Blade Runner details…

brfxOne of my favourite shots from Blade Runner is when we are approaching the Tyrell Corporation up close, and just left of centre we can see the panoramic window and look ‘into’ the room where Deckard will soon meet Rachel and Tyrell. It is a moment of exquisite detail. There’s no need for it, and it certainly isn’t highlighted- that section of the miniature is just in the background, and very quickly the passing Spinner car intentionally takes the attention away from it, and the viewer can’t even recognise that room on first viewing as he hasn’t seen it yet. Its really just something you notice on your second, third, fourth viewing. I imagine a lot of viewers haven’t noticed it even then. Its just another of the films sublime details that makes the film so special.

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And of course, it dates from a time when effects shots involved miniatures rather than CGI. People had to craft by hand everything we see; miniatures, matte paintings on glass. Whenever people question me moaning about CGI, this is the kind of thing I bring up. I don’t hate CGI. We have films now that would be impossible  otherwise. We see genuine wonders now. But the artistry of the old pre-CGI days has been lost, and the due care and attention to the crafting and framing of those effects shots has, I believe, suffered. More ‘wow’, less thought, now, most of the time.

Anyway, I just love that shot in Blade Runner, and these stills showing that part of that Pyramid miniature being built. That room with the long table where Deckard will test Rachel and those pillars standing… I wonder who had the balls to even suggest such a complex shot back then? Just imagine the sheer fearless ambition in attempting a shot like that. Maybe the effects boys knew they were working on something special. Its wonderful really. All that fine model detail destined to be lost in the background of a shot diffused by smoke on the shooting stage. Like tears in the rain, eh?

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3 thoughts on “Blade Runner details…

    1. I am pretty sure a CG artist would say just as much thought goes into a modern CGI fx shot, but I don’t think they are neccesarily as well designed and no matter how spectacular they are there’s something missing. There is something about a hand-built miniature or a painting on glass or elements combined in an optical printer. Theres a soul to it, a sense of the humanity imbued within it, as opposed to something fashioned by pixels and 3D simulation.

      Some of those fx shots in 2001 were painstackingly assembled in-camera over a passage of several months or even over a year. Elements were shot and the film stored away until it could be reloaded into the camera months later to be combined in-camera with other elements. 2001 may not look as convincing or spectacular as modern CGI shots but there is a soul and humanity to it. And it was all meticulously designed and prepared. A lot of CG shots seem almost thrown together in comparison. and there’s far too many effects shots in films now, so many that it dilutes their impact. Blade Runner is recognised as being a hugely impressive visual showcase but the number of effects shots are actually quite low. Its the impact of those individual shots that matters.

      I am afraid that, as remarkable as stuff like the CG wonders of Avatar and Gravity are, we are losing something in them. Losing some of the magic.

      (Certainly, much of The Force Awakens looks spectacular, but I believe the effects in The Empire Strikes Back remain superior and always will.)

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