ITV and Quay Street’s After the Flood is a mystery thriller set in a town hit by a devastating flood. When an unidentified man is found dead in a lift in an underground car park, police assume he became trapped as the waters rose. As the investigation unfolds PC Joanna Marshall, played by Sophie Rundle, becomes obsessed with discovering what happened to him and why?

The flood and its devastating effects were created with a mix of CGI and practical filming. Vine FX was brought in to create the perfect blend

Seamlessly mixing practical and CGI elements has become an artform in and of itself – one that Vine FX is no stranger to. For the ITV hit show, After The Flood, the Cambridge-based visual effects studio was central to the world-building that anchored the post-disaster thriller in a believable reality.

Vine FX has cemented its reputation as an expert in compositing and water-focussed visual effects work – perfect for a show like After The Flood in which water is all but eponymous. The production team had decided on a blended approach to dramatic moments – mixing practical shooting with VFX to achieve of cohesive look without compromising on the end result.

Matching VFX to the real world

“There’s a drone shot where we start low and pull up to reveal a flooded village,” explains 3D Supervisor, Pedrom Dadgostar. “The production had built a huge water tank with building fascias all around. It looked amazing. We then came in to build the village surrounding that practical element – everything from roofs to trees, cars to buildings.”

Set extensions like this are manifold on both the small and silver screen. Vine FX took the flooded tank plate and built 3D geometry around it – all based on a real village. “The crew had surveyed the location so we built our models based on that data,” continues Dadgostar. “We then projected real buildings onto that geometry so they would match the practical set perfectly.”

“In the finished shot, everything outside the faces of the buildings surrounding the tanks is CGI with a little matte painting,” adds Lead Compositor, Vahik Asoyan. “The set didn’t include roofs or gardens so we built all of that in post. We even added people’s belongings into the back of cars so you get the sense of a really lived-in place.”

Filming the flood

Crucial to the story of After The Flood is, unsurprisingly, the flood itself. For this, the production moved to Tees Barrage – a specialist white water rafting facility in Stockton. Here, the crew could benefit from a controlled environment, capable of pumping 14,000 litres of water every second through an international standard course.

“It was very impressive,” says Dadgostar. “They had dressed a section to look more like the village location, including a bridge,  and had complete control over how much water would flow along the course. Having that capability is crucial for maintaining safety on set, but also in getting otherwise impossible shots. Facilities like this are important for filmmaking because they give directors the ability to convey those dramatic moments without putting actors at risk.”

During the flooding sequences, people are caught in fast-moving, dangerous water – from drivers becoming stuck in cars to a baby being swept away.

“The baby was a cast actor,” explains VFX Producer, Kaitlyn Beattie. “It was an interesting shot for us to work on because we had a prop baby in a carrier filmed on location and then needed to match the exact expressions and facial dimensions of the actual baby.”

To accomplish this, Vine FX turned to its trusted compositing software, NUKE, and some AI-powered tracking plugins. Achieving an accurate 3D track of the prop baby proved challenging, with water and other practical elements often occluding the carrier and hindering the track. 

“We needed to strike a balance between relying on the tools and bringing in some manual control,” says Asoyan.

Vine FX chose to film the real cast baby rather than relying on a digital double. The team captured the baby’s expressions – including some crying – from multiple angles in order to create a believable look in the finished shot. “This really helped to ground the sequence,” adds Asoyan. “Choosing between when to do something practically, digitally, or mix the two is where a lot of the craft comes in.”

Practical in post

In an ideal world, post-production teams know what assets they need ahead of time. Often this involves covering all bases to have as much footage to work with as possible. Vine FX’s on-set team filmed dozens of water elements during the production stage of After The Flood to ensure that the visual effects on the project would have exactly that. The latitude and flexibility this gives is invaluable.

“We added flood waters and rain into a lot of shots,” says Dadgostar. “ Some of that is done in 3D, but a lot is layering of practical plates in comp. The 3D rain is great, but when we’re adding that into a real world scene we also have to consider reflections on the rain drops – making sure we have enough on-location imagery or an HDRI to place the rain in its environment.”

Filming at Tees Barrage and building flooded portions of the set is what grounds the visual effects work seen in After The Flood. By building on top of real places, and using references from real buildings, water, and light, the team at Vine FX was able to blend varied elements into a cohesive whole that even the most seasoned of professionals would find hard to spot on screen.

“Good visual effects work is invisible,” concludes Dadgostar. “What we do shouldn’t take away from the story or distract the viewer. If you can come away from a show and think there was no VFX in it, then we’ve done our job well.”

After The Flood is out now on ITVX.


Jon Creamer

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