Blade Runner 2049 - part 2: the Denabase

Blade Runner 2049

Concept Design, Screen Design

On Blade Runner 2049 I was responsible for creating the morgue sequence, the DNA database called Denabase, some parts of the baseline test, K’s pilotfish, as well as various screens for the Neighbour’s Apartment sequence

For the Denabase the art department built a physical prop, a machine that looked old, almost mechanical. The original design idea tied into this: since the story stated that no electronic data is available, K had to activate the backup system and that needed to look physical. "Something that resembles a Rolodex" said the brief coming from Denis Villeneuve. For this part the script was already finished, so the designs and animations needed to match the lines perfectly. I looked at how DNA is depicted in real life, how it is represented on screen and what is the easiest way to tell this story to the audience. The usual look we associate with DNA is actually very far from how it looks like in real life, so early on the decision was made to use a fragment of the billions of base pair combinations instead of something more graphical. The mechanical nature of the machine led us to the idea of using microfiche-like cards with the actual base pairs printed or etched onto them. I experimented with how the mechanism could work, and how much data is required to sell the idea. The speed at which these cards were flipping was again a very important storytelling clue: the audience needed to understand that K is a replicant, capable of reading enormous amounts of data undecipherable to humans and spotting the duplicate dataset in the database

The actual execution was similar to how we in general approached the project: we did it in the computer, but as close to reality and a physical prop as it was possible. The designs were done in Illustrator. I created a mechanical system where the cards were attached to a central conveyor-belt like system and the speed of them flipping could be easily animated with some scripted sliders. There were some powerful lights behind these digital "cards", so the image looked quite optical. I also applied the usual degradation and other analogue clues in comp.

Territory Studio - 2017

Project Credits:


Director:                                Denis Villeneuve
Production Designer:           Dennis Gassner
Supervising Art Director:        Paul Inglis
Director of Photography:        Roger Deakins

© 2017 Alcon Entertainment, LLC.