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Visual Futurist: Step inside the sci-fi world created by ‘Blade Runner’ visionary Syd Mead
04.26.2017
09:28 am
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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.
 

‘TRON.’
 

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

READ ON
Posted by Cherrybomb
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04.26.2017
09:28 am
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How We’ll Live: Futurists’ 1988 predictions about life in 2013
03.15.2013
05:25 pm
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image
 
I love “futurism” but I like it even better when it’s being seen in the rear view mirror. That’s when it gets really interesting for me.

A few years back I re-read most of the 70s and 80s books by Alvin Toffler, futurist author of such best-selling and influential works hailing “the shape of things to come” as Future Shock, The Third Wave and Power Shift. It’s simply amazing how right on the money Toffler was (for the most part) and his classic, now literally decades out-of-date books are still just as much fun to read to see what he got wrong, as much to see what he got right, and why.

In 1988, The Los Angeles Times Magazine published an ambitious, 16 page cover story written by Nicole Yorkin that drew from interviews she had conducted with a few dozen futurists trying to project how people would live in Los Angeles in the year 2013. They got the great Syd Mead, the “visual futurist” and conceptual artist behind Aliens, Blade Runner and Tron—an inspired choice—to illustrate it.

How much of the piece got it right is now, 25 years later, the subject of a graduate engineering class taught at USC by Prof. Jerry Lock­en­our:

Lockenour provided his 25 students with electronic copies of the magazine and they divvied up the articles to determine which of the 1988 predictions came true. To their surprise, the students — some of whom weren’t even born when Yorkin’s look into the future was published — found that many predictions have become reality.

Yorkin’s experts had foreseen smart cars that would drive themselves by 2013. The luxury cars that she wrote about zipping eastbound in the 118 Freeway’s “electro lanes” were outfitted with “inductive couplers” — something that isn’t on the market yet. But the technology exists: Google engineers are testing driverless cars that are equipped with a laser radar system.

“You find some cars that will help park themselves now, so parts of it have already happened,” said Mohammadali Parsian, a 23-year-old USC student from Iran. “Electro lanes? It makes sense…. It takes 25 or 30 years for new things to come into place.”

Classmate Chiraag Dodhia, 24, of Kenya, was also startled by how many of the 1988 transportation predictions were on target. “Things like every car will have computers. Back then it wasn’t common for cars to have diagnostic features and low tire-pressure alarms,” he said.

Other things forecast by the magazine — magnetic induction that lifts cars off the road, car computers that talk to other cars’ computers — may be on the horizon, Dodhia said.

The 1988 forecasts saw a high-tech revolution occurring in public schools by 2013. There would be neighborhood satellite campuses of about 300 pupils with high-resolution computer screens for walls and ceilings. Desks would have built-in computers operated by smart cards.

“Her prediction was not that far off,” said graduate student Nikolaos Vagias, 26, of Greece. “We don’t have smart cards, but we have smartphones and tablets with all these applications. Just like the article said, the price of computers is going down so every kid can afford one.”

Hitendra Mistry, a 25-year-old student from India, noted that even Lockenour’s course is live-streamed to students elsewhere through USC’s Distance Educational Network.

Walter Glaeser, a 50-year-old Boeing systems engineer who lives in St. Louis, is one of nine students taking the class through the network. Some of the magazine’s predictions were far-fetched, he said, but then again, “I’ve never actually met any of my USC professors face to face in the time I’ve been pursuing my master’s degree.”

Some of the original 1988 article is a little locally focused to be of much interest to non Los Angelenos, but man, oh man is it fascinating to those of us who live here to see how much of if they—especially Syd Mead, who once called science fiction “reality ahead of schedule”—got right. If the image on the cover didn’t predict today’s gleaming, overly-developed area near the Staples Center in downtown LA with eerie prescience—downtown was exactly like Mad Max back in 1988, one of the worst, most insane skidrow areas in all of America—then I don’t know what would have!

Ironically, it was the Los Angeles Times Magazine itself that didn’t make it to 2013, as the magazine was shuttered in 2012.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.15.2013
05:25 pm
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‘Blade Runner’ Convention Reel, 1982
08.31.2011
12:01 pm
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From Vimeo user Future Noir:

One of the Blade Runner Convention Reels featuring interviews with Ridley Scott, Syd Mead and Douglas Trumbull about making Blade Runner universe. This 16 mm featurette, made by M. K. Productions in 1982, is specifically designed to circulate through the country’s various horror, fantasy and science fiction conventions.

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Blade Runner’ Polaroids
Blade Runner revisited

(via Super Punch)

Posted by Tara McGinley
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08.31.2011
12:01 pm
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