Mastering the Waves: Double Negative’s Advanced VFX in ‘Nyad

VFX Breakdown of Nyad

Double Negative, a renowned visual effects company, undertook a challenging and intricate task in the movie Nyad. The primary objective was to replace the pool water with a convincingly simulated ocean surface in over 250 shots. This involved tracking Diana, the central character, using a high-resolution digital double. The team at Double Negative meticulously generated matching reflections on the water surface and ensured cohesive refraction effects for the above-water head, shoulder, and body plate. These elements were essential to blend seamlessly with the underwater digital character, especially in close-up shots, adding a substantial layer of complexity. The simulation not only needed to look physically correct but also had to be controllable to avoid unintended splashes against the camera or Diana’s mouth while she was speaking.

In many scenes, the boat used in the film had to be fully replaced with a high-resolution digital version. This digital intervention was necessary to create a full three-dimensional boat rocking effect, which was absent in most original shots. The characters were then carefully extracted from the original footage and tracked back onto the digital boat. The film heavily relied on water simulations, which played a significant role in supporting the storyline. These simulations included detailed, multi-layered foam and underwater bubbles. Most shots were set in daylight without fast or blurred camera movements, which could otherwise hide imperfections. This transparency in visual effects paralleled Diana’s own clear and unobscured journey to shore, making the simulation process a significant challenge that required innovative approaches to handle the volume and scope of the work.

Diana Nyad’s Cuba to Florida swim VFX Breakdown – Source: Double Negative/YouTube
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