Union VFX - T2 Trainspotting

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Union Team up with Danny Boyle for T2 Trainspotting

T2 Trainspotting reunites Director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge with original cast members Ewan McGregor (Renton), Ewen Bremner (Spud), Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy) and Robert Carlyle (Begbie) for the long awaited sequel to Trainspotting, based on the novels Porno and Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. 

Union’s Adam Gascoyne has collaborated with Danny Boyle on projects including 127 Hours, Trance, Babylon, Steve Jobs and the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in a relationship spanning more than 16 years.  When the planets finally aligned to make T2 Trainspotting a reality, Adam was very excited to read the script and become part of the creative team imagining how this eagerly anticipated project could be brought to life.

Director Danny Boyle comments: As with the original film, we were faced with the challenge of visually depicting Irvine’s particular style of written fantasy on screen in a way that remains true to the characters and situations depicted in the book, but is consumable by audiences.  Having worked with Adam numerous times before, I knew that together we could come up with creative ways to tackle these challenges and tell this story. We’re both really proud of how it’s turned out.

Sick Boy is now running his Aunt’s pub in Leith as well as using it as a front for a few other ventures.  In the book Leith is depicted as a run down area, abandoned by the industry it once supported and renowned for crime and prostitution.  Leith is now a regenerated, vibrant area of Edinburgh, so the team shot a pub on the outskirts of Glasgow and then worked with British Pathé to uncover footage of Leith circa 1920 and believably composited the 2016 footage into the archive.

The ‘Trainspotting’ title is somewhat explained in this film through a series of flashbacks featuring some familiar faces in an old train warehouse 20 years ago.  Stylised projections play out long forgotten memories and bring Begbie face to face with his younger self and some home truths.  To achieve this the team trawled through footage from the original film to uncover shots of Renton, Spud and Begbie that could work within the sequences and planned the shoot meticulously around that using clever cuts and head replacements on body doubles to pull it off. 

The characters’ love of football and idolisation of George Best has not diminished over time and Union bring their enthusiasm to life as they fantasise about great football moments and their hero -  in one sequence placing a football pitch inside a pub as Renton and Sick Boy knee slide in a rainy celebration, and in another projecting George Best’s face onto a car as the occupants recount his glory days.

A 20-year heroin free Renton persuades Spud to go cold turkey and the trauma of this process is illustrated visually in several scenes of the movie.  At one point we see Spud tipping in his chair off the roof of his high rise tenement flat, falling softly into Renton’s arms as well as witnessing his painful withdrawal through a Nosferatuesque shadow on the wall.

“Although it might not instantly jump out as a visual effects film, Union worked on over 400 shots.” says VFX Supervisor Adam Gascoyne.  “The focus was very much on coming up with ways to visualise the fantasy, flashbacks and hallucinations that punctuate the story throughout.  We created environments that enhance the narrative, gradually decaying Spuds flat as it comes ever closer to demolition and ensured Sick Boy’s pub was in a virtually derelict setting where almost everything else had been destroyed.  Other effects provide subtle accents to moments in the story allowing Spud to demonstrate his forgery prowess by scribing signatures in the air with light and deer to gamble across the walls and ceiling.  It’s really rewarding to see and experience the outcome on the screen.”

There are several nods to the original movie including a replay of the infamous post-shoplifting chase down Princess Street, but this time with heads replaced by 2D caricatures inspired by the Harvey Nichols shoplifting advertising campaign.  In addition, Renton’s iconic train wallpaper returns as the focal point of a dynamic shot in which it appears he’s been left dancing on a virtual train platform in his room as a train departs creating an, almost endless, tunnel from his bedroom walls. 

Union also contributed dramatic 3D elements to the dramatic end credit sequence created by Tomato, which depicts the demolition of Edinburgh tenement blocks. 

To celebrate the DVD Release of T2 Trainspotting we worked with Sony Pictures to create some behind the scenes videos of our VFX work on the film.  You can view all 7 videos in our Vimeo Album here.

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