Blade Runner Esper Photo Analysis scene?

aeonpulse

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
First of all, Blade Runner is without a doubt my all-time favorite movie, I've seen it countless times, and still enjoy every second of it. But there's one scene that I still wonder about every time I see it, the Esper Photo Analysis scene. Deckard finds a stack of photos while searching Leon's apartment, as he's browsing through the photos, one of them catches his eye. What exactly it was about this photo that made Deckard so interested in it, I have no idea. Anyways, later on, Deckard is in his apartment, and pops the photo into the Esper machine. He starts calling out grid commands, zooming in on different things within the photo, and eventually zooms in on a mirror. That's when it gets odd.

The angle at which he's looking towards the mirror starts changing. He sees things that weren't previously visible, and not just small details, entire people, rooms even. He manages to somehow locate Zora within the photo. It wasn't like Deckard simply zoomed in on her reflection within the mirror, he was definitely rotating his view.

My question is, is this technology ever explained? Or is it just shrugged off as "technobabble"? I've played through the 1997 BR adventure game, which at points requires you to search photos for clues using the Esper machine, but it doesn't offer any explanation on how it works. I never read the Phillip K. Dick novel, so I don't know if it contains any kind of explanation. It's just interesting is all. It's like their photos, when taken, store everything that was going on around the central subject. Maybe I'm reading the scene wrong, or maybe I'm over-thinking it. After all, it's just a movie.

Any theories/insight would be appreciated!
 

Wes R

Legendary Member
I don't think they ever really explain it anywhere and I don't remember it being in the novel either, i think it was invented for the movie.
 

DaddyfromNaboo

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
The technology is not explained, but it actually does not need to be explained. The hover cars aren´t explained as well. If you enter a SciFi or Fantasy world you´ve already accepted to see things that do not fit into your view of the real world. Magic might have no place in that movie, but a movie about artificial humanoids sure does not need to explain every bit of technology.

But there are authors and directors who do have the need to explain everything. Midichlorians, anyone?

I think you´ve seen the movie way too often and lost that "sense of wonder" :lol
 

rodneyfaile

Sr Member
I thought he picked that photo because of the mirror on the wall. He could zoom in and see other parts of the room as well.

The only part I thought was odd is the frame he is looking at when he asks for a hard copy and what prints out were not the same.
 

NAZGÛL

Sr Member
I always thought the esper let you look around inside the image. The picture is 3 dimensional. I think that was the case with the (great) video game esper also, but it was many years since playing it.
 

Kerr Avon

Master Member
Watch the "Red Dwarf" episodes "Back to Earth" which wonderfully parodies the ridiculous nature of the Esper machine to be able to view areas that were not included in the photograph. The very name 'Esper' is a term used for psychics and other supernaturally gifted people, so it's really a riff on the machine that it can do something completely outside the bounds of reality.
 

aeonpulse

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
The technology is not explained, but it actually does not need to be explained. The hover cars aren´t explained as well. If you enter a SciFi or Fantasy world you´ve already accepted to see things that do not fit into your view of the real world. Magic might have no place in that movie, but a movie about artificial humanoids sure does not need to explain every bit of technology.
Hahah, you have a very good point there. I suppose I was more interested in hearing people's thoughts/opinions/theories on the Esper machine. :)

I thought he picked that photo because of the mirror on the wall. He could zoom in and see other parts of the room as well.

The only part I thought was odd is the frame he is looking at when he asks for a hard copy and what prints out were not the same.
You could be right, if I remember correctly, it was the only picture that was centered directly on the mirror. And yeah, I also noticed that the hard copy did not match what was on screen. I'm assuming it was an honest mistake by SRS.

I always thought the esper let you look around inside the image. The picture is 3 dimensional. I think that was the case with the (great) video game esper also, but it was many years since playing it.
Yes, the video game was AWESOME. I reinstalled it a few months ago and got pretty far into it, unfortunately I got stuck due to an incompatibility with Windows7 and was unable to progress any further. It was a scene where you have to escape an explosion. There's some kind of issue with my processor being too fast (the game did come out 14 years ago after all), so the in-game timer was all jacked up, and I could never escape in time.

Watch the "Red Dwarf" episodes "Back to Earth" which wonderfully parodies the ridiculous nature of the Esper machine to be able to view areas that were not included in the photograph. The very name 'Esper' is a term used for psychics and other supernaturally gifted people, so it's really a riff on the machine that it can do something completely outside the bounds of reality.
Hah, sounds great. I used to watch Red Dwarf with my uncle when I was younger, I don't recall ever seeing that episode. I'll have to look it up.
 

Mr Webber

Master Member
Theres a very talanted fellow at propsummit who has made a start on the replica of the esper if your interested.
 

aeonpulse

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Theres a very talanted fellow at propsummit who has made a start on the replica of the esper if your interested.
I immediately did a Google search of "propsummit" and was thrilled with what I discovered. Mr. Webber, I owe you again.
 

autoprops713

Well-Known Member
I always thought the esper let you look around inside the image. The picture is 3 dimensional. I think that was the case with the (great) video game esper also, but it was many years since playing it.

Agreed. I also thought it was a 3D "image" embedded into what we saw on screen as a flat photo. The esper machine allowed the operator to "flow" into the image and even change perspective within the room. Then I suppose you could print out a new perspective or angle but still contain the 3D nature of the file? We basically have 3D files now that sort of do the same thing in a computer. I like that in BR it looked like a regular polaroid photo. Fit the whole retro theme.

Oh yeah...ps....Syd Mead kinda reiterated this to me a few years back. :lol
 

Mr Webber

Master Member
Pleasure ap, my username there is offworld66.

I am still to see any movie in 3D, not on purpose just hasnt worked out.
Im going to pop the cherry with Prometheus, kinda fitting really.
 

GKvfx

Sr Member
The (movie) reality is far more mundane.

There were two Esper sequences shot for the film. The first one was shot on a small corner set of Stage 4 and was shot between setups while they were filming Rachel's interrogation. Even though it was for a throwaway scene and would only be seen in photographs, they put a lot of effort into it -


Rutger was there, as was Joanna Cassidy -

They had a couple of different costumes for her. And she was made up with the tattoo -

The Polaroid hard copy that the machine spits out was made from one of the stills taken during this shoot.




They (EEG) shot an assortment of stills (35mm still camera, 8x10, 4x5 Polaroid - whatever) - moving the camera around the room, anticipating the "moves" Deckard would call out to the Esper. This "footage" was then laid out and shot on an animation stand - essentially transferring it to 35mm film.



And yes, as was previously posted, I believe the intent was that by "scanning" or zooming in on that circular mirror, Deckard could see what was in the other room.........


The large format nature of the photography allowed them to zoom in on the image, much like Deckard was doing. The image below is cropped from the image of the mirror above. Rutger is visible in the reflection -


This footage was then transferred to tape and delivered back to the set for playback when they shot Harrison Ford in his apartment.

So what happened? Simple - Ridley didn't like the results. While Ridley was editing the film in London, he decided to redo the Esper film. A new "replicant hangout" apartment set was built and stand-ins were cast for Roy and Zhora. They followed the same basic pattern, Shooting photos, transferring photos to film, adding the grid lines and the flash frames on an animation stand before transferring it to tape.

For the reshoot, the Esper prop was shipped to London, along with the VK Machine (it's sitting on the bottom of frame). The TV monitor in the Esper was fed the new Esper film via tape and the whole thing was re-filmed. Notice that you never see any shots of Harrison Ford AND the monitor footage (ie: an over the shoulder shot)? Any shot you see of Harrison is a single on him, or over the Esper to Harrison. Any shots of the Esper screen is just the Esper in frame. There is only one shot of Deckard taking the photo out of the Esper - and it's a body double for Harrison.


That's how the whole sequence is pulled off - editing.

As it is, there are still an abundance of continuity issues in the sequence. The Esper prop changes its details, the apartment isn't Leon's (or at least we don't see the room the photos were taken in), and of course, the actresses don't match (unless you watch the Final Cut version, where they comp'd Joanna Cassidy's head over the stand-in's body).

You can see the "original" version on one of the discs in the Final Cut box set.....

Gene
 

GKvfx

Sr Member
......I like that in BR it looked like a regular polaroid photo......./QUOTE]

It was a real Polaroid photo. The Polaroid film was exposed with a still taken on the set. It wasn't something stuck on a piece of paper or a photo with a Polaroid frame glued on to it.

Gene
 

Jedi2016

Sr Member
As for what makes it "work", I always assumed that the photo was 3D, a type of 3D that we don't currently have that captures actual data about what's in the scene, rather than just what two cameras see (sort of like the inevitable holographic recorders that we'll eventually see).
 

CessnaDriver

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Quantum imaging. The pictures contain not only a traditional visable snapshot information, but a quantum snapshot of the immediate area.
 
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