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Pyrotechnics & Atmospherics

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Artem provided all floor effects for Justin Kurzel's adaptation of Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender. This included mist, smoke, rain and fire, while lifelike prosthetics ranged from gruesome wounds to a full body dummy of one of the film’s central characters. In addition to this, Artem created an elements package for the production team, featuring detail shots of blood spurts, smoke and flying embers.

Project Details 

“It was clear from the outset that Justin [Kurzel] knew exactly what he wanted,” said Mike Kelt, Artem CEO and special effects supervisor on the film. “He was after a cold, atmospheric, misty, Scottish feel to permeate the film. The biggest challenge was covering vast areas of landscape with a consistent mist – whole hillsides had to disappear, enveloping armies and blotting out unwanted backgrounds.”

Rising to the challenge, the Artem team built a bespoke tubing system that was able to cover vast areas of landscape with mist and could be moved quickly in response to changes in wind. The iconic industry-standard Artem smoke gun – designed and made by Artem, and exported round the world – was used to create denser smoke for tighter shots.

In case the swathes of smoke and mist weren’t miserable enough, Artem added rain to some scenes. Again it had to cover wide areas, requiring the team to set up huge rain stands.

Mike Kelt said: “In some respects Justin was lucky; we were often battling with the ‘real’ weather, which was atrocious throughout most of the filming, and a challenge for everyone on the production. On top of one Scottish hill we even grouped like Antarctic penguins, rotating positions to spread the pain! On that particular day we managed to cheer people up by finishing with a large burning pyre of bodies – something you might expect to be grim, but at least it offered some warmth! This can be seen near the start of the film.”

The film’s grisly prosthetics included exposed intestines, throat cuts, a hand that gets fully 'sliced' off, along with a dead body double of Duncan, the murdered king. The actor, David Thewlis, visited Artem’s West London studio to have his body cast, and despite initial doubts from the director as to how lifelike the result could be, the body double proved so realistic that the actor was able to finish his scenes early instead of playing dead for hours on end!

Macbeth went down a treat at The Cannes Film Festival recently and has been receiving five-star reviews. You can read The Times' five-star review of the film - and how it 'roils the bloody butchery of battle' - hereThe Telegraph also gives five stars - you can read about the 'blistering, blood-sticky' adaptation here.

Atmospherics in church

Sculpting a cut face prosthetic

Guts and blood prosthetics

Battle wounds prosthetics and blood

Finished face cut prosthetic

Severed hand prosthetic and blood rig

Firing arrows rig

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Rain, mist, smoke, fire and burning embers are all key elements in the world of Macbeth, together with prosthetics and gore for the battle scenes. Artem had a tough budget in relation to the ambition for the film but worked tirelessly to help create the frontier landscape of Justin Kurzel's Macbeth

Laura Hastings-Smith


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