BLADERUNNER 2049 – WALLACE’S OFFICE
DAY & NIGHT
Looking at Lighting
The main ‘office’ set filled one half of a large stage at our Budapest studio complex. The other half of the stage was taken up with the set of Deckard’s Los Vegas Apartment. The idea behind the Wallace office set was of a large platform surrounded by water and the whole enclosed by towering stone walls, a design which Denis developed as we were storyboarding the film.
WALLACE’S OFFICE – DAY MODE
The idea of the first reveal, during what I termed the ‘daylight’ scene, was that Luv is coming up from her office on the floor below and appears as if emerging from the water. The main set could not practically be raised enough to accommodate the stairs, neither was there enough height in the stage to allow for this, so the stairs were built separately and built in a false perspective so that at their foot their width filled the frame but the opening at the top, where Luv emerges into the water, was quite narrow. My idea in lighting this set was to create moving patterns of sunlight, as though coming through skylights high above.
To do this required either moving a light, by means of a crane arm or a truss, or using a line of stationary lights and creating the pattern with a programmed chase. These two sets required I use both of these alternatives.
For the stairway I decided to use a moving light. This was for two reasons; primarily because I needed a point source to create the kind of water caustics that I was after and, secondly, because it was a more practical proposition for what was a single shot in the film.
I wanted to create a pattern of light similar in nature to the look of Luv’s Office whilst visually connecting the stairs to the pool surrounding the Wallace Office platform. To do this we constructed a shallow tank in the ceiling above the stairs. Even though this is not seen in the shot, there is no real alternative to using water for this caustic effect and especially so as we were looking directly up the stairs. For my light source I used a single 10K Skypan mounted on a Technocrane arm. As there was no stone wall beyond the stairs, to match that in the office, we simply painted a backing. To mimic the sunlight on the wall we panned a 5K Fresnel across this as if it were the beginnings of the light pattern that continues moving in the shot that follows.
The daylight scene in the Wallace Office itself was lit using three circular trusses, each 50’ in diameter but not a full circle, that carried 27 x T12 Fresnel lamps without doors and mounted as close together as was possible. The lamps were programmed so that only one would be at maximum intensity at any one time. To either side of this the next two lamps would be at around 80%, those on either side of that at 50% and the next at 30%. This chase would move slowly around the circle and, as the light was squeezed through openings in the cutters we rigged below, create slowly moving ‘sunlight’ patterns on the walls and across the water. I spent a number of evenings both adjusting the cutters and setting the chase with Steve Mathie on the dimmer board before the set was filled with water, as there was little chance of changing anything once that was done.
One issue that I had to deal with was the strength of the diffusion. I wanted a sharp’ish pattern to the light but without using diffusion I was getting multiple shadows that didn’t transition smoothly. This is always a problem with any multiple source but here it was exaggerated by the size of the lamps we were using and the completely flat surface the light was projected onto. I was never totally satisfied with the result but a light opal seemed to be the best option. I realized, a little too late, that I needed a band of diffusion rigged in a circle directly in front of the lights, rather than on a frame 15’ below them, which would have helped blend one with the next.
As Luv appears out of the water she is in total silhouette against the lighting pattern on the background but, as she moves towards us across the steps and into close shot, I used another set of ‘moving’ lights to bring something into her face.
Rather than an actual moving light, another chase, this time running through a curved row of 35 Tweenies, gave the impression of a soft light moving around the character and only lighting her from the front as she reaches her last position on the platform.
I had wanted to integrate this lighting with the background effect but to do this would have opened the lighting in a much broader fashion and this wasn’t where I wanted to go. A matching curved pipe rig with another 35 Tweenies was set to create a similar lighting reveal of Wallace as he approaches the camera. Both these rigs had to be able to move up and out the way as well as forward and backward, which was not an easy thing to achieve for the riggers.
WALLACE’S OFFICE – NIGHT MODE
The night rig for this set was entirely different from the previous daytime rig. This created a scheduling issue as the water had to be drained from the set to allow for the change over and a number of rigging days were required on top of that. Thankfully everyone worked well together to make this happen.
For the night time lighting I wanted to create caustics on the walls whilst lighting the platform, on which the scene plays out, entirely separately. Denis had suggested moving lights for the whole scene so that was also a factor I needed to build into the design. I had shot various tests to see the kinds of caustics I could achieve, the lighting units that worked best for this and the distances involved, so I had a plan. But it was one that didn’t quite work. I had tested Bad Boy spotlights during pre production and they certainly seemed the best option but on the actual set the width of their beam and the sharpness of their edges simply looked ‘fake’. Luckily the lighting positions we had rigged, through a complex array of moveable trusses, were in the right place and it was just a matter of swapping the Bad Boys for standard 10K Fresnel lamps, three on each side. When I am trying some lighting that is new to me I will always do a pre light on the set. On ‘BR 2049’ my gaffers and I were pre lighting sets on almost every Saturday during the shoot as well as in the evenings after shooting, so we always had the time to make corrections. The sectional diagram for this still suggests Bad Boys but that is wrong.
For the lighting of the characters on the platform I settled on two concentric rings of light. These, I felt, would create a soft moving wash of light and one that I could vary in both speed and intensity. I shot a test of this concept on my Leica Q, many weeks in advance of the set being built, and I discussed the test and also the general blocking of the scene with Denis before settling on the final plan.
Taking this information as a start, I designed a lighting scenario centered on the main point of focus on the platform. By studying the angles that the camera would see and the angles at which the light would strike the characters, I honed this down to an outer ring of 30’ in diameter and a smaller inside ring of 20’ in diameter. From the dimensions of these rings I calculated I required a total of about 283 Betweenies (a 300watt Fresnel lamp) if each of the lamps were set as close together as possible. The rig was complex, to say the least. The pipe work and truss needed to be purpose made and we had a limited period in which to do the work. There was no chance of changing anything on the day of the shoot so the design and placement of the truss, relative to the action, needed to be just right. One of my many fears was that the action would take place on another part of the platform than the one for which we had rehearsed, meaning the rig would no longer be centered on the scene.
The next challenge was to program the chase in such a way that I could have flexibility from shot to shot. I wanted to start with minimal light, with a small number of lights lit at any one time, and gradually enlarge the source so that, by the end of the scene, the set was not only more brightly lit but also lit with a wider softer source. Again, thanks to a great dimmer board operator, things worked our pretty well. It is always hard to program a lighting change with a performance and there is always a chance of a mismatch when shots are cut together, a backlight suddenly becomes a front light, but I think that here these mismatches, of which there are many, only add to the unsettling nature of the scene.
As with the daytime scene shot on the same set, all the lights were dimmed down so that the warmth you see in the resulting image comes from what was there in camera rather than through digital manipulation. I have always liked the effect you get when you have a line of lights in which the center is at maximum voltage, and therefore quite white, whilst the lamps to either side are progressively dimmed, and therefore progressively warmer. This leads to a light on a character that has warmer shadows than highlights, as the warmth of those dimmed lamps wraps around into the shadows. I often do this when I am shooting a portrait, either using gels but often using dimmers. Sometimes I want the shadows take on a cooler feel, which is something that can be seen in the last scene of ‘BR 2049’. For this scene I was using Spacelites but the concept is still the same. The lights directly above the actors were left clean whilst the lamps half way towards the backing were carrying a ¼ blue and those above the backing a ½ blue.
Initial Lighting Test