Experiments on initial stages of the steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) process were carried out, using 2-D scaled reservoir models, to investigate production process and performance. Expansion of the initial steam chamber, its shape and area, and temperature distributions were visualized using video and thermal-video pictures. The relationship between isotherms and steam chamber interface was investigated to study the drainage mechanism. The temperature at the interface where the steam chamber was expanding was observed to remain nearly constant at 80°C. Effect of vertical spacing between the two horizontal wells on oil recovery was also investigated. For the case of conventional SAGD, oil production rate increased with increasing vertical spacing; however, the lead time for the gravity drainage to initiate oil production became longer. The results suggest that Lcan be used as a governing factor to evaluate production rate and lead time in the initial stage of the SAGD process. Based on these experimental results, the SAGD process was modified: the lower production well was intermittently stimulated by steam injection, in conjunction with continuous steam injection in the upper horizontal injector. Using the modified process (named SAGD-ISSLW), the time to generate near breakthrough condition between two wells was shortened, and oil production was enhanced at the rising chamber stage compared with that of the conventional SAGD process.