Mar 1, 2018 | By Tess

Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s heralded Blade Runner (1982), is nominated for Best Visual Effects at the upcoming Academy Awards. And rightfully so: from the film’s stunning colors to the dystopian architectural landscape, the film is a cinematic marvel.

(Image: Youtube)

Even the smallest details, like a beetle featured in a scene with Dr. Ana Stelline (played by Carla Juri), add to the film’s visual tapestry. As it turns out, the aforementioned beetle effect was actually the result of an extensive 3D scanning project.

BUF, one of the visual effects companies that worked on Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, enlisted the help of one Javier Alba-Tercedor, a professor of zoology at the University of Granada, to achieve the stunning visual effect.

Alba-Tercedor, who specializes in computed microtomography—a 3D scanning technique capable of capturing even the smallest details—reportedly provided BUF with extremely accurate, high-resolution 3D scans of beetles which were used in the film.

Each of the 3D scans was stitched together from around 3,000 ultra high-resolution images (comparable to an ultrasound image, apparently). The insect subjects of the scans were mainly from the tropical longhorn beetle family (Cerambycidae) and were sent to Alba-Tercedor in Granada from BUF’s Paris office.

Javier Pérez López, a researcher at the Science Museum in Granada, also provided a Zophobas morio beetle (from the Tenebrionidae family), which underwent the small-scale microtomography scanning process.

(Image: Javier Alba-Tercefor & BUF)

Alba-Tercedor, whose expertise in scanning technology has led him into all sorts of interesting animal, insect, and material-focused studies, was understandably surprised when a big budget film came knocking.

“At the beginning, I did not know that the scans of these insects would end up becoming part of the visual effects of Blade Runner 2049,” he said. “I had never imagined that the skills acquired during my research career would be useful for the film industry.”

With the 3D scans of the various beetles, BUF was then able to animate them for the film. The effects studio said: “The incredible results that can be seen in Blade Runner 2049 show that microtomography represents a very valuable and accurate tool for reconstructing and producing computer-generated animations of tiny animals with microscopic structural details, such as the insect species used in this film.

“This project relied on synergies between microtomography and the visual effects industry and, ultimately, between the academic-scientific sphere and the entertainment industry.”



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