GEEKERY: The Amazing Miniatures of Blade Runner


It’s one of the most highly regarded science fiction films of all time – in part because of its FX team.

George Lucas wasn’t the only one creating amazing, never before seen in camera effects in the late 70s and early 80s. Special effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull (2001Close EncountersStar Trek) and futurist designer Syd Mead (Tron2010Aliens transported audiences into Rick Deckard’s future Los Angeles. Work that still holds up 33 years later…

The film’s signature look is achieved through a combination of practical effects – motion control camera work, film composites, and scale miniatures built by Trumbull’s Entertainment Effects Group. The team started to work in 1980, basing their models on art by Mead, and what they produced is nothing short of amazing. Some of the vehicles were made in multiple sizes – from fit in a shoebox to life size – and all had to match to perfect detail.

Check out these behind the scene shots form the EEG workshop…

Bladerunner Model Shop

One of my favorites from that collection is this shot of a building exterior… can you imaging playing Infinity on this set?



The most impressive work, though, is the breathtaking opening sequence… making acid-etched brass miniatures and fiber-optic lights look like this…


… was a feat of vision, imagination, and passion; and a lot of dangerous physical labor. More on the creation of the ‘Hades Landscape’ can be seen in this behind the scenes interview with Doug Trumbull – there are a few others in the video section that cover the blimp shots and the spinners that are well worth your time.

I can only hope that the creative team for the new Blade Runner project slated to start filming next year goes with mainly in camera effects instead of tons of flashy CG.

What is your favorite practical FX shot in a movie? Share video if you can find it!

  • Seb

    Always enjoy looking at Bladerunner art dept.

    One of my favourite stories from the shoot was about the money man. He arrived on set to sadly bring the project to a close as he had lost faith because of costs. Ridley had the manager bring their investor from one end of the lot to the other through the neon throng between sequences; essentially immersing their guest in a fully populated set with all the lights and grime.

    By the time he arrived from out of the futurist street life, he was asking how much more they needed to complete the movie.

  • euansmith

    After all the work they put in to it, you still got that terrible shot when Roy releases the pigeon and it flies up from the night time, rain slicked distopian roof top, past the dry, sun kissed front of a sound stage.

  • Andrew Thomas

    Still, has the best accidental movie reference for when you run out of credits in an arcade game.

  • Guess people didn’t learn how to smile in photos till the 90s…all those glorious 80s hairstyles!

  • AircoolUK

    The future; flying cars and payphones. It’s one that everyone has a laugh at, but it’s still a cracking movie and has that Dystopian Cyberpunk vibe that had such an massive influence for what followed.

  • Arthfael

    Thank you. That was beautiful.

    • Haakon Slash

      You’re welcome… glad you like, and I appreciate the comment 🙂