Mr X

  • Production Company Rogue Films ;
  • Writer and Director Alex Nicholson;
  • Producer Kate Hitchings;

MPC’s Motion Design Studio breathes life into tattoos for Alex Nicholson's short film

A film directing first from Alex Nicholson through Rogue Films, this dark short film features Duncan X, a tattooist from South London reminiscing about his life and work.

Alex approached MPC with the initial concept, centered around challenging preconceptions. 

Duncan begins the film reflectively discussing his experiences of life, drugs and existential views on the parallels between the human condition and tattooing. As his tattoos materialize the subject matter becomes lighter and the viewer warms to him- his tattoos become part of his story, rather than the usual vehicle for judgment. 

The task was to determine how the tattoos would first be removed, then proceed to grow back over Duncan’s skin. MPC's Motion Design studio attended the shoot, where Duncan had his body covered in make up and tracking markers to determine their placement.

VFX Supervisor John Sunter led the Motion Design studio in creating a storyboard of how each scene would look, including the design of the tattoos. These then acted as style frames for the director to work from. "Alex entrusted us to design a 'look' for the animations based on Duncan's own tattoo designs,” said John. "It was an exciting opportunity for us to demonstrate our in-studio tracking and compositing skills. Alex and I had a very similar vision for the look of many of the shots – so when Duncan spoke about heroin the tattoos took on a smoky quality to reflect this.”

Extensive cleanup was necessary to remove the tracker markers, along with the traces of tattoos under his make-up. This meant taking sections of skin and pasting them onto other parts of his body using Nuke and After Effects.

The tattoos were animated and then tracked onto his body using Mocha. RealFlow was also utilized to create the flowing effects, and the snakes were animated in Cinema 4D. 


  • Production Company Rogue Films
  • Writer and Director Alex Nicholson
  • Producer Kate Hitchings
  • DoP Richard Mott
  • Editor David Stevens
  • VFX Producer Chris Allen
  • VFX Supervisor John Sunter
  • VFX Team Melanie Keyzor, Bernat Amengual, James Thexton, Simon Jones
  • Grade MPC
  • Colourist Richard Fearon

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