[Ed. note: Spoilers for The Nevers episode 3, “Ignition,” ahead.]
HBO’s Victorian journey collection The Nevers absolutely comes into its personal in episode 3, “Ignition,” throughout a terrific combat sequence that begins out of nowhere. Sequence protagonist Amalia True is considered one of “the Touched,” individuals who gained unearthly powers from a supernatural occasion. She’s made enemies, so in “Ignition,” directed by David Semel and written by Kevin Lau, she’s instantly waylaid throughout a carriage journey, and flung off a bridge and right into a lake. Her enemy’s servant Odium comes after her — and as he calmly walks out onto the floor of the water, she realizes she’s in immense hassle.
Within the sequence that follows, Amalia (performed by Laura Donnelly) can’t floor to combat Odium (Martyn Ford) with out him stomping her face or slashing at her with a heavy chain and hook. And she will’t keep underwater for lengthy with out drowning. The battle that follows is quick and frenzied, and ceaselessly captured in photographs the place Donnelly is swimming below the water, whereas Ford seems to face on the floor above her. It’s the sort of sequence that prompts “How did they do that?” questions. So Polygon went to Nevers VFX supervisor Johnny Han to ask.
Essentially the most stunning factor Han tells Polygon is that the sequence doesn’t use digital actor alternative in any respect, and only a few of the photographs are composited, or use a stunt double. “All of the actors — and we’re actually pleased with this — are utterly actual the entire time,” Han says. “We saved the choice of digital doubles in our again pocket if it didn’t find yourself trying so nice, however our actors did an incredible job. Laura, who performs Amalia, was such a trooper, I can not inform you how laborious she labored via that, and by no means blinked an eye fixed at what she was put via. Helen [Steinway Bailey], her stunt coach and double, would all the time rehearse the scenes together with her, and utilizing her was all the time an choice. However to Helen’s credit score in coaching Laura, we didn’t find yourself needing to make use of Helen, save for 2 or three photographs that had been on wires. Laura did 99% of what you see onscreen.”
“it was bodily actually difficult,” Donnelly tells Polygon. “However I had an absolute ball. It was nothing like I’ve ever executed earlier than, for positive. I’d by no means executed any sort of diving or something, so I needed to spend two days coaching simply to study. So I used to be in a wetsuit within the underwater stage at Pinewood Studios, and I discovered learn how to go 5 meters below within the breather and the goggles and every part. On the second day, they anticipate you to take the breather and the goggles off, and also you simply need to swim 25 ft throughout the the tank. That was in all probability the only most intimidating factor I’ve ever needed to do for work.”
The sequence was shot in late winter, so it was inconceivable to do all of it open air: “It wasn’t nearly not placing actors into freezing water, to be sincere,” Han says. “It was like, ‘It could be frozen, we might not have the ability to put anybody within the water.’” However the crew did get the opening and shutting photographs of the combat on location, to floor the sequence in actuality.
“That’s a trick,” Han says. “Make the primary shot actual, and the final one, and it’ll enable you to imagine the sequence.” For that opening shot, Ford walked out onto a hidden platform below the floor of the water, and the water floor was digitally changed.
“At one level, we did focus on, like, ‘Why don’t we simply do the complete sequence with a hidden platform?’” Han says. “And my my view to that was, it’s been executed fairly a bit. My favourite instance is Superman 2, when Basic Zod first arrives on Earth. He arrives in the course of somewhat pond, and he walks out to the shore as if he’s strolling on water. Hidden platform, it all the time works.”
His query, although, was, “How will we personal this, and make it true to Odium’s character?” He and his staff needed the water’s response to Odium to be distinctive, and to strongly counsel the supernatural impact of his powers. “Very early on, I had this concept that the water ought to behave virtually like he’s bought a particular magnetic discipline round him, or a discipline that modifications the habits of water,” Han says. They used actual water physics to encourage the motion of bubbles and eddies within the water, but in addition experimented with memory-foam mattresses and trampolines to encourage the visible impact of the water recoiling from Odium’s presence, then bouncing again quickly. Fortunately, Han says, there was a trampoline park “actually throughout the road from our studios,” the place he and his staff may go for visible inspiration.
“The surfaces aren’t stable,” Han says. “They’re versatile, however there’s nonetheless stress on it. And that means, the water would actually really feel prefer it’s responding to him, he’s not responding to the water.”
Whereas Ford was on location for within the opening shot, Donnelly was digitally added after the very fact — all her motion for the sequence was shot in that tank the place she was educated, at England’s Pinewood Studios. A particular digital camera that might be positioned on the water’s floor was used to seize the photographs the place Amalia is underwater, pulling in opposition to Odium’s chain. That allow the consequences crew get a split-screen impact with out digital compositing, by concurrently capturing the motion above and beneath the floor.
Photograph: HBO and Photograph: HBO
“We had been ready to make use of a particular underwater housing for the digital camera that was specifically balanced weight-wise,” Han says. “One thing underwater is sort of buoyant, and you may transfer a digital camera and a crane actually simply, however the second you get above water, it’s actually heavy. So we had a particular housing that allow the digital camera simply go above and beneath water. It’s additionally a really small housing, so it didn’t create a giant splash or an air-bubble each time we went underwater.”
“We’re actually pleased with these photographs,” Han says. “Collectively, all of us really feel that sequence actually works as a result of we didn’t do an excessive amount of CG. We used the VFX the place it’s actually wanted, to switch the water and add the lake with the inexperienced display screen. And it wasn’t too fantastical. Each shot appears like a cameraman was truly doing it, as a result of the cameraman actually did function it.”
For among the photographs trying up from Amalia’s standpoint, a white display screen was used as a substitute of a inexperienced display screen, to seize the sensation of an overcast sky. “With the best way water distorts and refracts the picture behind it, you may get away with lots,” Han says. “If we made it inexperienced, it will be very tough to extract the inexperienced. Little issues like that assist — any freebie we get on set, in digital camera, and never need to do it later in publish, we’ll take each alternative … So we had a system the place we may interchange it between white and inexperienced, just about like a curtain, like a stage curtain that we simply pull forwards and backwards.”
Photograph: HBO and Photograph: HBO
Han says one of many largest challenges in planning the sequence with stunt coordinator Rowley Irlam and particular results supervisor Mike Dawson was in designing the sequence to shock viewers, whereas educating them extra in regards to the talents of the Touched. “How do you make it one thing that tells the story of their powers, and isn’t only a generic combat sequence?” Han says. “How do you present Amalia’s cleverness, not simply being a fighter, however a thinker?”
Finally, the reply was in having Amalia use Odium’s energy in opposition to him, through the use of his incapability to interrupt the water’s floor in opposition to him, and strangling him from beneath the floor together with his personal chain.
“These photographs, we bought in profile,” Han says. “Ford is hanging on 4 wires, virtually like a hammock, as a result of we needed him to really be leaning into the water. We didn’t need him to appear to be he had a flat again, we needed him to actually really feel like he was dipping into the water, once more like a trampoline. And Laura is definitely underwater. It’s all the identical efficiency, multi functional take. We didn’t shoot her separate, we didn’t shoot him separate.”
Once more, Han says many of the digital tinkering with that sequence was in changing the inexperienced display screen with the situation, and changing the water’s floor. “The water’s response towards him struggling, that has all been changed to be extra lively, to make it appear to be he’s actually struggling, the water’s actually lapping and splashing in opposition to him.”
Donnelly says that despite the bodily calls for of the sequence, she was assured with the work. “I was a gymnast after I was youthful, so I’m fairly accustomed to throwing myself up into the air and hopefully not touchdown on my head,” she says. “It was bodily exhausting, however it was a lot enjoyable. Martyn Ford isn’t solely the largest man on the planet, however one of many nicest males as nicely. We had a whole lot of enjoyable as I attempted to climb up him dripping moist and Victorian garb.”
Finally, Han feels the sequence works as a result of so little of it’s digital that the truth of it performs for the viewers. “Think about what the sequence would have regarded like if we did do all of it in CG,” he says. “Usually what occurs is that you simply get actually loopy digital camera strikes that really feel supernatural. The fascinating factor about visible results is, you typically can go in too many various instructions. The limitless canvas is usually your downfall, as a result of there’s form of an conceited mind-set that claims, ‘We are able to dream up one thing higher than actuality.’ However when when you’ve gotten one thing to anchor it with, it all the time helps.”
For extra behind-the-scenes footage of the combat, watch HBO’s featurette on the episode.