Apologies to anyone who pre-purchased tickets to The Fifth Element earlier this year. I went to the sales vendor (trycelery.com), and marked the tickets as shipped. What I didn’t know is that when I did so, it would email each and every one of you a “Great news! Your order is on it’s way!” without warning me it was about to do so. But don’t worry. Nothing is on its way. It’s just confirmation of that ticket long ago. I’m writing them a sternly worded email now.
[Editor’s Note: Knowing nothing of sportsball, I invited fellow Cooper designer Brendan Kneram to bring his considerable skills in both sportsball of design to write a review of this scoreboard seen in the movie. -Chris]
The Big Hurrah for students before they graduate Starship High is a game of Jump Ball followed by a Jump Prom. For the contemporary viewer, Jump Ball strongly resembles American Football with the occasional gravity-defying maneuver added for good measure. This similarity is further emphasized upon closer inspection of the scoreboard, making its first appearance when Johnny Rico finishes his first of two scoring plays (I hesitate to call it a “touchdown” because Rico is awarded only five points instead of the six given in American Football). The first impression is of its underwhelming high school aesthetic—it looks like something found in the 20th century, not the 23rd—and even the information conveyed is insufficient to make sense of the sport. It’s possible that the threat of invasion by giant killer-insects caused some sort of civilization-wide regression in scoreboards, but I do find it hard to believe that such an advanced civilization would fail to innovate anything for the design of a physical scoreboard in over three hundred years.
While it’s true the most important question, “Who’s winning?” is answered by the “Home” and “Guests” scores, the viewer is given very little else of interest.
For example, we know that there is 2:46 left in the fourth period, but until the game is over there is no way of knowing if there is a 5th period. This is a principle that can be found in many of the scoreboards of today: show it whenever possible. Display the periods as four lights that progressively turnoff (it also seems odd that they’re “periods” and not “quarters”). You can often see this progressive-turnoff on hockey scoreboards for its three periods, balls and strikes in baseball, and timeouts in basketball. It’s an efficient and fast way to communicate both the total as well as the remaining amount at once.
Another question that an observant viewer might have is: how was it possible that the teams arrived at scores of 46 and 43, two numbers not divisible by five? When the scoreboard reflects a change of score, there is no indication of previous scores. It would be helpful to not only know who is winning, but also the two team’s trajectories. Did the “Guests” score all of their points in the fourth period? Was either team able to score more than five points in a single play? Something of a sparkline would give a hint of not just the status of the game, but its momentum.
In addition to displaying scoring information, there is no specific context provided for the action on the field. Where is the ball? Is it at a specific location on the field? Conveniently, each team scores on a single play, so there is no opportunity to see how the scoreboard might handle a second play or a change of possession.
Had the designers taken a few more cues from scoreboards of today, the action on the field may have been more engaging. Although who knows, maybe the best scoreboard action is happening on HUDs via ocular implants…
When Ibanez and Rico are in Federal Transport Hub 39 set to leave for Basic Training, we see Ibanez use a public kiosk for news and information. To do so she approaches a kiosk that tells her to “LOG IN,” and she slips her paper ticket into a slot just above waist height, and types on an adjacent small keyboard, mounted at a slight angle for easy typing. The kiosk reads the ticket and displays her surname on the screen. Continue reading →
After the Communications Tower is knocked off, Barcalow, looking out the viewport, somehow knows exactly where the damage to the ship has occured. This is a little like Captain Edward Smith looking out over the bow of the RMS Titanic and smelling which compartment was ripped open by the iceburg, but we must accept the givens of the scene. Barcalow turns to Ibanez and tells her to “Close compartment 21!” She turns to her left, reaches out, and presses a green maintained-contact button labeled ENABLE. This button is right next to a similar-but-black button also labeled ENABLE. As she presses the button, a nearby green LED flashes for a total of 4 frames, or 0.16 second.
She looks up at some unseen interface, and, pleased with what she sees there, begins to relax, the crisis passed.
A weary analysis
Let’s presume he is looking at some useful but out-of-character-for-this-bridge display, and that it does help him identify that yes, out of all the compartments that might have been the one they heard damaged, it is the 21st that needs closing.
Why does he have the information but she have the control? Time is wasted (and air—not to mention lives, people—is lost) in the time it takes him to instruct and her to react.
How did she find the right button when it’s labeled exactly the same way as adjacent button? Did she have to memorize the positions of all of them? Or the color? (How many compartments and therefore colors would that mean she would need to memorize?) Wouldn’t a label reading, say, “21” have been more useful in this regard?
What good does an LED do to flash so quickly? Certainly, she would want to know that the instruction was received, but it’s a very fast signal. It’s easy to miss. Shouldn’t it have stayed on to indicate not the moment of contact, but the state?
Why was this a maintained-contact button? Those look very similar when pressed or depressed. A toggle switch would display its state immediately, and would permit flipping a lot of them quickly, in case a lot of compartments need sealing.
Why is there some second place she must look to verify the results of her action, that is a completely separate place from Barcalow (remember he looks forward, she looks up). Sure, maybe redundancy. Sure, maybe he’s looking at data and she’s looking at video feeds, but wouldn’t it be better if they were looking at the same thing?
I know it’s a very quick interaction. And props to the scriptwriters for thinking about leaking air in space. But this entire interaction needs rethinking.
Yes I did…I did not, however, invite you to sit, Lieutenant.
Are you aware that we have just lost contact with the Rodger Young?
Everyone’s talking about it, sir.
Well, I have the video feed from the bridge here. I understand you are the designer of the emergency evasion panel, and the footage raises some fundamental questions about that design. Watch with me now, Lieutenant.
ORTEGA PRESSES A BUTTON ON A CONSOLE ON HIS DESK. F/X: VIDEO WALL
As you can see, immediately after Captain Deladier issues her order, your panel slides up from a recess in the dash.
(He pauses the video)
(After a silence)
Is there a question, sir?
Why is this panel recessed?
To prevent accidental activation, sir.
But it’s an emergency panel. For crisis situations. It takes two incredibly valuable seconds for this thing to dramatically rise up. What else do you imagine that pilot might have done with those extra two seconds?
Don’t answer that. It’s rhetorical. Next I need you to not explain this layout. Why aren’t the buttons labeled? What does that second one do, and why does it look exactly the same as the emergency evasion button? Are you deliberately trying to confuse our pilots?
OK, now I actually do want you to explain something.
(Resuming the video)
Why did you cover the panel in glass? Ibanez—and I can’t believe I’m saying this—punches it.
The glass is there also to prevent accidental activation, sir.
But you already covered that with the time-wasting recession. You know she’s likely to have tendon, nerve, and arterial damage now, right? And she’s a pilot, Lieutenant. Without her hands, she’s almost useless to us. And now, in addition to having a giant, peanut-shaped boulder in their face, they’ve got a bridge full of loose glass shards scattered about. Let’s hope the artificial gravity lasts long enough for them to get a broom, or they’re going to be in for some floating laceration ballet.
That would be unfortunate, sir.
Damn right. Now honestly I might be of a mind to simply court martial you and treat you to some good old Federation-approved public flogging for Failure to Design. But today may be your lucky day. I believe your elegant design decisions were exacerbated by the pilot’s being something of a drama queen.
The glass was designed to be lifted off, sir.
(Resuming the video)
Fair enough. My last question…
Did I see correctly that all of the lights underneath the engine boost light up all at once? The ones labeled POWER ON? AUTO HOME? NOSE RAM? The ones that don’t have anything to do with the engine boost?
And…and the adjacent green LED, sir.
All at once.
Well, as you might not be able to imagine, we’re moving you. After you collect your belongings you are to report to the Reassignment Office.
(He scrubs back and forth over the drone video of the communication tower ripping off.)
Out of curiosity, WOODS, what was the last thing you designed as part of my department?