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Machine Delivers Invisible VFX for Last King of Scotland

London-based visual effects boutique Machine has delivered more than 60 vfx shots for the critically acclaimed film, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. Machine was the sole vfx facility on the film, and although the work was intensive and involved the use of cutting-edge digital techniques, the effects are part of the narrative, story-telling process and designed to be invisible.

Directed by Kevin Macdonald (TOUCHING THE VOID), The Last King of Scotland is based on real events that took place in 1970s Uganda during the rule of the brutal dictator Idi Amin, as seen by his personal physician. Machine founders and visual effects supervisors, John Lockwood and Steve Street, were engaged by the films producer Charles Steel, to help sustain the visual, and often shocking, realism throughout the film. This work involved attending shoots in the U.K. and providing advice to the production team during shoots in Uganda.

We met Charles Steel very early on in the process, and the director Kevin MacDonald right as he came on board, said Lockwood. It was an exciting project to be involved with, and we wanted a chance to supervise something story-driven for a change, where most of the effects take a back seat. We thought our set-up was perfect for the film there arent that many companies that are wholly owned and run by vfx supervisors who are passionate about the films they choose to work on.

Throughout the project Machine worked closely with McDonald, the post-production supervisor, Jonathan Haren, editor Justine Wright and assistant editor Stephen Haren and producer Charles Steel. There was a steady stream of communication as ideas for sequences took shape, and costs/complexities were weighed up.

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND is set in the 1970s, at a time when many of the buildings in Entebbe, the capital of Uganda, were new but have since become run down. Making some of the hero buildings look like new involved tracking and replacing parts of the frontage using a combination of CG and 2D replacement exteriors.

Machine was also responsible for a number of make-up enhancements in post-production, most notably to a sequence where one of the characters is tortured by Amins henchmen. The character is hung from hooks, which pierce his flesh, and these shots involved a complex combination of greenscreen composites, digital make-up, CG ropes and hooks as well as practical effects, all combining to create the gruesome realism of the moment.

Other enhancements included smoothing out camera moves, fixing broken/damaged footage, retiming shots, additional digital make-up fixes, plus various black-and-white TV screen inserts. An interesting aspect was the addition of pornographic footage from DEEP THROAT into an old 16mm projector screen, adding to a sense of the lifestyle of the characters.

If people watch this film and dont realize they have seen over 50 effects shots, then we have done our job, added Street. On this film, we have been able to put the personal touch back into vfx, concentrating on creating great pictures rather than thinking about numbers.

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND is a DNA Films, Fox Searchlight Pictures, FilmFour, Cowboy Films, Scottish Screen, Slate Films, Tatfilm and UK Film Council co-production.

Machine was established in 2004 by John Lockwood and Steve Street. The company provides full film-resolution effects in 2D and 3D, creative support from the earliest stages of storyboarding and idea development and final digital effects supervision. Credits also include FLYBOYS, UNITED 93, three HARRY POTTER films, TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN.