The form to cast your vote for Audience Choice is at the bottom of this post.
On or around 25 April 2021, scifiinterfaces.com is announcing awards for interfaces in a 2020 science fiction film. An “Audience Choice” will also be announced, and determined by the results of the poll, below. All films eligible for other awards are nominees for the Audience Choice award. Which one had the interfaces that you just loved the best? You should see the movies in full, but you can see trailers for each of the nominees, presented in alphabetical order, below. Voting will be open until 24 April 2021 at 23:59, Pacific Time.
Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime
Of those movies, which do you think had the best over all interfaces? Cast your vote below. To avoid flagrant ballot stuffing, you must have a google account and be logged in to that account to cast your vote.
Voting will be open until 24 April 2021 at 23:59, Pacific Time.
Please share this post on your social media to get the vote out! Thanks!
First, congratulations to Perception Studio for the excellent work on Black Panther! Readers can see Perception’s own write up about the interfaces on their website. (Note that the reviewers only looked at this after the reviews were complete, to ensure we were looking at end-result, not intent. Also all images in this post were lifted from that page, with permission, unless otherwise noted.)
John LePore of Perception Studio reached out to me when we began to publish the reviews, asking if he could shed light on anything. So I asked if he would be up for an email interview when the reviews were complete. This post is all that wonderful shed light.
What exactly did Perception do for the film?
John: Perception was brought aboard early in the process for the specific purpose of consulting on potential areas of interest in science and technology. A brief consulting sprint evolved into 18 months of collaboration that included conceptual development and prototyping of various technologies for use in multiple sequences and scenarios. The most central of these elements was the conceptualization and development of the vibraniumsandinterfaces throughout the film. Some of this work was used as design guidelines for various vfx houses while other elements were incorporated directly into the final shots by Perception. In addition to the various technologies, Perception worked closely on two special sequences in the film—the opening ‘history of Wakanda’ prologue, and the main-on-end title sequence, both of which were based on the technological paradigm of vibranium sand.
What were some of the unique challenges for Black Panther?
John: We encountered various challenges on Black Panther, both conceptual and technical. An inspiring challenge was the need to design the most advanced technology in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while conceptualizing something that had zero influence from any existing technologies. There were lots of challenges around dynamic sand, and even difficulty rendering when a surge in the crypto market made GPU’s scarce to come by!
One of the things that struck me about Black Panther is the ubiquity of (what appear to be) brain-computer interfaces. How was it working with speculative tech that seemed so magical?
John: From the very start, it was very important to us that all of the technology we conceptualized was grounded in logic, and had a pathway to feasibility. We worked hard to hold ourselves to these constraints, and looked for every opportunity to include signals for the audience (sometimes nuanced, sometimes obvious) as to how these technologies worked. At the same time, we know the film will never stop dead in its tracks to explain technology paradigm #6. In fact, one of our biggest concerns was that any of the tech would appear to be ‘made of magic’.
Chris: Ooh, now I want to know what some of the nuanced signals were!
John: One of the key nuances that made it from rough tests to the final film was that the vibranium Sand ‘bounces’ to life with a pulse. This is best seen in the tactical table in the Royal Talon at the start of the film. The ‘bounce’ was intended to be a rhythmic cue to the idea of ultrasonic soundwaves triggering the levitating sand.
Did you know going in that you’d be creating something that would be so important to black lives?
John: Sometimes on a film, it is often hard to imagine how it will be received. On Black Panther, all the signals were clear that the film would be deeply important. From our early peeks at concept art of Wakanda, to witnessing the way Marvel Studios supported Ryan Coogler’s vision. The whole time working on the film the anticipation kept growing, and at the core of the buzz was an incredibly strong black fandom. Late in our process, the hype was still increasing—It was becoming obvious that Black Panther could be the biggest Marvel film to date. I remember working on the title sequence one night, a couple months before release, and Ryan played (over speakerphone) the song that would accompany the sequence. We were bugging out— “Holy shit that’s Kendrick!”… it was just another sign that this film would be truly special, and deeply dedicated to an under-served audience.
How did working on the film affect the studio?
John: For us it’s been one of our proudest moments— it combined everything we love in terms of exciting concept development, aesthetic innovation and ambitious technical execution. The project is a key trophy in our portfolio, and I revisit it regularly when presenting at conferences or attracting new clients, and I’m deeply proud that it continues to resonate.
Where did you look for inspiration when designing?
John: When we started, the brief was simple: Best tech, most unique tech, and centered around vibranium. With a nearly open canvas, the element of vibranium (only seen previously as Captain America’s shield) sent us pursuing vibration and sound as a starting point. We looked deeply into cymatic patterns and other sound-based phenomena like echo-location. About a year prior, we were working with an automotive supplier on a technology that used ultrasonic soundwaves to create ‘mid-air haptics’… tech that lets you feel things that aren’t really there. We then discovered that the University at Tokyo was doing experiments with the same hardware to levitate styrofoam particles with limited movement. Our theory was that with the capabilities of vibranium, this effect could levitate and translate millions of particles simultaneously.
Beyond technical and scientific phenomenon, there was tremendous inspiration to be taken from African culture in general. From textile patterns, to colors of specific spices and more, there were many elements that influenced our process.
What thing about working on the film do you think most people in audiences would be surprised by?
John: I think the average audience member would be surprised by how much time and effort goes into these pieces of the film. There are so many details that are considered and developed, without explicitly figuring into the plot of the film. We consider ourselves fortunate that film after film Marvel Studios pushes to develop these ideas that in other films are simply ‘set dressing’.
Chris: Lastly, I like finishing interviews with these questions.
What, in your opinion, makes for a great fictional user interface?
John: I love it when you are presented with innovative tech in a film and just by seeing it you can understand the deeper implications. Having just enough information to make assumptions about how it works, why it works, and what it means to a culture or society. If you can invite this kind of curiosity, and reward this fascination, the audience gets a satisfying gift. And if these elements pull me in, I will almost certainly get ‘lost’ in a film…in the best way.
What’s your favorite sci-fi interface that someone else designed? (and why)
John: I always loved two that stood out to me for the exact reasons mentioned above.
One is Westworld’s tablet-based Dialog Tree system. It’s not the most radical UI design etc, but it means SO much to the story in that moment, and immediately conveys a complicated concept effortlessly to the viewer.
Another see-it-and-it-makes-sense tech concept is the live-tracked projection camera system from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It’s so clever, so physical, and you understand exactly how it works (and how it fails!). When I saw this in the theatre, I turned to my wife and whispered, “You see, the camera is moving to match the persp…” and she glared at me and said “I get it! Everybody gets it!” The clever execution of the gadget and scene made me, the viewer, feel smarter than I actually was!
What’s next for the studio?
The Perception team is continuing to work hard in our two similar paths of exploration— film and real-world tech. This year we have seen our work appear in Marvel’s streaming shows, with more to come. We’ve also been quite busy in the technology space, working on next-generation products from technology platforms to exciting automobiles. The past year has been busy and full of changes, but no matter how we work, we continue to be fascinated and inspired by the future ahead.
I’m glad I started the Fritzes in 2019, because in 2020 the movie industry was reeling from the haymaker that was COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2. Without the money of butts in cinema seats, many studios postponed production and releases. So the number of films to consider is notably smaller than in decades beforehand. But this also gave us the opportunity to consider films that are less blockbuster, more small and focused.
Following are the candidates for the 2021 Fritz awards, recognizing excellence in cinema sci-fi interfaces across the prior year.
These movies’ interfaces adhere to solid HCI principles and believable interactions. They engage us in the story world by being convincing. The nominees for Best Believable are Minor Premise, Project Power, and Proximity.
These movies’ interfaces blow us away with wonderful visuals and the richness of their future vision. They engross us in the story world by being spectacular. The nominees for Best Narrative are Love and Monsters, Underwater, and World of Tomorrrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime.
The movies nominated for Best Interfaces manage the extraordinary challenge of being believable and helping to paint a picture of the world of the story. They advance the state of the art in telling stories with speculative technology. The nominees for Best Narrative are Archive, LX 2048, and The Midnight Sky.
All of the movies nominated for other awards will be presented for an Audience Choice award. Watch this space for when the ballot is open. In the meantime, if like me you want to see all the candidates so you can be elated or outraged at results, start watching now.
Awards will be announced near the end of April, probably.