The Sound Design Of Blade Runner 2049

The latest in the SoundWorks Collection series takes a look the sound design of Blade Runner 2049.

The video features the sound team behind Director Denis Villeneuve’s new film, including supervising sound editor Mark Mangini, sound designer Theo Green, re-recording mixer Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett, picture editor Joe Walker and composers Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch.

26 thoughts on “The Sound Design Of Blade Runner 2049

  1. Yeah the movie has some sound effects, and even that is nothing special, but for the rest it is a shame compared to the music of the original Blade Runner which really helped in creating the right atmosphere. If you intend to go to the movie for the music predominantly then don’t go.

  2. The “music” in this film is ridiculously bad…The video is nice, some interesting highlights of the sound design process but man could they be sucking up the director more?? Have some dignity at least!

  3. I found it a little cheap they didn’t even try to reach out to the actual Vangelis.
    They are copying his techniques down to even using his instruments.

    1. I understand that they did reach out and Vangelis declined.

      There was something missing or too obvious about the 2049 score. I find it often for Zimmer scores. They are good but I am aware of them. The thing about the original Blade Runner score was how much more seamlessly the score and film blended, organically as one experience.

      Not sure if that is a product of Vangelis, or how they recorded scores back then.

      New film is good, no question. And maybe on a lesser sound system it would sound better.

      1. This is what makes some Movies. Other movies thrive of being extremely self conscious about shoes, and hair, and Music.

        First thing I noticed about the film ‘DRIVE’? The score.

        A visionary director knows the rules, then abuses them.

  4. i found the score got in the way most of the time, to be honest. In film school, the concept that was emphasized over and over again is if you are noticing the score while you are watching the film, it isn’t doing it’s job. It’s being intrusive.

    using another film starring Harrison Ford as an example, there is a scene in Presumed Innocent in which the lawyer is going through a drawer of a filing cabinet. The file he is looking for is missing. When he happens upon it, a note from the sequence that has been repeating is dropped. That is a good example of score doing what it ought to.

    The score for BR:2049 felt very self conscious to me. I was disappointed with it.

    1. That’s Film school nonsense. We’re way past that. Look at any Sergio Leone or Tarantino movie and tell me the score, which is to the fore, isn’t doing its job. what about Jaws? What about Halloween? Or Raging Bull? It’s one of those Film School ‘rules’ that students quote, but is meaningless in the real world.

      1. come on, brian. in jaws, when the shark was attacking first time, did you really think ‘nice score’?

        applied to people, this rule means when you see a person and the first thing that springs to your mind is ‘nice shoes’, these shoes are most likely way too dominant.

        as shoes should support (not dominate) the style of a person, every element in a movie (including the score) should support the story without dominating it. this does not mean that a director might focus the viewer’s attention to the music for some time, just as it could be focussed on a visual effect or a star’s face. but in the end, every element is just supporting the storyline.

        this is the craftmanship of a director: to bring together various visual, auditive and verbal elements to one thrilling story. because this is what makes a movie.

  5. That is why in sequels the composer and preferably the director must be the same with the old film… It’s a trap for Zimmer to compare with the iconic soundtrack of Vangelis… Its definitely unfair for Zimmer and Wallfisch,but i think that the payment was big enough to forget the pain of the comparison!

    1. This this this.
      All day long, this.

      Them replacing composers that close to delivery was a horrible mistake for a film with this level of public interest (or not, depending on how you view the ticket sales).
      Jóhann Jóhannsson is a next-level composer akin to AWFTS, Sophie Hutchings, Jasmine Guffond, and Ben Frost.
      Hans Zimmer is just . . . . . . . boring.

  6. Fantastic sound design in this movie. I watched it at IMAX and I got goosebumps. They really score with involving the emotion of human and robot. This is a perfect combination of visual art and sound design.

  7. I was very happy with both the movie and the sound (effects) track. I can see the prevalent observation about the flavor-of-the-day swooshes, low-frequency drones, and undulating frequency beds…all of which people are deriding as pedestrian and safe within the bounds of contemporary trends.
    Regardless, I too treated myself (and my wife, whom didn’t know what the hell the movie was about) on the IMAX. One of my favorite movies (on par with 1977 Dawn of the Dead both for premise, imagery, and sound integration)

  8. As soon as I heard the first blaster shot in the theater I thought “That would make a great kick drum.” It’s funny that they made it that way.

  9. What i missed the most, when watching BR2049 was … humour.
    I’m not talking slapstick here. Just the subtle bits, here and there. Makes for a much more dynamic experience. The dark passages in the film will leave you much more affected, when the mood has been lifted just before. BR2049 (and a lot of other sequels from recent years, especially Star Wars), is so damn serious all the time. It’s like they forget, at the end of the day, it’s entertainment. I loved Harrison Fords charm in the original Blade Runner, and I think he was responsible for most of the funny/quirky lines. In BR2049 it’s just gloom, gloom and more gloom. I think maybe theres 3 places where the mood is lifted somewhat. And 2 of them has Harrison Ford in them!

    About the score: What I like most about Vangelis score for the first one, is his use of themes. They’re used throughout the movie. They’re very strong and identifiable. In BR2049 it seems most of what you’re left with is that damn synth brass sound. It’s everywhere! It drives me nuts. In every f****** scene. Give it a rest. Hans Zimmer did an ok job, but I see him more as a carpenter of sorts. You want a chair, he’ll build you a chair. A worker. Vangelis was an artist.

    1. Agree totally.

      As though BR2049 is made as a respectable homage to a revered, sacred work. As if humour in the film would be sacrilege. I did chuckle at a few scenes or details, only because I was thinking, “really? They did that?”

  10. I just saw the movie last night and I happened to quite enjoy the soundtrack. It used some hallmark sounds from the original, and it was very dramatic in a new way.

    The Vangelis score of the original was definitely groundbreaking, but at times it just sounds like synth noodling to me. The new soundtrack is immense, encompassing and emotional.

  11. I really enjoyed the soundtrack. I watched the movie on Imax and the sound felt gigantic.

    I think the new soundtrack generates much more abstract soundscapes, (dronescape) than the original movie, and It feels also much more dark, serious and cold too me, lacking the 80s warmth.

    The movie for me felt like a big and complex dream, full powerful oniric visuals and the sound followed this vibe and really helped to potentiate it.

  12. The mix on Blade Runner 2049 was incredibly imbalanced, at least at my local theater.
    Any spoken dialogue was a third of the volume of the score and sound effects.
    I found myself plugging my ears during the transitions and ambient sections of the film.
    It was unbearable.

    This is a criticism of the film, but I felt Jared Leto’s whole part could’ve been axed and it would have been just as enjoyable and way more concise.
    It would have been cooler if Tyrell would have lived on in AI and that was the impetus for the corporation to seek out answers.
    That would have added a layer of discussion to the plot rather than just another senseless villain role, which the original Blade Runner didn’t even have.
    I felt the film to have a pretty weak plot, overall.
    It’s beautiful, though; no denying that.

  13. Comparing the two scores is unfair to Zimmer/Wallfisch. It’s important to remember that the original soundtrack became a masterpiece over time, not overnight.; the entire original movie for that matter followed that trend. Having a goal to create a soundtrack that will honor the previous heritage & legacy of a now classic film, plus strive to be it’s own animal in today’s modern world, all while being done knowing audiences are going to unfairly compare the two soundtracks regardless, can’t be an easy task. Put yourself in their shoes.

    Utilizing the synth hardware from the original soundtrack seems like a no-brainer. It’s low-hanging fruit, yet necessary all-the-same. The CS-80’s sound for example is so heavily tied to the score of the original BR movie, that not using it for thematic symmetry in BR2049 would be the equivalent of changing any number of musical sounds & phrases from an original Star Wars movie, and not using them in a sequel of today. The CS-80 simply helps define the BR universe, so it must be used.

    My overall impression of the BR2049 soundtrack is that it accompanies the film very well. The music doesn’t break itself down into a Track One, Track Two, Three Three format, but instead unfolds throughout the film’s duration, like a 2 hour & 45 minute song. It’s a long journey of synthesis, and I enjoy listening to the soundtrack from start to stop.

    I too, would like to hear what Johan Johansson was creating for the film. Hopefully he will be able to release some or all of what was done at some point.

    On another BR related soundtrack note, I recently picked up the 25th anniversary edition 3-disc soundtrack for the original movie. It includes the original soundtrack (which I already owned), but had more Vangelis sounds & filler music from the original movie on disc 2, and newer works by Vangelis inspired by the original film (which I like to call, Music Inspired by Myself). The disc 2 material is good, and is recognizable from the original film. Disc 3 is kind of cheesy, IMO. Both extra discs are worth the $24 for the set, and you are bound to find at least 2-3 tracks on each disc that you like.

    There are probably untold hours upon hours of music for films not released for this reason or that. Naturally, the best of the best is taken for the final product (you would hope). The point here being that even the masters are going to have dribble moments, and other moments that shine above the rest. So even if Vangelis himself scored BR2049, there’s no guarantee that it was going to be as good or better a soundtrack as the original. Just playing Devil’s advocate, and trying to keep perspective on things 🙂 That being said, viewing the BR2049 soundtrack as it’s own animal is probably the best way to enjoy it.

    1. You make a bunch of great points. Thanks

      1. The OST to Blade Runner was pretty unpopular with Vangelis’ fans at the movie’s release. Today it is considered groundbreaking, but at the time many people mentioned that it was derivative and lazy compared to the albums of Vangelis’ that the songs came from. The producers didn’t even bother to negotiate a proper OST deal on the movie, as according to rumor Vangelis wanted way too much money (7-figures) for what the producers considered a compilation album. I think people forget BR came and went and only became a mainstream thing, post 1994. Someone recently told me about seeing the film at its release in Europe, and said that other musicians for years afterwards made fun of the “sax” sounds constantly as being a rip-off of Tomita. It was only in the early 90’s that this movie became beloved.

      2. Zimmer and Wallfich’s soundtrack is imo pretty good, if not great, and I think people in this comments section are simply, haters and/or jealous, and like so many things, will regret all the hate thrown around in the future.

      Maybe some will look at it as a slightly “meta” soundtrack, where Zimmer&co. are mocking a lot of synthesists and haters, and I got the impression he was “retiring” a lot of his famous cliches and tropes with this one. I think a lot of folks missed a few intentions there, like how the mix got muddy when the screen was foggy, or how they were trolling with the poorly-made start of the shepards tone loop during the horse toy search, or how there was some FM swells during the final chaotic section of the film.

      3. I would love to hear JJ’s score myself. Someone I know heard three pieces from it, and said it was “cool but not Blade Runner” and that when I heard it I would understand. I was also told that for some languages (for example, Greek) the sound mix was incorrect on the 1st digital film files supplied and the score was over loud in some sections. Vangelis was contacted and declined to participate. I think people had huge expectations for this movie & OST that could never be met. And the current internet culture is to insult anything that isn’t “perfect”

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