The SHIELD helicarrier cockpit has dozens and dozens of agents sitting at desktop screens, working 3D mice and keyboards, speaking to headsets, and doing superspy information work.
The camera mostly sweeps by these interfaces, never lingering too hard on them. It’s hard to see any details because of the motion blur, but given the few pauses we do see:
- Wireframe of the helicarrier (A map to help locate problems?)
- Gantt chart (Literally for the nascent Avengers initiative?)
- Complex, node-network diagram (Datamining as part of the ongoing search for Loki?)
- View of a flying camera pointing down. (You might think this is a live view from the bottom of the Helicarrier, but it’s above water, and this seems to be showing land, so recorded? part of the search?)
- Live-video displays of cameras around the Helicarrier
There are others that appear later (see the next entry) but these bear some special note for a couple of reasons.
- The ones that are instantly recognizable make sense at this glanceable level.
- I couldn’t spot any repeats, even among the fuidget-filled screens (this represents a lot of work.)
- The screens are all either orange or blue. Not as in orange and blue highlights. I mean each screen is either strictly values of orange or strictly values of blue. Maybe cyan.
The cinematic colors
Wait, what? Look at that screen cap again. Once you have it pointed out to you, it’s striking. What’s going on with all the (tropey) orange-and-blue screens? What purpose does the two-part color palette serve here? My suspicion is that it’s because we’re not meant to read these screens, but rather to see them. That is, it doesn’t forward the story for the audience to notice anything on the screens, but of course the screens have to be there. (SHIELD wouldn’t pass your initial sniff test if it wasn’t working with information on a massive scale.) But the screens can’t distract us here, when we’re meant to get caught up in the epic scale of what’s happening—an aircraft carrier is lifting off water to effing fly (even if it can’t)—and so the screens are constrained to the orange/blue that is the palette of the rest of the frame. Additionally the contrast turned down on the content to get you to not pay too much attention to them, except as part of the overall tableau. It’s deliberate backgrounding.
It’s extradiegetic but still a lovely and subtle use of interfaces as part of the storytelling.
Doing my due diligence: Of course it would be pretty terrible design to actually stick these highly constrained palettes in front of users. You’d be wasting your agents’ color vision as additional channels for information. Even if this was some sort of diegetic mode during liftoff that adds a visual signal for agents to let them know they were in a critical safety maneuver, if it’s actually critical, then agents need more information, not less.
Plus, the next time we see a bunch of agent screens, they’re back to full color. So I’m pretty sure it’s an extradiegetic thing that we have to gloss over.
Back when that Wired article on Helicarrier flight was originally published, they actually allowed comments. Wishing I could remember if anyone did show their work to figure out how the flight effect could be achieved.
I remember a partner article that got posted about how much thrust it would require to actually fly the thing. It turned out to require thrust powerful enough to create jets of super-heated air coming out the bottom of the rotors. There was also a piece of commentary during pre-Winter Soldier interviews saying that article convinced the special effects team to put in the ‘repulser jets’ on the second-gen Helicarriers.
Link to a second article post-Winter Soldier reveal: http://www.wired.com/2013/10/physics-of-the-new-shield-helicarrier/
And “64” did end up appearing again in the next Avengers movie as predicted. And I do wonder about where the power plant should be in this design, thanks to being reminded of those links. (Long ramble-y thought about ARC reactors reverse-engineered from Howard Stark’s close-up looks at the Tesseract deleted for time.) But they didn’t upgrade the propulsion system.
As for the colour scheme? No idea of an in-story explanation.