Screens Help Define the World of “Blade Runner 2049”

by Michelle Gallina

posted on 12-11-2017

Screens Help Define the World of “Blade Runner 2049”

Territory Studio is at it again. This time, the talented, design-driven studio shared details of its work on a highly-anticipated Blade Runner 2049. The sequel to the 1982 film Blade Runner, which premiered in theaters on October 6, 2017, jumps ahead 30 years and brings new and old characters together to uncover long-buried secrets that will affect the future of humanity.

When Territory Studio started work on the project, it was shrouded in secrecy. Director Denis Villeneuve and Production Designer Dennis Gassner shared their vision for the film, which takes place after a cataclysmic event erased everything digital. As a result, the universe in Blade Runner 2049 is clearly distinguishable from the original Blade Runner universe, with everything having a more analog look and feel.

Image credited to Territory Studio

“We weren’t held back by anything that was done previously, so we could build on the legacy of the original Blade Runner with some completely new content,” says Peter Eszenyi, creative lead and visual effects supervisor at Territory Studio. “We had to discard all of our previous ideas about technology to come up with a version of the future that matched the story.”

The first step of the process involved working quickly to create the idea of the Blade Runner 2049 world to share with the director and production designer. The team used Adobe Photoshop CC and After Effects CC to pull in various textures, scans, and images and then experimented with different layers, filters, and channels. After Effects was particularly useful for exploring quick, organic ideas because the team could just stack things on top of one another and iterate quickly.

“We showed them quite a few directions of how we would approach technology in this world,” says Eszenyi. “Then we narrowed it down to a certain aesthetic for the different types of computers.”

Next, the team was introduced to the different sets for the film, including the LAPD office, the morgue, the neighbor’s apartment, the market, and the Wallace Corporation offices. The Territory Studio team was responsible for creating various computer screens that were featured on the different sets, with all of them having a unique look and feel. Overall, Territory Studio produced 100 different screens for the film — most of which were played back during the filming.

Image credited to Territory Studio

“Everything we did needed to tie into the story points of the old Blade Runner universe, which were mainly about where someone is in the world’s hierarchy,” says Peter. “The computer interface for someone in a position of power needed to look different than an average person’s technology, which was more cobbled together.”

Many designs for the screens started in Adobe Illustrator CC, and were then animated in After Effects. Cinema 4D was also used to add dimension to the technology. Making the screens look realistic within the environments helped to make the sets more all-encompassing for the actors.

“Part of the reason why people love to use screens with actual content on set is that they contribute to the lighting and the mood,” says Peter. “But equally important is how they help to get great performances from actors because they can see and react to what’s happening on the screen.”

Image credited to Territory Studio

Rather than programming the screens to make it look like the actors are interacting with them, the team had to take a different approach with the screens in Blade Runner 2049. Territory Studio worked with another company that was responsible for the on-set playback. The company triggered the screens at certain narrative points in the story, which helped to drive the performances of the actors.

In a film where the environment is central to the storytelling, the work that Territory Studio did for Blade Runner 2049 helps to create a truly immersive world. “It was great to see the final movie and realize most of the screens we created were barely touched in post,” says Peter. “It shows how carefully everything was planned and how important it was to have the screens on set.”

Topics: Video & Audio, Creativity

Products: After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, Creative Cloud