The Imgur user “minicity” has posted an album of 142 photos from the model studio that created much of the imagery for the 1982 film Blade Runner. The art of building scale models (and painting matte backgrounds) is probably dying thanks to CGI — which makes everything you see in a film like Blade Runner all the more impressive. With a few exceptions, pre-Star Wars science fiction often looked cheap; watching a movie like Zardoz, you can tell by the sets and costumes that studios were reluctant to invest in what they saw as a genre movie with limited appeal. The juggernaut of Star Wars proved that paying a little more for sets and effects could pay off. Studios were scrambling to find the next sci-fi blockbuster, and the rush of movies made after Star Wars were of varying quality. But several studios actually gave their sci-fi flicks enough budget to succeed. Of the films that followed, Alien and Blade Runner are arguably the best looking, thanks in large part to Ridley Scott, who directed them both. But Scott wouldn’t have gotten very far without the squad of skilled model-builders and analog SFX geniuses.
For today’s CGI extravaganzas, and every science-fiction movie that will ever be made from the present day onward, you won’t see many behind-the-scenes photos of humans building models in a giant workshop, because there aren’t many giant model workshops these days. A Facebook follower pointed out that the recent Blade Runner 2049 stayed fairly true to the tradition of the first film, constructing extensive miniatures that were mixed with CGI effects. This was news to us. Check out this fascinating video:
These pictures from the making of Blade Runner are a window on how high-concept sci-fi was made 40 years ago. We’re not giving you all 142 model studio pictures here—that would be silly. If these 20 don’t satisfy you, visit the Imgur page for the full gallery.