Another Blade Runner thread: The Portable Voight-Kampff Scanner

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Ein

Sr Member
So I've been bitten by the Blade Runner bug thanks to the new movie and I wanted to make a couple things from it for my own collection. Everyone is already dogpiling the guns, so I feel like those are well-treaded ground at this point... I wanted to make something a bit different.

As a warning, this might be a bit spoilery if you haven't already watched the film. As a further warning, I'm going to go full rabbit-hole on this one, because I want to share how I'm approaching the project.

The portable Voight-Kampff scanner that K uses at the beginning of the film struck me as a neat prop, largely because I can see making a 'working' version with lights and other necessary practical effects, including, I hope, the spring-action slide.



As best I can tell the screen on the actual film device doesn't work at any point - it just illuminates. You see it flash on when the device flips out, and also during the scanning process, where it is lit up a solid white color.



It looks like there's a small red light that remains on after the scan, and the obvious bright blue-white light that illuminates the eye during the action. Obviously I'm wishing I had a Blu Ray resolution reference video to work from, here, as this doesn't give me much to go on. Fortunately, these particular props were on display at the "Blade Runner 2049 Experience" during this year's San Diego Comic Con. I live in New Jersey, so I didn't go myself, but thanks to other dedicated nerds on the internet I've been able to scrape together a bunch of reference images of the device all the same.













Thanks to all of these images, I have enough to work from to make a pretty reasonable 3D model of the device for eventual printing. Although at first glance the device looks like it's a repurposed digital camera, I've started to rule that out as an option. For one, no actual miniature camera would be thinnest where the camera lens is supposed to be (which I reason would be the backside of where the screen is). It actually looks a lot to me like it was based on a dictaphone or miniature cassette recorder, particularly given the set of three buttons on the side.



That said, it lacks the typical speaker holes that accompany the functionality of those items. It is possible one of the panels on the 'back' is meant to replace those areas, but I'll probably never know.

With all that considered, here's the battle plan:



Now, the issue I run into at this point is that while I can easily start banging a model of this thing together (and have started to do so), I don't have a great sense of the precise scale of the device. It's obviously handheld, which gives me some estimates, but looking at it in Gosling's hand is not by itself going to be sufficient to make a good guess. I want to pin the scale down early so that as I start carving out space for certain components (like the LEDs or light panels for the screen) I know exactly what the tolerances I have to work with are. Unfortunately, I'm never going to get precise measurements of the device itself, so I have to start doing some detective work to arrive at some reasonable estimates.

The first thing I'm looking for in the reference photos is anything I can find that has a determinable scale. A lot of the props in the same display as the VK are also bespoke movie items, so that's not much of a help. The best I can figure so far is that the book ("Pale Fire" by Vladimir Nabokov) is a real-world item, as is the clipboard next to it. The clipboard is actually fairly interesting in that it has a ruler on it.



If I can pin down the scale of a few items in the scene, I can extrapolate those dimensions onto the VK itself and get a reasonable ballpark. I believe the clipboard is similar to these, as they have a similar clip at the top, are clear plastic, and measure out to 10" and change on the right side. This would mean that the width of the clipboard can be estimated at around 9".

Here's where we start getting really stupid with this. Using a program called ImageJ, you can do direct measurement comparisons on an image based on a scale you establish within the image. If we tell it the clipboard is 9" (or 228.6mm), we can then draw a rough measurement on the VK...



Which gets us approximately 60mm wide and just about 83mm tall on the body of the device itself, and about 70mm long by 15mm on the pop-out part. Now, obviously these are only estimates, and they're bound to be wrong because of differences in distance and perspective in the photographs. That said, I like these measurements at a glance, but just to test them I did a quick printout and mounted it to cardboard...





Feels like I'm pretty close here.

Another approach would be to grab measurements of the book in the image, and I've got some feelers out for that, but as a rough estimate I'm reasonable sure enough to move forward and start modeling. Just getting the thing roughed out at this point...





More to come as I have time.
 

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Ein

Sr Member
I'm willing to bet it's based on some kind of standard device just by virtue of the fact that there are two of them sitting there, unless the on-screen slide out effect is just CGI dickery and they simply hand him the 'open' one for the latter half of the scene. Then again, I have never known a props department to make only one set of 'hero' items anyway, so I'm sure it's just a matter of finding the right device as a base. Since Sony has present advertising throughout the film my hunch is maybe it's a Sony device from the 90s they were able to get a dozen of, but after spending a few hours digging through google image search for cameras, dictaphones, and recorders I have very little to show for my effort.

Breathalyzer is certainly one thought, though a quick glance suggests that those devices don't generally have the side buttons, which were what got me down the line of thinking that it was a microcassette recording device or something.
 

Sushigod

Active Member
I was digging through images of "digital voice recorders" and some are close the body shape is different in the film than off the shelf versions but your research looks great so far.
 

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the screen, shape (especially the grip) and material reminds me of a small digital camera or recorder of some sort. my little Ricoh GRII is close in form, but not quite there...

IMG_5310.jpg IMG_5312 2.jpg IMG_5313 2.jpg

EDIT: since the film was made by sony perhaps their product lines would be a good place to start the hunt? The Nex (us ;)) camera line has a similar shape but I haven't been able to match it.
 
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Ein

Sr Member
Forums user Stefan Jones shared a post in one of the other Blade Runner threads that he had been able to get a copy of Pale Fire in paperback in an edition that matched the one on display. I popped a quick message over to him and he was nice enough to give me measurements on the actual book, amounting to 137mm wide by 222mm tall by 20mm thick.

Rather than using the clipboard as a measure, I tried calibrating the scale comparisons in ImageJ with the height of the book, and it has suggested that the width of the VK base device is around 62mm, which is damn close to my initial estimate of 60mm. I think I'm right in the ballpark for scale, which makes me feel a bit more confident.
 

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Noeland

Master Member
I would guess it's a 3D printed housing with fabricated metal parts and hand wiring for the lighting. Considering the amount of 3D printing that went into the guns, I doubt it's a found item.
 

RLD9K

New Member
If you Look closely, you can actually see him squeeze the button to turn on the lights with his index finger as he initiates the spring mechanism with his thumb. So I don't think it was CG trickery?

Sent from my ONEPLUS A3003 using Tapatalk
 

Ein

Sr Member
Need a bit more time before I can really dig into the model, but I did a very quick and dirty print of the basic shape so I could hold it and get an idea of size. I hate designing something around certain electronics or other components and then finding out down the line that my scale was off by a little bit, as it forces me to go back and re-do a lot of work. Printing something out like this helps establish that sizing with certainty.









Seems close enough to me. I'll be making a few minor tweaks to some of the chamfered edge angles, but I think this is as close to screen-accurate sizing as I can come up with unless someone does end up identifying the body of a device that was used as the base for the actual prop.

The next meaningful step is going to be setting up the 'screen' and then carving out some interior spaces for everything that will be required.
 

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Kylash

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
This reminds me of the 2016 Ghostbusters PKE meter. They did the same thing where it looked like it was made out of some old camera, but it was completely fabricated.
 

Ein

Sr Member
TrashPanda, thank you for sharing that. It's surprising how different the final product ended up being - I dare say I like the concept more than the actual movie version, but that's mostly because I think the way the front of the scanner seems to pop out looks great.

In my mind, this basically confirms that they're not based on a real model device. Probably printed.
 
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Ein

Sr Member
A little bit more progress for the evening. I spent some time examining my options for electronics and I think I've settled on a course of action.



My thought is that the device will have a limit switch that will be depressed while the top part of the scanner is closed. When the latch (to be designed) opens, the limit switch is no longer pressed, and the device will be powered on as a result. The button on the front side of the VK will simply be a dummy, with a long-actuator tactile button built in behind it. Pressing the button will fire the "scan" and turn the lights (and possibly sound) on.

I spent many long hours looking at appropriately-sized screens, from Adafruit to Sparkfun to weird Chinese suppliers. At the end of the day, I think trying to make the screen work to show some kind of "perp scan" graphics will take up so much space on the inside of the device that it will block or otherwise interfere with the spring-loaded opening. Moreover, as I've noted earlier, the actual screen used device only seemed to have the screen capable of lighting up white. I'd prefer to have the cool effects of having a working TFT screen in there or something, but for now, my plan is to build a number of surface-mount LEDs in around the bottom edge of the "screen", which will be a piece of light-diffusing acrylic with a black tint overtop.
 

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