Project Crit

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I noted that throughout each presentation I gave I never specifically defined what an Interface was, which in itself is hard to define as the term branches over many different fields and can mean different things.

Science Fiction Films have a variety of different contexts e.g. time produced, what time is it in the context of the film. What are the specific sub-genres of the film etc. These all have a direct influence over the ‘interfaces’ of the films, but what do we mean by ‘interface’.
‘Make it so: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction’ by Nathan Shedroff & Christopher Noessel define an interface as “all parts of a thing that enable it’s use”.

Another definition could be offered in 1987 by Italian critic Giancarlo Barbacetto in his introduction to Design Interface.

‘Whatever “lies between” is called interface, whatever allows us to link two different elements, to reconcile them, to put them into communication.’

Furthermore when exploring the Kubrick Archive I found in some of Kubricks’ Research Material. There was a booklet on ‘Apollo Terminology’ created by NASA in August of 1963.

There definition of what an Interface is follows:


The point or area where a relationship exists between two or more parts, systems, programmes, persons, or procedures wherein physical or functional compatibility is required.


After presenting my project some feedback is that the although I had some prototype’s it was more of a start rather than a fully developed prototype.

Some suggestions was to develop the film like a video essay looking at specific categories for example looking at the the transports of different sci-fi films and compiling it into one video.

Further potentially having a variety of these for different categories, and designing the process as a tool that other people could use to filter through an array of different films.

Further Development of Second Prototype

Version 1 of Prototype

After creating the first version of my prototype I wanted to expand it to show a variety of colours from the screenshots of that movie. Using processing to find the average colour of each individual screenshot and display it in sequence of when it was shown in the film.

Version 2 of Prototype for the film ‘Starship Troopers’ (1999)

After completing the strip for one film, I then had to organise it so it would leave a gap for each film so it didn’t compile into one long line of colours.

Once I had organised each strip of colours into sections I then wanted to organise it further by adding some text so it was easier to tell what each film was.

Version 4 of Prototype

However I found that I was running out of time, so I was unable to complete this for the presentation. Furthermore I had to create a “messy” copy, as I just duplicated the code rather than having the code loop for each film, however in terms of visual changes it did the exact thing I wanted

Second Prototype

As I started later of the video archive which was taking up a lot of limited time I decided to go for a quicker process while editing. I went through the films I had available and took screenshots of the interfaces, so I had a broad variety of different interfaces from each film.

Screenshots of the film ‘Alien’ (1979)

After having this range of screenshots from different films I wanted to find a way I can quickly identify key elements of each interface for example take up a similar task used in ‘Make It So’ shown below.


Chart by Shedroff and Chris Noessel

However, they noted that the test itself should be taken with a grain of salt as there are a number of problems regarding the results in the content and also the process. For example, the interfaces they looked at where screen-based and the adjusted the saturation of the compiled image to 100 percent.

First version of the prototype

I decided to do this method using Processing, I ran an image through processing and it would find the average colour of the screenshot and display it on the top left hand corner of the screen.

Adobe Kuler Screenshot Swatches

Simultaneously, I did a similar process using Adobe Kuler so instead, of just showing the average colour I’d instead get a colour swatch of a variety of colours used in the interface. However, I found that for some colour swatches I had to manually tweak to get the colours used in the interface itself rather then colours of objects outside of the area.


Creating the Archive

First, to create an archive you need to have a archive of Science Fiction Videos to begin with..

Secondly, I need to have it in a digital format so I can edit and go through as I wish to create this Archive of Sci-Fi clips.


After obtaining the digital copies of the films through various sources I then went onto Adobe Premiere Pro to go through the movie and edit out the film so it was purely when an interface was used or shown. I kept some segments of films such as the ‘void-kamf’ machine stating up to give some context on what the whole device looks like.


After I went through and edited a film I then compiled it all into one clip so it had all the interfaces from one film in one segment.


However, one problem I found was going through the whole film with the amount of time I had left took many hours so I had to limit myself to a particular decade to study from, rather than have a range.

Video Archive Prototype

To research further into these Science Fiction Interfaces, firstly I need to collect a variety of films to analyse. For this I decided as a possible prototype to make a “Video Archive” which has scenes from science fiction films of a variety of different interfaces. This would then enable to explore different elements to these science fiction films and potentially categorise them – look at for example different modes of transport between Science Fiction films. How they function, what their purpose is for (are they for transport of people or cargo), and what are the interfaces within them.

In Feng Zhu’s 2nd part of Designing for Science Fiction he talks about in order to design for science fiction you need to immerse yourself into actual science, and draw inspiration from what’s new and popular.

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But also to draw inspiration from natural science or science fiction of the past. Seeing technology in past Science Fiction, that we now have readily available today – or things that were going to be “technology of the future” become void. This ever-changing shift in what is “Sci-Fi” and what is real and believable has always been an interesting subject point for me. Hopefully, through this creation of the video archive I might be able to drawn light from it’s source inspirations and see why set’s and pieces where designed in that particular way or style.

Research Presentation

After gathering a broad variety of resources and findings I compiled into a brief presentation, to present to the class.

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In my presentation I discussed briefly what is science fiction, and it’s origins how it elements and themes directly link to speculation, and the subject of speculative design.

I briefly over-went the genre of cyberpunk (high-tech dystopian society), and discussed a reactionary movement that is solar-punk which could be described as it’s opposite (sustainable technology).

Science Fiction Designers

As previously mentioned before designers are aware of this relationship between their audience and their creations. Especially for Science Fiction, it’s about the careful balance of how much they want to convey that seems believable and realistic in the context of what Science Fiction they’re design for. Near-future science fiction would make sense that it seems realistic and plausible, in comparison to far-distant future, you’d want some familiarity but the designs themselves would be more speculative.

Feng Zhu creator of FZDSchool of Design in Singapore is a Concept Artist who makes YouTube tutorials for those interested in Concept Design on his channel FZDSCHOOL.

In these particular episodes he discusses Designing for Science Fiction from his own experience as a designer. Some of the challenges, in terms of designing for science fiction films he talks about is ‘audience acceptance’, high cost, extremely risky development cycle. He compares science fiction to fantasy films, fantasy films are still difficult to create however, its easier as the designs and locations are heavily influenced from real life, like medieval knights to environments like a monastery or castle.

We don’t have to resell the idea to the audience.. a horse the audience knows what a horse does we grew up most of us are exposed to what a horse can do it’s an animal how fast it is what does it look like when its walking or breathing, what does it eat. So we know a horse can’t go from A to B in two seconds, it requires certain things to make a horse believable, but that’s something an audience already accepts – you don’t have to ‘resell’ the concept of a horse to an audience. Whereas, if you design a creature from scratch, you have to ‘resell’ it because people don’t know if this creature is fast or slow, all that concept has to be reintroduced and when you talk about science fiction it gets much trickier.

When creating a mythical creature for example a Dragon, you can borrow inspirations from features of a dragon for example the wings of a bat, how they move what texture is is, or the dragon itself in western culture borrows elements from a lizard. This would enable the designers like 3D modellers, sound designers, animators to reference from the real world to build up this creature. Furthermore, the concept of what a dragon is has also evolved through culture, we know what a dragon looks like and does through various re-imaginings, like in literature like works of J.R.R Tolkien, or board games like dungeons and dragons. These are all known as “grounded” elements, they have a cultural norm.

Space Ships of Science Fiction Films

Science Fiction – however, a space ship for example there is no similarity between different films. There is no “base” or “must have” elements to sci-fi space ships, they don’t follow anything. Even the way these ships travel the propulsion systems are different between them, the colour of the light etc.

Hallway’s of Science Fiction Films

Science Fiction Design

In the 99% Invisible Podcast mentioned last time Future Screens are Mostly Blue, they make reference to Nathan Shedroff & Christopher Noessel’s book ‘Make it So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction‘.

“The most interesting lessons from sci-fi come when you assume, for the sake of argument, that everything is in sci-fi is there for a reason–even things that look like mistakes. There’s a word for this, apologetics, which usually refers to the act of attempting to close logical loopholes in theology.

The books explores the technology of science fiction and analyses the design decisions and interactions. Exploring subjects like, mechanical controls, visual interfaces, gesture and augmented realities for example.

Even if your sci-fi world is 1000 years in the future, those choices are in constant dialogue with the present. This constant dialogue with the present, can be seen in science fiction of the past, as even though such titles like Metropolis are ‘Science Fiction’, the mechanisms and devices could be seen as dated. It was a movie produced in it’s time compared to science fiction of today’s present, would look dated 10 years from now. These movies could be described as being ‘grounded’ in reality, despite have depictions of far speculative technologies and world’s.

This Shedroff & Noessel describe this ever-changing relationship as one of reciprocal influence.

Every popular real world interface adds to what audiences think as “current” and challenges sc-fi interface makers to go even further. Additionally, as audiences become more technologically literate, they come to expect interfaces that are more believable. Sci-fi creators are required to pay more attention to the believably of these interfaces, otherwise audiences begin to doubt the “reality” created,  and the story itself becomes less believable. (p.2)

Metropolis (1927)

Taking on Science Fiction Interfaces

Moving on from the discussions about our interests I decided to pursue my interest in Science Fiction as this would benefit in helping further inform my research for my thesis but also provide some more in depth look at this question that had formed ‘How do we create science-fiction interfaces that are “sc-fi” but also believable?’.

This harked back to a podcast series I was introduced to back in my 1st Year – 99% Invisible. They explore subjects of, Architecture, Infrastructure, Cities, Objects, History etc.

In Episode 95 – Future Screens are Mostly Blue delves into the topic of how representations of the future in films blue is apparent as the dominant colour of the interfaces and technology.

Starship Troopers (1999)

Representations of Science Fiction technologies like interfaces and designs tend to have this aesthetic of “sexy bullshit” they make certain elements of the interface prominent and easy to read, meanwhile the rest is just clutter or noise, without any clear explanation of how it operates.

This however, works in the case of designing for Science-Fiction especially for Film. Where the technology is only shown for a few seconds to a maximum on a couple of minutes on average, only enough is shown or explained so you understand what it’s purpose is without going into too much detail. Either, through directly on the interface, through it’s use, or it’s explained by a character.

How these interfaces and interactions are designed is what really interests me.

Digital Design Portfolio – Interests

I presented my interests in areas that I could potentially explore for my Self-Initiated research project.

Games – Souls Series


The Souls series is a series of action role-playing video games created and developed by FromSoftware.

The series began with the release of Demon’s Souls for the PlayStation 3 in 2009. It was followed by Dark Souls in 2011, and its sequels, Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III, in 2014 and 2016, respectively. The series’ creator, Hidetaka Miyazaki, served as director for each of them with the exception of Dark Souls II.


The Souls games are played in a third-person perspective, and focus on exploring interconnected environments while fighting enemies with weapons, magic, or both. Players battle bosses to progress through the story, while interacting with strange non-playable characters.

The series has been both praised and criticised for its high level of difficulty, and is considered a spiritual successor to King’s Field. Another FromSoftware game, Bloodborne, shares many concepts and gameplay mechanics with the Souls series.


Demon Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, Dark Souls 3, and the more recent title ‘Bloodborne’. All take on a ‘minimalist’ story in their games, of which is hidden through the scenery and item descriptions and various other things.

Whole communities and YouTube personalities have been created around uncovering and unpacking this minimalist story in the series, theory crafting how these world’s are created and the story behind the locations and characters in the game, down the the smallest detail such as minor enemies of the game.

Science Fiction

Science fiction (often shortened to Sci-Fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as advanced science and technology, spaceflight, time travel, and extraterrestrial life.


Science Fiction in comparison to Fantasy

Fantasy Films are generally heavily influenced by the real world, past history architecture, armour design etc.


Fantasy often uses existing locations to shoot & add set extensions and digi-mattes to aid in production. They all have similar castle designs which take influence from western Europe. To stray away from that it alienates the audience as through cultural norms we know what a castle should look like.

Science Fiction however, has no standard – spaceships, weapons, aliens.

Movies like Avatar, Startrek, 2001 Space Odyssey, District 9 for example each are different and share no similarity there’s no basis – no science fiction ships have a “must have” elements they don’t follow anything.

Concept Design


Concept art is a form of illustration used to convey an idea for use in films, video games, animation, comic books, or other media before it is put into the final product.