follow us in feedly
Visual Futurist: Step inside the sci-fi world created by ‘Blade Runner’ visionary Syd Mead

A depiction of Los Angeles in 2019 by Syd Mead for ‘Blade Runner.’
Artist Syd Mead is probably best known for his work for the 1982 film Blade Runner, though his vast contributions to cinema can be seen in other groundbreaking works such as Aliens (1986), TRON (1982), and 2013’s Elysium which was directed by Neill Blomkamp. Blomkamp had a life-long obsession with Mead and his artwork which was what led him to engage the services of the then 80-year-old artist to design the sets for his futuristic film.

Mead’s background in industrial design is clear and present in his paintings. During the 1970s his artistic services were highly sought-after and widely respected within the companies and industries he spent time working for such as Ford and Phillips Electronics, illustrating catalogs and other types of publications. Mead also worked closely with elite members of the architectural design world including large hotel chains and other high-end establishments. His relentlessly busy schedule led him to move his base of operations to Los Angeles where he quickly found himself working as an artist for the motion picture industry in the late 70s. Though Blade Runner would not be the first Hollywood film that Mead would lend his visionary talent to, it can’t be disputed that his work on the film left an indelible imprint on the minds of filmmakers and cinephiles around the world, who adopted Mead’s grungy vision of what the year 2019 looked like, and other aspects of Blade Runner’s‘s essence in their work, like the hardwired goths from The Matrix, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall and Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element.

A sketch of a uniform from ‘TRON’ by Syd Mead.
After meeting with director Ridley Scott to discuss the film (which at the time was going by the working title of Dangerous Days) Mead recalls that Scott told him that his intention was to create the framework for a noir film around its science fiction premise. To help drive his point home Scott used Michael Anderson’s 1972 film Logan’s Run as an example of the “slick and clean” presentation of more conventional cinematic sci-fi, opting instead for more of a bad-side-of-town feeling, pulsating in neon lights and depravity. Ridley Scott quite literally gave Syd Mead the job of creating 2019 Los Angeles for Blade Runner using his own conceptual ideas. During the process, Mead incorporated elements and influences from his travels around the world. Some of the vehicles in the film are based on autos from Cuba or the colorful “jitneys” (also known as “Jeepneys”) that serve as public transportation all around the Philippines. Architecturally, the future city of Los Angeles was based on a combination of Chicago and New York, and Mead’s work in Blade Runner continues to not only inspire filmmakers but also architects and a style that the artist referred to as “retro deco,” or “trash chic.”

Though I’ve only really scratched the surface when it comes to Syd Mead, I’m hoping it was more than enough to pique your interest in the impossibly cool artist. If that’s the case there are many publications based on Mead’s life and his long line of accomplishments. Perhaps the most lust-worthy is the forthcoming The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist which is set for release in September. The 256-page book is the largest and most comprehensive take on Mead’s career yet, including some never-before-seen works.

Mead is very much a living legend who deserves every bit of praise his fans give him and more.


Another conceptual work by Mead for ‘TRON.’
More Mead after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Stay dry in today’s dystopian cyberpunk reality with a Blade Runner umbrella
09:28 am


Blade Runner

As a life-long fan of the 1982 film Blade Runner, I’ve always wanted one of those light-up umbrellas like the street denizens of Ridley Scott’s pre-apocalyptic Los Angeles carry, and now that I actually live in the (for real dystopian cyberpunk) future, such a thing is conveniently available.

I got this thing in the mail yesterday and thought it was cool enough to share with our readers, as I know we’ve got a lot of Blade Runner fans in our audience.

For an umbrella that costs under $25 and has electronic parts, it’s surprisingly well-constructed. It has three light modes: solid blue, and two different flash modes. It’s the perfect accessory to light your way through the rain and fog as you head down to the noodle shop, keeping your eyes peeled for replicants.

You can pick one up at Amazon HERE. There are other brands that seem to do the same thing, but this is the one I got and I can vouch for the quality.

It’s just the thing to keep the rain off your tears as you watch the C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Original storyboards from ‘Blade Runner’
12:01 pm


Blade Runner

Leon’s reflection in Holden’s eye (Tyrell Corp. interrogation room)

The website Ridleyville is run by an England-based gentleman who is a massive Blade Runner collector. He owns everything that’s featured on his site, including these wonderful storyboards from the film.

According to the owner of Ridleyville:

Work in progress, this is just a few of the FX storyboards I now have. I will not put them all up, but I will certainly add some more over the next few days. I have about a hundred of these as well as some unique documents and some are completely hand-drawn or written originals. I think that these are one of my favourite items.

Wow, around a hundred?!? I’d love to see all of them! If you’d like to view more of his Blade Runner storyboards, visit Ridleyville. It’s worth the look!


More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Sean Young’s Polaroids from the set of ‘Blade Runner’
12:31 pm


Blade Runner
Sean Young

Young with costar Rutger Hauer, who played the replicant Roy Batty
Blade Runner was released in the late June of 1982, where it had great difficulty stealing attention from the behemoth E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, which occupied the #1 slot from its premiere on June 11 until early September (!), when the great cinematic classic known as Zapped! finally dislodged it from the top slot.

I was 12 years old when Blade Runner came out. All of my friends and I understood to the bone that Han Solo (for that was Harrison Ford’s primary identity back then) appearing in a dark and fucked-up cyborg cop adventure was about the coolest thing that had ever happened.

Blade Runner was just Sean Young’s third movie (she had been in Stripes already), and it remains the movie she’s probably best known for. Young is still very active in Hollywood, according to IMDb, which also states that she appeared in a recent noteworthy movie, 2015’s striking horror western Bone Tomahawk (I hadn’t noticed—her role is very small).

Young may have been aware of what a coup appearing in Blade Runner was, in that she seems to have spent much of her time snapping photos with her handy Polaroid camera. She appears to have had zero interest in documenting the astonishing practical effects used in the movie—rather, all of the pics are of herself and her coworkers. She uploaded these pics to her website in 2011, but the site is defunct today—you can see the full set of her Polaroids here.

Much more after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Blade Runner’ and ‘A Scanner Darkly’ reconstructed with an autoencoder

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” said the Nexus-6 replicant Roy Batty at the end of the film Blade Runner.

Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears ... in ... rain.

It’s a great speech—one written by Rutger Hauer—which suggests this bad boy android or replicant has experienced a state of consciousness beyond its intended programming.

While we can imagine what Batty’s memories look like, we can never see or experience them as the replicant or android saw them. Which is kinda damned obvious—but raises a fascinating question: Would an android, a robot, a machine see things as we see them?

It is now believed that humans use up to 50% of their brain to process vision—which gives you an idea the sheer complexity involved in even attempting to create some machine that could successfully read or visualize its environment. Do machines see? What do they see? How can they construct images from the input they receive?

The human eye can recognize handwritten numbers or words without difficulty. We process information unconsciously. We are damned clever. Our brain is a mega-supercomputer—one that scientists still do not fully understand.

Now imagine trying to create a machine that can do what the human brain does in literally the blink of an eye. Our sight can read emotion. It can intuit meaning. It can scan and understand and know whether something it inputs is dangerous or funny. We can look at a cartoon and know it is funny. Machines can’t do that. Yet.

A neural network is a computer system modeled on the human brain and nervous system. One type of neural network is an autoencoder.

Autoencoders are “simple learning circuits which aim to transform inputs into outputs with the least possible amount of distortion.”

Here’s a robotic arm using deep spatial encoders to “visualize” a simple function.

Terence Broad is an artist and research student at Computing Department at Goldsmiths University in London. Over the past year, Broad has been working on a project reconstructing films with artificial neural networks. Broad has been

training them to reconstruct individual frames from films, and then getting them to reconstruct every frame in a given film and resequencing it.

The type of neural network used is an autoencoder. An autoencoder is a type of neural net with a very small bottleneck, it encodes a data sample into a much smaller representation (in this case a 200 digit number), then reconstructs the data sample to the best of its ability. The reconstructions are in no way perfect, but the project was more of a creative exploration of both the capacity and limitations of this approach.

The resultant frames are strange watercolor-like images that are identifiable especially when placed side-by-side with the original source material. That they can reproduce such fast flickering information at all is, well, damned impressive.

Among the films Broad has used are two Philip K. Dick adaptations Blade Runner and A Scanner Darkly, which is apt considering Dick’s interest in androids and asking the question “What is reality?”
Much more after the jump…....

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Your one-stop shop for ‘Blade Runner’ origami
01:50 pm


Blade Runner
Edward James Olmos

Anyone who has seen Ridley Scott’s monumental movie Blade Runner probably remembers the character of Gaff, played by Edward James Olmos. Gaff serves as a kind of street-smart chorus in the movie, kind of like the scarcely delineated character who tells private detective J.J. Gittes to “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown” in Roman Polanski’s movie of that name.

Blade Runner being Blade Runner, however, the character of Gaff is highly ethereal and elusive. Throughout the movie he strews his little origami figures everywhere he goes, as an incessant mocking reminder to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) that he’ll never be one step ahead.

I had forgotten, but it turns out that in the movie Gaff makes three different creatures—an origami unicorn, an origami chicken, and a little man made from a matchstick. I know this because of the website run by a man named Kenneth Thompson, owner of a construction and flooring company in Michigan, that is dedicated to producing and selling actual origami recreations of Gaff’s Unicorn as well as providing tutorials about how to make all three of Gaff’s figures on your own.

Noticing that there was not a place to buy Gaff’s Unicorn on the Internet, Thompson decided that he “was going to have to make it” himself.

Here’s a section of Thompson’s instructions on how to make Gaff’s chicken:

If you want to buy one of Thompson’s replicas of Gaff’s Unicorns, you can do so from his site. As Thompson describes it, “At the end of the film as Deckard and Rachael are entering the elevator from Deckard’s apartment, Deckard notices another origami figure on the floor of the hall.” This is Gaff’s Unicorn.

You can buy one for $14.99 or, if you’d like a plexiglass case to showcase it, that’ll cost you $32.99.
After the jump, Thompson’s video tutorial on how to make your own Gaff’s Unicorn…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
A treasure-trove of behind-the-scenes ‘Blade Runner’ model-shop production photos
11:12 am


Blade Runner

We can all thank Imgur user minicity for uploading 142 behind-the-scenes images  from the Blade Runner production’s model-shop.

These stunning photographs offer a glimpse into the talent and sweat that went into creating one of the most realistic sci-fi universes ever committed to celluloid. Blade Runner‘s 1982 state of the art special effects were painstakingly executed, in-camera, practical effects, rather than composited in post-production. This photo series gives a fascinating insight into the detail that went into creating that onscreen world.





More images after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
A magazine gave every San Francisco mayoral candidate the replicant test from ‘Blade Runner’
10:06 am


Blade Runner
San Francisco

There’s nothing more irritating than the evasive non-answers politicians mete out for the press and public. Education, budget, jobs—the words get thrown around a lot (and always in positive terms), but candidates are cagey and it’s nearly impossible to cut through their bullshit. If the voters want to know who these people really are, we have to ask the tough questions. Questions like…

Are you a fucking replicant?!?

Of course, no prospective leader is going to admit they’re an advanced android, which is why we have the highly scientific Voight-Kampff Test, made famous in Blade Runner. Why it’s not administered to everyone running for office, I do not know, but in 2003, The Wave magazine managed to ask every single question to all of the San Francisco mayoral candidates. The results were troubling, to say the least.

The Wave: Reaction time is a factor in this, so please pay attention. Now, answer as quickly as you can.
It’s your birthday. Someone gives you a calfskin wallet. How do you react?

Gavin Newsom: I don’t have anything to put in it. I would thank them and move on.

TW: You’ve got a little boy. He shows you his butterfly collection plus the killing jar. What do you do?

GN: I would tell him to… You know what? I wouldn’t know how to respond. How’s that for an answer? Is this a psychological test? I’m worried…

TW: They’re just questions, Gavin. In answer to your query, they’re written down for me. It’s a test, designed to provoke an emotional response.

GN: Oh, I got you.

TW: Shall we continue?

GN: Sure.

TW: You’re watching television. Suddenly you realize there’s a wasp crawling on your arm. How would you react?

GN: I would quietly sit and wait for the wasp to move to the next victim.

TW: You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, Gavin, it’s crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back, Gavin. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t, not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that, Gavin?

GN: [Immediately] Not a chance. I would never flip the tortoise over in the first place.

TW: Describe in single words, only the good things that come into your mind. About your mother.

GN: Ethics. Commitment. Sacrifice.

CONCLUSION: Almost too close to call. Almost. Newsom displays a defensiveness when his empathy is questioned. He’s aware that he’s being probed for emotional responses, and even expresses concern about this. However, this concern is alleviated a little too easily by our crafty V-K interviewer. Newsom is definitely a replicant. Probably a Nexus 5.

My fellow Americans, that was the test for Gavin Newsom, who not only won that election, but ran and was elected for a second term in 2007, and now serves as Lieutenant Governor of the state of California. Forget about creeping sharia or David Icke’s lizard people—the replicant threat is real!

Via io9

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Philip K. Dick on sex between humans and androids
11:22 am


Blade Runner
Philip K. Dick

In 1981, Philip K. Dick discussed the ideas and themes behind his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in an interview with author Paul M. Sammon. Dick’s novel about a hired assassin (Rick Deckard) paid to eliminate escaped androids formed the basis for Ridley Scott’s classic science-fiction film Blade Runner. The story had its genesis in research for his novel The Man in the High Castle. Dick studied psychological studies on the mentality of the Germans who became Nazis and read how these Germans were often highly intelligent but emotionally “so defective that the word human could not properly be applied” to them.

This led Dick to a philosophical investigation into “the problem of differentiating the authentic human being from the reflex machine I call an android.” 

For me the word ‘android’ is a metaphor for people who are physiologically human but psychologically behaving in a non-human way.

This was a subject Dick discussed in a lecture on “The Android and the Human” in 1972: android means, as I said, to allow oneself to become a means, or to be pounded down, manipulated, made into a means without one’s consent—the results are the same. But you cannot turn a human into an android if that human is going to break laws every chance he gets. Androidization requires obedience. And, most of all, predictability. It is precisely when a given person’s response to any given situation can be predicted with scientific accuracy that the gates are open for the wholesale production of the android life form.

Philip K. Dick.
In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick developed the idea of “androidization” further when he considered what would happen in a war between humans and androids—would humans become more android-like if they won?

This emotional interplay between humans and androids was also examined in the relationship between Deckard and the android Rachael Rosen, which Dick discussed in “Notes on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (1968):

And this brings up the whole underlying subject: sexual relations between humans and androids. What is it like? What does it mean? Is it, for instance, like going to bed with a real woman? Or is it an awful, nightmarish, bad trip, where what is dead and inert seems alive and warm and capable of the most acute intimacy known to living creatures? Isn’t this, this sexual union between Rick Deckard and Rachael Rosen—isn’t it the summa of falsity and mechanical motions carried out minus any real feeling, as we understand the word? Feeling on each of their parts. Does in fact her mental—and physical—coldness numb the male, the human man, into an echo of it?

...[Deckard’s] relationship, by having intercourse with her, has melded him to—not an individual, human or android—but to a whole type or model, of which theoretically, there could be tens of thousands. To whom, then, has he really given his erotic libido?

...Here, I think, the crucial questions of What is reality? and What is illusion? come up strongly….The more Rick strives to force her to become a woman—or, more accurately, to play the role of a woman—the more he encounters the core of the unlife within her…his attempt to make love to her as a woman for him is defeated by the tireless core of her electronic being.

Dick postulates that the failure of their lovemaking “may be vital in his determination—and success—in destroying the last of these andys.”

In this interview, Dick discusses some of these key questions about what is reality? what is human?

Thomas M. Disch once said that his friend Philip K. Dick liked to play-up the image of the hard-done-to artist, struggling in the garret, living off ground-up horse meat (which supposedly led Dick to translate his name into “Horselover Fat”—Philip Greek for horse lover, Dick German for fat), but things were never really that bad. However, he agreed America gave short-shrift to speculative science-fiction writers, and was grateful for the adulation and serious critical appraisal both received in Europe.

In 1977, Philip K. Dick was interviewed for French television where he discussed the problems of being a speculative science-fiction writer in America, as well as many of the philosophical ideas behind his works.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
12-hour ambient music pieces from ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Alien,’ ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Star Wars’
05:28 pm


Star Wars
Blade Runner
Dr. Who

Before the advent of recording media, a piece of music could be quite long without its duration meriting much notice, but when the mechanical limitations of the 7” 45rpm single codified the length of a song at about 3 1/2 minutes, the pop-listening western world really adapted its musical mindset to that standard, to the point where even a massive hit like “Hey Jude” drew anxious notice from radio for being 7 minutes long. And now there’s QuickHitz (“Twice the music, all the time”), a radio format that cuts off every song at the two-minute mark, which, if it catches on in a big way—and face it, have stranger things not caught on?—will surely result in loads of pop singles being produced at under two-minute lengths.

The Residents are prophetic yet again.

But in avant-garde classical and artrock circles, songs that seem crazy long by pop radio standards are a perfectly normal part of the listening experience. After all, what impact would Oneida’s infamous 14-minute, one note song “Sheets of Easter” have had if it were three minutes long? How about Television’s “Marquee Moon?” King Crimson’s “Starless?” Flaming Lips’ 24-hour song7 Skies H3?” And those examples are all well within the rock idiom—I haven’t even broached the New Age, noise, and ambient genres. So many of us have been acculturated to think of long pieces of music as “pretentious” or “indulgent,” products of anti-populist ivory tower navel gazers who are hostile to average listeners. Well you know what? Fuck your shitty attention span.

The Fayetteville, AR composer Cheesy Nirvosa has been making glitchy, drony compositions since the mid-oughts, and under the name “crysknife007,” he’s established a YouTube channel to disseminate conceptual pieces of lengths that could fairly be seen as downright punitive to many listeners. These are often the sorts of things that, in a LaMonte Youngish kinda way, can be more interesting to talk about than actually listen to, especially since many of these works are 12 hours in duration. “12 Hours of Pi Being Dialed on a Rotary Phone.” “Yoda Laughs for 12 Hours.” “PSY Says HANGOVER for 12 Hours.” “6 Tone Car Alarm for 12 Hours.” (I recommend city dwellers skip that last one, it’s waaaaaaaay too much like ordinary life.)

But while a few of these ideas come off as overly winking and even mildly irritating noise-artist stunts, some of them are absolutely lovely—specifically, pieces made from looped ambient sounds culled from science fiction movies. The general thrum of Ridley Scott’s dystopian future Los Angeles filtered through Rick Deckard’s apartment windows in Blade Runner? That absolutely holds up as drone music, as does the TARDIS sound effect from Doctor Who and various spaceship engine sounds from the Alien and Star Wars franchises. I endorse playing more than one of these at once, remixing them yourselves in your browser with the pause and volume controls, whatever. Knock yourself out. Maybe even, I dunno, listen to one of ‘em for 12 hours.


More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Hell yeah: Amazingly detailed ‘Blade Runner’ action figures
02:24 pm

Pop Culture

Blade Runner
Action Figures

Lord have mercy! These incredible 12” Blade Runner action figures are something else, aren’t they? Sculptor Scott Pettersen made these gorgeous pieces. Apparently each one takes take two to three months to make. I believe it, too! Just look at the detail in the clothes alone! My mind is simply blown!

“I work in wax when I sculpt and you can get a lot of detail in wax,” Pettersen says of the figures’ faces. “The finished heads are made out of resin — the kind I use is a clear, translucent color, so I cast it in a light color and then build onto that with different flesh tones. With all of them I use airbrush and there’s a lot of blending, a lot of thin, thin layers — I think on mass-produced figures all the paint is opaque and nothing is done with layers so it’s not as realistic.”

Read more about Pettersen’s Blade Runner action figures at Geek Exchange.




Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Hot Lust in Space’: Fictional magazine covers from the newsstand scene in ‘Blade Runner’
02:52 pm


Blade Runner

What you’re looking at are the magazine covers that appeared in the background of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner during the newsstand scene.

The covers were created back in 1980 by production artist and illustrator, Tom Southwell.
Via WFMU on Twitter and Odios

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Watch the watercolor version of ‘Blade Runner’
02:19 pm


Blade Runner

Swedish artist Anders Ramsell used 3285 watercolor paintings to create over 12 minutes of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner entirely of watercolors.

This is part one. I suppose more are on the way.

Via Kottke

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Nothing matches Blade Runner: Philip K. Dick gets excited about Ridley Scott’s film

Philip K. Dick wrote an excited letter to Jeff Walker, at the Ladd Company, after watching a television preview of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, the film version of his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

October 11, 1981

Mr. Jeff Walker,
The Ladd Company,
4000 Warner Boulevard,
Calif. 91522.

Dear Jeff,

I happened to see the Channel 7 TV program “Hooray For Hollywood” tonight with the segment on BLADE RUNNER. (Well, to be honest, I didn’t happen to see it; someone tipped me off that BLADE RUNNER was going to be a part of the show, and to be sure to watch.) Jeff, after looking—and especially after listening to Harrison Ford discuss the film—I came to the conclusion that this indeed is not science fiction; it is not fantasy; it is exactly what Harrison said: futurism. The impact of BLADE RUNNER is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people—and, I believe, on science fiction as a field. Since I have been writing and selling science fiction works for thirty years, this is a matter of some importance to me. In all candor I must say that our field has gradually and steadily been deteriorating for the last few years. Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches BLADE RUNNER. This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that, well, after the segment I found my normal present-day “reality” pallid by comparison. What I am saying is that all of you collectively may have created a unique new form of graphic, artistic expression, never before seen. And, I think, BLADE RUNNER is going to revolutionize our conceptions of what science fiction is and, more, can be.

Let me sum it up this way. Science fiction has slowly and ineluctably settled into a monotonous death: it has become inbred, derivative, stale. Suddenly you people have come in, some of the greatest talents currently in existence, and now we have a new life, a new start. As for my own role in the BLADE RUNNER project, I can only say that I did not know that a work of mine or a set of ideas of mine could be escalated into such stunning dimensions. My life and creative work are justified and completed by BLADE RUNNER. Thank you..and it is going to be one hell of a commercial success. It will prove invincible.


Philip K. Dick

The tragedy is PKD never saw the finished version of the classic science fiction film, as he died 5 months later, on March 2, 1982, just months before Blade Runner was given its cinematic release.
With thanks to Jai Bia

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Android Dreams’: Time-lapse video of Tokyo set to ‘Blade Runner’ soundtrack
12:09 pm


Blade Runner

Director Samuel Cockedey says, “A tribute to Ridley Scott and Vangelis, whose work on Blade Runner has been a huge source of inspiration in my shooting time lapses.

Shot over a year in Tokyo with a Canon 5dmk2, mainly in the Shinjuku area.”

(via Nerdcore)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Page 1 of 2  1 2 >