On Douglas Trumbull's website he's posted a fascinating "making of" video that details how the smoke-and-explosion-filled opening of Blade Runner was actually created. The scene, affectionately called the "Hades Landscape," used thousands of fiber-optic cables, hundreds of miniatures, propane gas burners, explosives in the desert, smoke machines, tiny films screens and acid-etched cutouts of industrial buildings from San Pedro, Calif.
Our favorite line from the video: "We'd get as large an explosion as you can possibly get short of a thermonuclear bomb." You can see the whole thing on Trumbull's website, and below are the official description as well as some screen shots.
Doug and his Entertainment Effects Group team created thousands of acid-etched brass miniatures lit from below with hundreds of bundles of fiber-optic lights, shot in forced-perspective through layers of smoke to create layers of light refraction, creating depth.
Doug reveals how the explosions visible in the sequence were projected on screens placed throughout the miniature and light-timed. These explosions were created through massive pyrotechnics shot in the California desert for a discarded sequence for the 1970 Michelangelo Antonioni film Zabriskie Point.
The sequence ends on the Tyrell Pyramid, which Doug's team created at 3 different scales with similar etched-brass lit from within.