The “Wielka Woda” series became a worldwide hit on Netflix in the space of twelve days or so. Behind this success is not only outstanding acting and a wonderful script, but also special effects. We spoke to Marek Walczek from Studio Nolabel, who was responsible for Digital Flood in Wroclaw.
- Nolabel’s team of 40 worked on 200 shots for six months
- In the third episode of the series, there is a scene in which the director is standing and looking at the water flowing over the dam of the reservoir at Gierżoniów. Actually there was no water there
- We digitally removed satellite dishes from blocks, removed old rooftops, and cleaned ultra-modern graffiti off walls — says Marek Walczyk
- You can read more similar articles on Onet homepage
Klaudia Stabach: What is your work in the series “great water“?
Marek Walczyk, Visual Effects Producer: Our Nolabel studio We joined the cast of “Wielka Woda” in the spring of 2021. In the early months, together with the directors, production and set designers, we wondered how to “swamp” Wroclaw. We have carefully planned where the water is actually located and where to add a digital effect. The series production also spent a lot of time preparing very good sources and reference materials that we can use. Before your main 3D work begins, it is helpful to spend some time watching your footage Real historical floods.
How long does it take to add special effects?
In total, we got over 200 shots, worked on for six months, often with weekends. Our team consists of about forty talented artists, thanks to whom it was possible to implement this project.
How do you rate the difficulty of implementing the special effects in this series?
I think the standard was too high because we recreated events that most people remember well. We had to make sure that the effects would be indistinguishable even for them. Of course, the most difficult element to reproduce was water, which is a lot element in the chain. There are more and more productions using special effects in Polish cinema, but “Wielka Woda” was perhaps the first on such a large scale.
Why is the water so hard for filmmakers?
This is something everyone is in contact with. We may see it every day and under different circumstances. Of course, our brains have an encoded image of water. When we later notice the digital water on the screen, which was inaccurately done in post-production, most people won’t be able to pinpoint the exact problem, but they will realize that the effect is artificial.
What makes digital water seem real?
An important feature of water is that surfaces are wet after contact with water and the effect is clearly visible. Therefore, the edges of contact with objects are very important. If there are no traces, for example on the walls or on the lawn, the viewer will get the impression that the water is detached from reality and artificial. In addition, the scale of water and character also plays an important role. A water wave in a calm stream, lake or raging river looks completely different. Every detail matters when we want to be realistic.
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What are the hardest shots for you?
In the fourth episode there is a scene in which the director is standing and looking at the water flowing down the reservoir dam at Gierżoniów. Actually there was no water there. We spent many hours in preparations, because the effect had to be impressive for the viewer, but also realistic. We created dozens or even dozens of versions of the simulation, with different speeds and characters, before we could find the right parameters.
We also worked on the shots recorded in the pool with the scene arrangement in it, which reflects the streets of Wroclaw. The premises and details were perfectly fitted by the designers, but their work only reached the first floor. We had to equip the upper parts of the apartment houses. We also had to digitally expand this plan. The pool the actors were walking in was probably several tens of meters long, and these streets were actually much longer. It was necessary to “extend” both the residential houses and the water.
There were also several shots of Jacob Marzak swimming on an amphibian. Photographs of the amphibious vehicle were recorded on the lake against the background of trees. Then, on a completely different day, shots were recorded on the streets of Wroclaw. This means that they have a slightly different light and a slightly different camera angle. We had to combine these materials so that it seemed that the amphibians were already floating on the flooded streets of Wroclaw.
Did the directors have ideas that they failed to implement?
Jan Holbeck and Bartomeg Ignaciok are professionals. They were well versed in adding special effects, so in pre-production it was known what could and could not be done.
I wonder if there are scenes in the series that I prepared from scratch?
Yes, for example, we created a tunnel where Clara is flooded with water. At first, the production wanted to record it in a real place – to put a swimming pool and pour water into it. A classic but problematic idea of no control over water. It is difficult to predict whether the effect will be as the managers expected.
We suggested an alternative solution. Thanks to photogrammetry, i.e. by scanning the object, we moved the lower lane into a very realistic 1:1 3D model and then added a fully digital water simulation. The scene came out better, with better water control and ironically cheaper than the estimated cost of the set.
There is a moment when Clara tries to climb the fence. I felt something was wrong. The actress struggled a lot with the element.
Funny – after the first show, I got some messages from my friends with the same interest, and this is the only shot at the location where there was real water. We have excellent evidence that water is physics and that we are unable to fully control it in the real world. In addition, this is also a very good example of the quality of special effects and how they can cheat. It often happens that someone considered our effects, and not just water, as realistic, and the material recorded on the set was wrongly called or “weak light effects”. Then we just smile because our goal of invisible effects is achieved.
Did you have an unfortunate accident?
So far, no one has caught anything. If this happened, it would probably be a small matter, because we really paid attention to the details. We’ve digitally removed satellite dishes from the blocks, patted rooftops, and cleaned ultra-modern walls. Our team carefully reviewed every shot down to the last minute before handing over material to Netfliks. Sure enough, something slipped somewhere, so every viewer could look for it carefully.
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