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Inside the design interface genius of Oblivion

David Smothers August 26, 2013



For decades, popular film and television science fiction properties have informed the real world of technology and product design. From the rocket ship inspired car tail fins of the '50s, to the Star Trek-influenced smartphone and tablets of today, the creative minds of sci-fi are always silently guiding the hands of our design culture as it relates to technology.

That's why it's important to note when a particularly fresh interface treatment emerges in science fiction, because it could be a glimpse at the future. And while the critics hammered the film Oblivion as being riddled with derivative sci-fi tropes from a dozen other movies, not one of those critics denied the stunningly rendered design artistry of the fictional world represented in the film.

Chief among those design elements were the interface treatments. Created by a team led by visual effects designer Bradley G. Munkowitz, the interface elements in the film carefully tread the line between the blocky simplicity of the starship Enterprise and the dystopian wireframe pragmatism represented in the design of the controls on the Nostromo in Alien.

As a special treat, after the production of the film the Munkowitz team posted in-depth explanations and additional images of the interface treatment, giving us a better sense of the thinking that went into the creation of the film's Light Table user interface, Tom Cruise's Bubbleship windshield display, as well as all the gauges and meters showing off the various status levels of the drones that play a central part in the film.

Explaining some of the design theory behind the interface treatments, the team wrote, "The function was to reflect the modernized sensibilities of the TET Mainframe computer and would assist the characters with the key components of their duties on earth; be it the monitoring of all Vitals on the ground using Vika's Light Table, or the various diagnostics in the air using the Jack's Bubbleship…"

In addition to a large gallery of images detailing the interface treatments, the team also created a short presentation that focuses on just the film's interfaces in action, which you can see in the video below.

[via GMun]

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