Deconstructing Cinematography of Scenes From 'Blade Runner'

As filmmakers and photographers, we tend to guess how other people shot specific scenes. Depending on our level of experience, we may be right or wrong. In this video we can see the approach of master DPs to deconstructing the cinematography of their favorite moments from "Blade Runner."

Geoff Boyle and Nic Knowland share their opinions on the lighting and lenses that were used on both the original Blade Runner and the latest one. It is interesting to see the thought process of people who have years of experience working on feature films and ads using film and digital cameras and all kinds of lenses.

Scene from "Blade Runner"

The cinematography of this scene seems both simple and complex. The simplicity comes from the fact there seems to be two light sources: a backlight and a key light (from camera left). The complexity comes from the catchlights in the eyes having both a red eye, and a white highlight. Boyle says that if we ignore the catchlights, this can be achieved by a single backlight and a white bounce on camera left. As for the catchlights, he shares that this was a common way to use such lighting in films and commercials back in the eighties. They were using a tilted transparent mirror in front of the lens, and light that was hitting the mirror was it on-axis with the camera, thus the red glow in the iris.

Scene from Blade Runner showing elongated highlights from the anamorphic lens

Knowland tells us how we can recognize the use of anamorphic lenses not only by the light flares, but by the elongated highlights when they are out of focus. Boyle continues on the topic of anamorphic glass by showing an example of how these lenses not only change the highlights but also capture the scene in a more pleasing way than spherical lenses. If you want to find other commentaries by master cinematographers, head over to the official Cooke Optics YouTube channel.

[via ISO 1200]

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9 Comments

Elan Govan's picture

Thank you......interesting topic.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

You're welcome. It was interesting to me, so I shared it.

Elan Govan's picture

Just viewed the YouTube footage. They all look over 55. Feel like a dinosaur facing the end of an era.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Age is a good thing. It means experience. The worst thing is to see an aging man or a woman without any legacy after them.

Elan Govan's picture

Very wise observation. Cannot argue with that.

James Johnston's picture

I always enjoy insight into the craft of filmmaking, especially when it involves my old and new favorites. Love both films and how they were filmed.

William Howell's picture

I learned something rally cool from this video, when the guy is talking about the lenses, he says we’re not paid to make accurate pictures we’re paid to make pretty pictures, I like that.

Lots of small gems of comments in this video!

"You know what? Concentrate on your story."
"One light and a bounce. Simple."
"We’re not paid to make accurate pictures. We’re paid to make pretty pictures."

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Sometimes we can learn more from an interview with a master cinematographer than from a 2 days tutorial from a non-master one.