The Blade Runner franchise has always been (and continues to be) a technical powerhouse. Here are some ways to pull off the film’s cutting-edge effects.

Top Image via Warner Brothers.

The Blade Runner franchise has always been known for it’s use of practical (and non-practical) effects, and it has always been regarded as one of the most legendary examples of how to merge the two to realistic and superior results.

With Blade Runner 2049, director Denis Villeneuve carried the franchise torch into the 21st century with respectful nods to the special effects and visual processes of the original. In the below video, Villeneuve discusses his contempt for working on empty green screen stages and being locked into the pre-visualized camera movements — so he made sure from the beginning that they would be working practically as much as possible.

Video via Vice.

Aside from achieving a more realistic result from a special effects perspective, this approach also creates a much better atmosphere for actors to work in and become a part of the physical world.

“That set is a massive practical set. It also has a great number of visual effects, and also miniatures that combine to create the world that you see on film. But as an audience you’re watching most of that performance taking place in a real actual environment.”  —Andrew A. Kosove, Producer, Bladerunner 2049

How To Recreate the Special Effects From Blade Runner 2049 — On Set
Image via Warner Brothers.

In the Vice video, production designer Dennis Gassner shows off the “trash mesa” — an old soccer field filled with piles of metal scraps and textured, rubberized foam. Interestingly enough, it appears that its entire function was to serve as a texture and lighting reference for creating special effects.

This is an interesting example of how to create your own textures and looks. Sometimes you have to build a field of futuristic trash to see what a field of futuristic trash should look like.

How To Recreate the Special Effects From Blade Runner 2049 — Pre Vis
Via Vice.

The modern approach to making stellar visual effects is the same approach that has always worked. Using practical textures, lighting, and sets can really help you achieve the look you’re going for — this is the formula that has brought the most legendary visual effects-driven films their success.

While you may not have the big budgets and teams that Villeneuve had to work with, you can still find ways to emulate some of his process in your own work.

Here are a few examples of some visual tricks and effects inspired by the Blade Runner franchise that you can pull off in Adobe Premiere and After Effects.

Create Blade Runner-Inspired Eyes in After Effects

In this After Affects tutorial, you can use the tracking tools and some masking to create the look of the replicant eyes from the first Blade Runner — or you can also create the creepy gray-eyed look of Jared Leto‘s Niander Wallace. Using this tutorial, you can learn methods that will benefit you beyond just these effects — you can use eye tracking to do a lot of really interesting things.

Create the Blade Runner 2049 Desert Look In After Effects

In this tutorial by Film Riot, learn how to create one of the most iconic looks from the new Blade Runner movie. Aside from some very aggressive color correction techniques, this tutorial features some really interesting approaches to using any environment to create another one. Similar to the special effects approach in the film itself, the Film Riot team found a way to use real textures and elements in conjunction with non-practical ones to create their look — including one really great use of a drone shot.

Create a Sci-Fi Hologram Inspired By Blade Runner 2049 In Premiere Pro

In this Premiere Pro tutorial, the team at Cinecom shows you how to do some creative things with masking and chroma-keying to achieve some of the holographic/hologram looks from Blade Runner 2049. Beyond achieving a similar effect to what you see in the movie, you can also use this method to do all kinds of other things. Perhaps you’d like to clone your actor, or have a fist fight with a ghost. All of it is possible using the methods in this tutorial.

Interface HUD Elements Pack

If you need some sci-fi inspired heads-up-display elements to add to your projects, check out the Interface HUD pack. This pack contains over 400 elements that you can use to build displays and effects — and add tons of detail to your sci-fi projects.


Have you used any of these techniques in your own projects? Let us know in the comments.