Over the last few months I have been working on a Blade Runner fan project led by Arthur Waneukem who is a composer and friend of mine. He proposed me to join the team as a vfx artist to create an animated background for his collaborative instrumental EP Years of Blade Runner and for the soundtrack album of an aborted short film project called Lack of Empathy.
1 – Years of Blade Runners EP
It includes five tracks composed by Arthur Waneukem, Vondkreistan, Steige, LowTon and Tsewer Beta . Each song is named after a year of the time period between the events of Blade Runner 2049 and those of Lack of Empathy which take place in 2080. The idea for the visuals was to match the music with a contemplative sky view of Los Angeles, the ocean and the sea wall shown in the last movie by Denis Villeneuve.
The environment was built, animated and rendered entirely in Blender Eevee (2.93). My goal was to get as close as possible to the original art direction of Blade Runner 2049, while making it a a little gloomier. The EP was meant to somehow introduce the (quite dark) story of Lack of Empathy. The idea was to relate throughout the five tracks the city’s and civilisation’s (humans and replicants) slow social decline towards darker times until the year 2080.
I needed to render a whole city from afar and this was the occasion to experiment with geometry nodes. They turned out to be very useful to populate the scene with buildings, allowing a flexible and non-destructive workflow. However in order to keep a fluid working scene and reasonable render times I had to find a way to display only the elements within the current frame, using some vertex painting trick with a mesh that matches the camera’s frustum.
Shading was done entirely in blender except for the ocean’s masks and scrolling textures, made in Substance 3D Designer.
As the background material was getting polished I started working on the songs’ title and credits on a separate scene, which was then layered on top of the animated background in compositing:
2 – Lack of Empathy soundtracks
I went for a slightly different format and rendered a single video for the whole soundtrack album. I started it when I came back on the project a few weeks after the release of the EP, so I had the time to reflect and make some quality improvements on the assets and the rendering. I also created new shots under different angles for more variety between the soundtrack visuals and the EP’s.
It has been a deep dive back into Blender like I haven’t done in a long time. It was an opportunity to practice geometry nodes, shaders, lighting and volumetric rendering with Eevee.
Being a fan of Blade Runner I really enjoyed my time trying to recreate its dark atmospheres. I am grateful to Arthur Waneukem for inviting me on this project we both consider as a tribute to a sci-fi universe we love.
Feel free to go and check Arthur’s Soundcloud and Youtube channel to access his discography and discover his other projects. Check also Vondkreistan, Steige, LowTon and Tsewer Beta. You can find their respective discography either on soundcloud, Youtube, Deezer or Spotify.
Years of Blade Runners full EP:
Lack of Empathy soundtrack album: