These recent high-fidelity fictional computer interfaces have stood out among the dozens featured in Hollywood films each year.

Image: Pacific Rim via Warner Bros.

Over the past few years, quite a few Hollywood productions have extensively featured fake user interfaces, displayed for everything from NASA operations to giant robot fights. Here are some of the most impressive UI (User Interface) VFX examples of late.


Oblivion

This 2013 sci-fi action flick was full of marvelous visuals and stellar set design. One of the most impressive aspects of the film’s look was the element design.

With distinct layouts that effectively break up the immense amount of on-screen information, the motion design of Oblivion sets a great example of how to create an excessive, but still distinguishable interface that delivers crucial information among random data. This breakdown is entrancing, with light, organic elements and smooth movement.


Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim, a heavily stylized action blockbuster of epic proportions, maintained its over-the-top attitude in its colorful and diverse interfaces.

This UI excels with its varying designs that each uniquely reflect the robot they operate. For instance, the newest of the robots features a dense display of popular modern color combinations like teal and red, while the old Russian robot sports a simpler interface of more military-esque colors, orange and green. It even includes retro details like seven-segment number displays. Additionally, this breakdown shows how well the UI was integrated into its environment and characters around it, interacting with the movement of both the pilots and the robot itself.


Iron Man

One of the most iconic fictional HUDs, the Iron Man suit helmet system became a model for motion designers to follow after its first appearance in 2008.

This breakdown is of a later iteration of the overall same design, featured in The Avengers.  This particular interface is especially interesting because it relies entirely on the expressions and eye movement of Robert Downey Jr, but still conveys an astounding amount of information using just a face. In these few seconds, we can see elements emphasizing where Tony Stark’s attention is, and changes in color indicating the severity of the moment. Beyond this, it makes great use of the depth that a 3D interface provides, offsetting individual elements with actual purpose and using the spherical look to sneak in faster, more natural transitions from one UI ‘mode’ to the next.


Guardians of the Galaxy

Another example of excess done right, the Guardians of the Galaxy  interfaces showcase gorgeous patterns, color combinations, and particle systems.

While these were mostly designed to be visually pleasing as opposed to informational, they still manage to keep the hundreds of on-screen elements distinct and purposeful by prioritizing them according to importance and strategically placing significant shapes where viewers’ attention should be drawn. With so much complex geometry constantly moving, this could easily have resulted in a mess — instead,  these interface variations fit well into the lively, somewhat nonsensical galaxy presented in the film.


The Martian

The Martian featured the most minimal interface on this list, that of NASA technology presumably a few decades into the future.

With real technology to represent accurately and existing NASA interfaces to replicate, this was likely one of the more difficult systems to create on this list. While some scientific liberties were surely taken for both artistic reasons and for the audience’s understanding, this still looks like a slightly flashier version of what might actually exist in the future. The real NASA Control Center is currently much more utilitarian than even this representation, and will likely remain so, but this sci-fi comedy thriller nevertheless did a great job at blending motion design and scientific practicality.


As you can see, different fictional scenarios call for different approaches in terms of a computer interface. The best UI work achieves its specific purpose within the context of the film and delivers necessary information in an interesting way — and only becomes distracting if it needs to be. Hopefully these sleek examples will give you some inspiration in your work!

What UIs have you found especially innovative? Let us know in the comments below.