BLADERUNNER 2049 – SAPPER’S FARM
Looking at Lighting
The fly in to Sapper’s Farm was constructed from a series of cockpit shots of K that were made on stage, either against a grey blacking or against blue screen, combined with plate shots that were made in California, Spain and Iceland. The first image of the film is of a solar farm in California. The array has been duplicated and imposed on a landscape photographed in Iceland. This is followed by an image of an agricultural area in Spain where the land has been completely covered with plastic greenhouses.
The black volcanic landscape immediately surrounding Sapper’s Farm is also from Iceland.
It was crucial to both Denis and I that we would shoot all the exteriors for ‘BR 2049’ under cloud so, in order to build in some flexibility within our schedule and accommodate daily weather conditions, both the exterior of Sapper Morton’s Farm and the Trash Mesa crash site were built on the backlot of our studio in Budapest.
Where possible we mounted green screens to separate the set from any unwanted background so the set could be more easily extended in post using landscape elements that were shot in Iceland. In the event we were very lucky with the weather and we had many days of heavy cloud cover and drizzle under which to shoot both our exterior sets, especially as there seemed little need to actually see any detail outside the windows.
The interior of the Farm was built on a stage adjacent to the backlot though the two sections of the scene were shot weeks apart from one another to accommodate actor’s availability. There had been some discussion about building a composite set comprising the interior and exterior of the farm on the backlot, however, this would have only created more problems for me in terms of matching the grey overcast light, if it meant shooting the interiors on sunny days. It seemed to me much more efficient to create and control this look on stage. I didn’t want to use any interior practical sources and I wanted the whole set to feel dark and threatening so my game plan for lighting the interior was simply to surround the set with bounce boards with very minimal lighting in addition. In the initial Art Department plans of the set there were only two small windows, those matching the exterior set on the backlot.
Given the way I wanted to light the scene and with the advantage of working from detailed storyboards that Denis and I had previously created, I asked for more windows to be integrated into the set in very specific places. This allowed me to, at times, play the characters in silhouette and lend to the interior a more dramatic look. One particular element that Denis was particularly keen on was the yellow plastic entrance to the Farmhouse that gives it such a modular feel. We tested a number of different materials for this as it needed to be the right color as well as translucent enough to work on camera. I did use some additional lighting for this as the material of which this entrance was constructed was always going to be a little dense. The view outside the doorway is a simple painted backing painted and lit to match the exterior that had by that time already been shot.
There were no effects involved with the interior work. The window glass was made to look dirty and I felt it would be overcomplicating and distracting to see anything other that this texture.
The dailies of this sequence were almost exactly as you see in the final images. In the DI we adjusted some of the contrast, adding more snap to the black, and we also reduced the brightness of the windows to bring out the texture that I previously mentioned but, for the most part, what we did was minimal.
In my opinion the lighting of this interior was the most successful look of anything in ‘BR2049’. I felt this look complimented the scenes quite well and I also like the minimal nature of the lighting, although in actuality creating the soft bounce lighting when shooting directly toward the windows was quite complicated.
Both Denis and I believe in doing as much as possible ‘in camera’. This was especially so for ‘BR 2049’. To that end we hired aerial cinematographer Dylan Goss, who had previously worked with us on ‘Sicario’, to shoot what were very specific plates for us in California, Spain and in Iceland, as I previously mentioned, and also in Mexico City for our cityscapes. Although much fine digital work was done to enhance these images the basis for each is ‘in camera’ and shot under the ‘right’ lighting conditions.