The Oscar-Winning Lighting Design in Blade Runner 2049

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049
We're gushing over the lighting design in Blade Runner 2049. It may not be your favorite, but you've got to admit it did look damn good.

This year, Roger Deakins finally won his first Oscar for Best Cinematography after 14 (Four. Teen.) nominations. While it is definitely arguable which film is actually his best work, the sheer beauty, expanse, and complexity of the lighting design in Blade Runner 2049 definitely deserves recognition. Let’s take a look at some of the coolest setups.

Scene: Office

Deakins often employs ring lights throughout his body of work; Blade Runner 2049 was no exception. Here, we see a gigantic ring light made of 256 suspended ARRI 350W Fresnels.

A gigantic ring light made of 256 suspended ARRI 350W fresnels for the lighting design of Blade Runner 2049

According to the gaffer, Bill O’Leary, they installed an “elaborate” dimmer to control the lights going in and out. The goal was to simulate sunlight coming through a skylight. They also used eight 10K Fresnels with custom barn door extensions to specifically light the water, which created the beautiful reflected patterns on the walls. You can see some of this lighting action in the shot below.

Roger Deakins sits in a chair on set in a library where the lighting design incorporates 100 ARRI SkyPanels in an intricate ceiling rig.
Can this be my living room? (Including the rig)

Scene: Library

In the library scene, the lighting design incorporated 100 ARRI SkyPanels in an intricate ceiling rig. SkyPanels are incredibly versatile fixtures; I just used some on the last music video I DPed (The Hearsay, “Warning Signs”, directed by Jordan Nowlin). We used SkyPanels to create the colorful light sandwiches in the performance scene, seen here.

Two ARRI S30-C SkyPanels in front, and a dimmed 1×1 LED panel for a kicker in the back.

For Blade Runner 2049, Deakins and his team hung ARRI S60-Cs in a coffered ceiling, with construction boxes for snoots. When striking the SkyPanels row by row, the lighting design gave the impression that the light followed the characters.

Scene: Las Vegas Exterior

One of the most talked about looks in the film (and my personal favorite) is the irradiated Las Vegas exterior.

This look was mostly achieved in camera, using a custom filter pack from Tiffen. The filter pack included a combination of colors based on Lee lighting gels: 790 Moroccan Pink, 105 Orange, 134 Golden Amber, and 020 Medium Amber. Deakins used variations of this color palette throughout the film’s “Las Vegas” locations, incorporating both the Tiffen filters on camera and the Lee gels on lights. See below.

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049

All in all, Roger Deakins is a Master Cinematographer, and the lighting design in Blade Runner 2049 was undeniably magnificent. His Academy Award has been a long time coming, and this film deserved it. (Even if some of his other 14 nominations did, too.)

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