1. Please tell us a little about how you got into User Interface Design for motion pictures. What do you think is important when designing UI for movies?
Somehow I was always fascinated by the graphic design in films: the logos, text and especially anything shown on computers. When I was about 9 I used to freeze frame the graphic parts in the Max Headroom television show and draw them by hand in spiral notebooks. They had some pretty cool screen design and I always thought that would be fun to do. But I went the round-about way – I started out in traditional print and layout design, moving to interactive, web and UI. Motion design was next. A good friend of mine and fellow screen designer Mark Coleran impressed me so much with his work that I decided that was the stuff I just had to do.
2. What movies have you worked on?
I’ve done concept, UI, and VFX type work for films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Percy Jackson, Wall Street II, and 2012. I’ve just finished designing and animating Nick Fury’s Helicarrier screens and Iron Man’s new upgraded HUD (Heads Up Display graphics that appear when he puts on his helmet) for Marvel’s The Avengers with an awesome company called Cantina Creative.
2. What exactly was your role in the Planet of the Apes UI design. Was it all concept work or were your composites used in the movie itself? Did you work for a studio, or were you hired as a freelance artist?
My final designs and animations are what you see in the film. Variations also appear in the Blu-Ray/DVD menus. My role was screen-graphic design, 3d and animation. G-Creative did the initial camera tracking and keying of the shots since they were shot against a blue screen. I did rough composites as I designed, and WETA did the final composites based on my work.
As a freelancer, usually the company I work for will get the sole credit. I usually just sneak my name in the screens, so if you freeze-frame the blu-rays you may just see J4YS3 or some such variation. (Along with CH3Ls, my girlfriend and BELLa, my dog.)
I was originally hired to concept out the content of the screens in the film. At that time it was just words on a page – the script was brilliantly written, but contained little in regard to what visuals would be displayed. It was my task to brainstorm the visual ideas and general pacing for the sequences. The director, Rupert Wyatt, was concerned about the important boardroom sequence and how it would work and flow. It’s an integral part of the film, one that sets up James Franco’s intentions and ends with an angry ‘Bright Eyes’ crashing through the screen. It kind of sets the whole film in motion. So, I created a rough animatic using my own voice as the voice-over and my temp graphics as placeholders. They used that as a pacing guide on-set to film the sequences. About four months after the initial concept work they came back to do the final shots for the film.
3. How and where did you end up using Yanobox Nodes in Planet of the Apes? Can you point out 2 or 3 scenes and explain what Nodes was used for?
I designed a lot of scientific data graphics, and Nodes was an awesome tool that helped me realize them quickly. I love how customizable it is. I’d design in illustrator and use my graphics as custom node points.
In the very first boardroom shot we see Caesar’s mother, “Bright Eyes.” I used Nodes in a few different ways for the graph data that was showing success rates of her trying to solve the ‘Lucas Tower’ game. All of the graphs and data were based off actual primate studies done with similar games. Nodes helped me spice them up a bit and give them life as animations.
The overlay of the eye was done with Yanobox Nodes:
At other times I used nodes as a brainstorming tool or a jumping-off point. For instance, there’s a scene where James Franco is talking about all the diseases his new drug will cure. I originally used Nodes to create a cascading text effect behind him. The director had some specific notes on how that should work so I ended up creating a different rig to mimic what nodes had done. I probably would have never come up with that look without using Nodes.
One was on Fury’s glass monitors and another was in the Nav table that they use next to the people flying the Helicarrier.
4. Have you used Nodes on other projects in the past?
I got my feet wet with it using it on an internal project for Intel, and fell in love immediately. Its potential is huge! I’ll definitely be using it on future projects.
Planet of the Apes along with all related materials: Copyright © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
The Avengers along with all related materials: Copyright © 2012 Marvel Studios