Territory – Screen Graphics For The Martian

October 13, 2015
by Tim Rabjohns

Territory Studio have been busy again working on another film with Ridley Scott – this time on the latest blockbuster : The Martian.

Many of you would no doubt have seen it by now – based on Andy Weir’s novel about stranded astronaut Mark Watney, set about 20 years in the future.  It’s also chock full of screens that need filling…

Unlike Prometheus’s screen graphics, which are firmly rooted in science fiction – most of the science in this film is real.  I spoke to Terrotory’s David Sheldon Hicks to find out more about what seems to been an absolute dream scenario for motion designers who love tech!  He told me:

“To achieve the necessary level of factual integrity in the design, Ridley and Production designer Arthur Max drew on the expertise of specialists at NASA and the European Space Agency, and asked us to craft the screen graphics and UI that would be needed.

As a story that is mediated by technology, hundreds of screens are employed across eight key sets, forming the lens through which the drama unfolds. Territory came into the project during the pre-production phase to map story points that could be explained or supported by screen graphics and to develop realistic and credible graphic interface concepts that balanced NASA fact with Scott and Max’s vision.”

“Working closely with Dave Lavery, Program Executive for Solar System Exploration at NASA and UI Art Director Felicity Hickson, art director Marti Romances and myself  developed a series of deft and elegant concepts that distill complex data into a simplified form that serves the need for both factual integrity and filmic narrative, yet are forward looking and pushing NASA’s current UI conventions as much as possible.”

The Martian by Territory for dotmogo 01“The greatest challenge”, says art director Marti Romances, “was to create graphic interfaces that looked like they were genuine NASA screens as they will be in about 20 years time. So the amount of realism was key, but we had to push the design concepts further, visualising near future technology. Knowing that NASA is always one step ahead, we had to consider the technologies that are being tested now and those that haven’t even been developed yet and imagine ways to represent information, from a user interface and experience design perspective”.

David SH goes on to say “Our comprehensive research of NASA’s current data streams, technology and interface design conventions, and ongoing conversations with Dave Lavery about how best to evolve them for next generation design concepts has resulted in a unique creative project that we are very proud to have been a part of”.

Territory’s plot-based graphics includes images, text, code, engineering schematics, 3D visualisations based on authentic satellite images showing Martian terrain, weather, and mission equipment served across consoles, navigation and communication systems, laptops, mobiles, tablets, and arm screens throughout.

In all Territory delivered around 400 screens for on-set playback, most of them featuring interactive elements. With 85 screens on the NASA Mission Control set alone, a number of which were 6mx6m, there are many moments in which the graphics become a dynamic bridge between Earth and Mars, narrative and action, audience and characters.

No one can say they weren’t thorough – I quite fancy a rifle through NASA’s archives myself.  All in all they did an awesome and believable job – to infinity and beyond….

Credits: client – 20th Century Fox, Director – Ridley Scott, Production Designer  – Arthur Max,  Motion Graphics Art Director – Felicity Hickson
Territory Studio: Creative Direction: David Sheldon-Hicks, Production: Sam Hart, Art Direction: Marti Romances, Lead CGI: Peter Eszenyi, Design and Animation: Daniel Højlund, Sam Keehan

The Martian by Territory for dotmogo 02

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