A visual journey through the screen graphics of ‘Blade Runner 2049’

BladeRunner2049_Trailer_DENAbaseUI_TS

Territory Studio is behind some of the coolest UI and screen graphics you’ve seen in recent films, from Prometheus to Ghost in the Shell and now Blade Runner 2049. What better way to see what they did for the Denis Villeneuve film than just let them show off their visuals. Here’s a look at designs and finals from the film, along with their notes on how they were made.

Background to the work

When Supervising Art Director Paul Inglis rang about bringing us on board Blade Runner 2049, we all had to take a moment. The original Blade Runner made such an impact on many of us, that both personally and professionally the chance to work on the sequel was huge.

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Apart from on set screen graphics, there was no clear brief. Instead, we (Andrew Poplestone Creative Director and Peter Eszenyi, Creative Lead) went to Budapest to speak to Paul & director Denis Villeneuve who outlined what the film was about thematically and what the Blade Runner universe (30 years after the original) was about in terms of progression and context. We also talked about how technology fit into the film as a supporting narrative device and how he felt that technology should look and feel in the context of the larger themes – status, power, human, non-human, memory and identity.

Villeneuve asked for originality. He didn’t want to simply evolve technology but asked us to create a possible technological alternative that fit with a trajectory that had been advancing until a ‘blackout’ event had reset the basis for technology as we think of it today.

During the trip we saw concept art in Production Designer Dennis Gassner’s office and those big landscapes, the bleakness of snow and fog, the contrasting interiors and urban textures and degradation of all everything mechanical gave us the best reference point for look and feel.

The screen graphics were all to be story specific – no fluff or noise on the sets, which meant that we could concentrate on supporting story beats.

From those conversations and references we started a R&D phase, and gathered concepts and ideas about how technology that is not reliant on electricity or digital can look and behave. Words that Denis used to describe what he wanted included ‘abstract, organic, optical, physical’.

We ended up with an extremely experimental approach – never tied to CG, the R&D process involved looking at alternative interface technologies, at optical and physical effects and layering of textures that suggested age, dilapidation and a different path.

We looked at the microcapsule technology used in E-Ink displays and advancements in bioluminescence, to see how colour and what palettes can be achieved in the absence of LED screens.

To achieve ‘physicality’ and organic textures, we brought in optical lenses, old school projections, microfiche, and rolodex cards and other stuff to the studio. Even fluids, fruit and meat products were dissected and photographed.

The screen graphics were all to be story specific – no fluff or noise on the sets, which meant that we could concentrate on supporting story beats. From those conversations and references we started a R&D phase, and gathered concepts and ideas about how technology that is not reliant on electricity or digital can look and behave. Words that Denis used to describe what he wanted included ‘abstract, organic, optical, physical’.

We ended up with an extremely experimental approach – never tied to CG, the R&D process involved looking at alternative interface technologies, at optical and physical effects and layering of textures that suggested age, dilapidation and a different path. We looked at the microcapsule technology used in E-Ink displays and advancements in bioluminescence, to see how colour and what palettes can be achieved in the absence of LED screens. To achieve ‘physicality’ and organic textures, we brought in optical lenses, old school projections, microfiche, and rolodex cards and other stuff to the studio. Even fluids, fruit and meat products were dissected and photographed.

We were brought on board in pre production to set the screen graphic concepts and design. We delivered over 100 assets across 15 sets, which almost all were implemented live and shot on set. In some cases the assets were finished in post, but our design direction was carried through the entire process

The Denabase

Baseline scan

Morgue scan