London - Visual effects and CG boutique Machine has delivered more than 60 effects 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 1970’s 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 film’s producer Charles Steel, to help sustain the visual, and often shocking, realism throughout the film. This work involved attending shoots in the UK and providing advice to the production team during shoots in Uganda.
Throughout the project Machine worked closely with director Kevin McDonald, the post-production supervisor, Jonathan Haren, editor Justine Wright and assistant editor Stephen Haren, and producer Charles Steel.
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 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 Idi Amin’s 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 don’t realize they have seen more than 50 effects shots, then we have done our job,” says Street.
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 VFX and Supervisor Credits:
United 93 Working Title
The Last King of Scotland* Fox Searchlight
Irish Jam* Bauer Martinez Studios
Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban Warner Bros.
Stardust (in production) Paramount
*Steve Street & John Lockwood were production VFX Supervisors on these projects as well as Machine’s VFX Supervisors.