we adjusted the bones of my T-Rex anatomy research project and then added some custom bones unique to our Version of Drogon on top. This was a very important step in order to find the right proportions. 

Anatomy System

Till: “After we finished creating the skeleton, we had to research the musculoskeletal system of Drogon. For this we used some of my t-rex muscles and additionally a few from a human base model. We learned that it is essential to create a logical muscle system!”

Details &

HD Geometry

Till: “The next step was to create the skin. For this we merged all muscles together and extruded the mesh a little bit. Then we started sculpting details on top. After finishing the primary details we used awesome scans from TexturingXYZ for a tertiary level of detail. After projecting these scans, we continued on sculpting the secondary detail layer. We used HD Geometry in ZBrush in order the to get the best results.”

Basemesh, UV’s & Retopology

Till: “Prior to rigging the mesh, it was necessary to reduce the polycount. To save time, we did basic retopology with the zremesher tool in ZBrush. Afterwards we exported it to Maya and reworked most of the parts, cleaning the mesh and creating an optimized polyflow.”

Rigging & Skinweight


Justus: “We decided to rig the whole model in Houdini 18.0, since it would me more coherent with the muscle simulation. Setting up the Rig was very comfortable and fairly easy – due to Houdini’s visual nodes and excellent non-destructive workflow. However, during the skin weighting process we encountered the limitations of Houdini Rigging. Because of the sheer amount of polygons, the model needed to be splitted into several parts to make skin painting even possible. For some parts, e.g. the wings, it became almost impossible, since Houdini’s painting tool just could not deal with the overlapping geometry. A remedy was the automatic skin weighting in Houdini, which – with a few tweeks – provided fantastic results.
As the rig grew larger and larger, the model and rig needed to be splitted further into several nested hda files, since only using only one file was too slow to handle. Houdini’s built in Blendshape node is fine for basic features – but for more advanced usage, even masking, another solution needed to be found. So we used an attribute masking and smoothing for blending the objects into each other. This, on the one hand, provided much more control, but on the other hand led to less performance and therefore also impacted the overall animation process.”

Texturing & Shading


Mario: “For our color management workflow, we used an ACES Color Workflow. In order to achieve a realistic surface look, we had to break up different colormaps like albedo, roughness, glossy and SSS. The roughness map was most significant for creating the intended materiality. We also used an iridescence shader to achieve more variation on top of reflective surfaces.”

Ambient Occlusion

Color Masks

Subsurface Scattering

Iridescence Shader

Direct & Indirect Specular

Rendering &



Mario:” For rendering, we used Houdini’s renderer “Mantra”. To maintain a high level of control while compositing, we rendered additional AOV passes and different masks. We combined all render passes and did small color adjustments like matching black levels to the environment. For an even better integration, we build a 2d particular cloud atmosphere, which drew fore- and background even closer together. 

Drogon Creature


Till Sander-Titgemeyer
Mario Bertsch

VFX Producer
Anna Matacz

Modeling, Texturing & Animation
Till Sander-Titgemeyer

TD, Rigging & Muscle Simulation
Justus Schmidt

Shading, Lighting & Compositing
Mario Bertsch

Music Composing & Mixing
Patrick Kuhn Botelho

Štátny komorný orchester Žilina

Recording Engineer
Vladimir Martinka

Marco Dahl

Nicolas Kaiser

Sven Martin, Johannes Wolz,
Dietrich Magnus, Tom Herzig,
Max Riess, Mark Spindler &

Senior Lecturer
Prof. Volker Helzle, Prof. Lilian Klages,
Anna Brinkschulte, 
Prof. Juri Stanossek,
Alexandra Stautmeister, Prof. Matthias Raue

Joachim Genannt, Viet Nguyen,
John Holth, Michael Schott,
Thomas Del Popolo, Stefan
Binggeser, Stephan Riewe

Anna Matacz, Constanze Bühner,
Claudia Liepert, Isabel Gimber,
Alexandra Stautmeister, Andreas Ulmer,
Marc Lutz, Stefan Michel, Yannick Paul
Petzold, Christian Müller, Simon Spielmann,
Jonas Trottnow, Felix Bucella, Anke Kletsch

Heike Mozèr, Selina Schmutz,
Regina Kizler, Tatjana Jezic,
Ann-Kathrin Eglsoer,
Anja Fellerhoff

Theresa Seitz, Franziska Ullrich,
Nora Hieronymus

Special thanks
Lukas Löffler, Ihabo Azzamo,
York v. Sydow