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Passing the Test: Cinematography and Blade Runner: 2049

Blade Runner 2049

Passing the Test: Cinematography and Blade Runner: 2049


Blade Runner: 2049


  • Release: 2017, Denis Villeneuve (Dir). Columbia Pictures
  • Cameras: ARRI Alexa Mini, ARRI Alexa Plus & ARRI Alexa XT Studio.
  • Lenses: Zeiss Master Prime Lenses
  • Cinematographer: Roger Deakins


In our continuing blog series regarding the 90th Academy Award’s and the digital filmmaking systems used. This week, we’re taking a sky car into the murky burnt orange skylines of future Los Angeles with Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner: 2049. Returning to the post-modern classic of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Villeneuve rises to the mantle of returning to the dystopic drenched future Los Angeles, as inspired by Phillip K. Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep. Starring Ryan Gosling as an eponymous ‘Blade Runner’, a detective hunting for humanlike androids known as ‘Replicants’. Walking in the shadow of returning Harrison Ford’s Deckard. A strong contender for the Best Cinematography award, we take a look at the cameras, lenses and lighting seen in Blade Runner: 2049

The Rundown: Blade Runner: 2049’s performance at the 90th Academy Awards

  • Best Production Design – Dennis Gassner & Alessandra Querzola: Nominated
  • Best Sound Editing – Mark Mangini & Theo Green: Nominated
  • Best Sound Mixing – Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill & Mac Ruth: Nominated


  • Best Cinematography – Roger Deakins: Nominated & Won
  • Best Visual Effects – John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert & Richard R. Hoover: Nominated & Won

In a decade-spanning career that would make the envy of any film buff’s Blu-ray collection, cinematographer veteran Roger Deakins has been nominated a staggering 13 times for previous efforts such as:

  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Fargo
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • No Country for Old Men
  • True Grit
  • Skyfall
  • Prisoners
  • Sicario

To finally achieve a Win here for Best Cinematography is seen by many in the industry as a long overdue nod for Deakins, and a testament to his impressive career. Having utilised the ARRI Alexa 65 on Sicario, Roger Deakins here explains his selection of a cross of Alexa XT in conjunction with the smaller, compact ARRI Alexa Mini.

“I’ve shot tests on the 65, but Denis and I were really quite happy with the feel of Sicario, so we decided to go with (the Alexa XT again). The 65 is great, but it’s almost too sharp and it’s so much data. We actually had a few Alexa Minis as well. We used them quite a bit.”

– Roger Deakins


However, simply having the right camera body is only ever the beginning of the story. To help grasp the intense details, textures and colour gradient, Deakins turned to the ARRI / Zeiss Master Prime Lenses.

“Denis and I generally favour middle range (focal lengths), usually between a 27mm and a 50mm. On Blade Runner, we used wide lenses quite a lot. We went as wide as 14mm. A lot of the time, we were trying to exaggerate the space we had. Our sets were quite big, but we were trying to make them look even bigger.”

– Roger Deakins


Taking the steps to film Blade Runner: 2049 large in camera required vast sets of epic proportions. Such scale requires the kind of complicated, crafted and intricate lighting system that was no stranger to Deakins. Gaffer Bill O’Leary discusses the set up with ARRI SkyPanels on one such set.

“This was a large set with a coffered ceiling containing milk glass panels. We had a construction box in each separate opening to act as a snoot and hung an ARRI S60-C in each box. There were 100 SkyPanels in total. This allowed us to achieve an effect of each row turning on as the characters crossed the set. I also found the SkyPanels easy to integrate into a more standard tungsten setup.”

– Bill O’Leary


Following a string of visually stunning films such as Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario and Arrival, Villeneuve’s ambition was to create a visual and audio landscape. Using intense physical effects, lighting, soundscape, soundtrack and editing. It is no surprise that Blade Runner: 2049 has succeeded heavily in the production-heavy categories. We look forward to great anticipation to see if the emerging filmmaker in Villeneuve and veteran campaigner in Deakins will collaborate once more.


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