Call of Duty - Infinite Warfare UI by Ash Thorp

Here is the latest UI work for the upcoming instalment of Call of Duty, Infinite Warfare by Ash Thorp (Ender’s Game, Total Recall). It is the first time the franchise has ventured into space, and as such introduced the need to design a whole new suite of HUDs and GUIs.

As you can imagine, this could have taken many forms, but I’m so pleased to see it manifest itself in Ash’s capable hands. Included in this project are a number of startup screen designs as well as various HUDs and GUIs. The design aesthetic has even continued into the start screen designs and as a result the UI design style has become the encompassing look and feel for the game.

What I really love about these designs is that Ash has obviously attempted to create something new. The end product is unique, and has a strong distinct character, which brings to mind a world that’s a cross between Ghost-in-the-shell and Metal Gear Solid.

Boot-up screens

These are a series of boot-up sequences that relates to a particular character or machine the user has selected. Here are just a few choice images, there is much more over on Ash's site.

According to Ash, these were inspired by the designs and body lines of concept designer, Aaron Beck's characters (see below, images from Aaron Beck's blog).

With regards to the boot-up screen designs, I like how they start as strong, relatively minimalist thin lines that build up in layers to become more rich and complex. It’s really interesting to look at the details that make up each design. Each one uses slightly different element styles and formations, which give it it’s own personality. Some are like chemical structures whereas others are more like circuit diagrams.

The designs are very clean, organised and symmetrical making them feel more like artwork than something functional. The varying colour palettes are used nicely to distinguish the different concepts. I particularly like the subtle colour palettes that favour more muted colours, which work equally well if not better than the high contrast palettes.

You can see Ash has played with shapes as another way to differentiate the designs, changing from hexagons to octagons to change up the weight, and then moving to completely irregular shapes to push it even further

This is a very good example of how you can use recurring elements and create different looks by the way you arrange them and by altering them slightly. These frames are quite a rich source of inspiration.

What particularly stood out for me were the frames that had parts of the UI shaded in, which sort of verged on pattern design. I was surprised how well the flat shaded areas could work for an interface. Quite often we’re used to seeing glows and vignettes, but perhaps this flat shaded style actually looks more modern in my opinion.

HUDs

These HUD designs are great, I'm really drawn to the unexpected mix of large and small elements and the experiments to completely change the shape of the reticle to move into more rectangular designs.

It's really helpful to see the original vector designs before seeing them with colour, distortions and effects applied to them. It gives you a hint at the process involved and the how these frames are put together.

I was pleasantly surprised to see such a complex looking HUD that includes lots of little marks and details scattered around the screen. It’s interesting to see that when the design is composited into live footage, most of those details fade back. I would really love to see how camera movement would affect the visibility of those too. Would they become distracting or would they add welcoming detail to the overall feel?

Overall I think the UI designs for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare are fantastic! Each design has a unique look and feel yet still remaining as a cohesive whole. There is lots of experimentation and plenty of new ideas in those designs, so it's worth checking out closely if you haven't already.

There is a whole lot more on Ash's Infinite Warfare page: Visit Ash Thorp's project page
See more of Ash Thorp's work on his site: Visit Ash Thorp's site
Ash also has a UI design course online: Visit UI and Data Design for Film

Credits

Client: Infinity Ward
Art Director: Thomas Szakolczay
Design: Ash Thorp
Animation: Alasdair Willson

New Balance spot by Loop

Here's a short spot for New Balance shoes featuring baseball player Robinson Canó, by Loop. The sign off mentions that the shoes are 'Designed from player data' and that is exactly what's demonstrated in the clip. We see Canó go through the motions of preparing for and completing a home-run hit. The spot focuses on the nuances of the shoe and how it caters specifically for the needs of a hitter.

The spot does a really interesting job of visualising the data. They've introduced different ways of analysing information, using all sorts of graphs, which on close inspection doesn't give you many clues into what it's analysing but as a whole it works. It feels busy and complex, but it feels like it's been organised into a digestible format and therefore giving it a sense of authority and professionalism.

I love the design style of the UI. Firstly the colour palette is strong, the vibrant greenish-yellow, supported by the occasional white, set against a dark background is really striking. I like that the yellow is not a solid and flat colour either, instead it varies slightly. The dull yellow, which looks like a less opaque version of the highlight colour is nice too, as it offsets the highlight colour but is not dull enough that it feels dirty. The splash of the fleshy pink also compliments the palette well.

Special attention should be paid to the animation, as it is superb. I love the way the elements transition in and out. I think it had to be interesting because the UI animation was doing a lot of the heavy lifting, taking up at least 15 secs of the whole spot.

Even though it's short, there's a lot of inspiration that can be taken from this. Great work by the crew at Loop!

Here's a link to a another clip for New Balance by Loop that features some GUIs but not as much as the first. I think it is worth sharing too.

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Surface Studio - Introducing the Surface Dial

Microsoft have just announced a new product called Surface Studio, which is like a desktop tablet. Besides being impressed by the shear size of the touch screen, what's more interesting is it's use of peripherals.

Available to purchase separately is the Surface Dial, which allows the user to control by pressing it like a button or turning it like a dial. It can even be used on the screen itself, and that's where it gets interesting. Once on the screen, the user can activate a UI that fans out around the dial. The user then has access to a number of interfaces whether it's a colour wheel, ruler or even to control settings, which you can navigate by turning, much like the early generation iPods. The user can even use it in conjunction with a Surface Pen, adjusting settings as you paint or draw.

Being a designer and illustrator that works predominantly on a Wacom Cintiq, I can see the benefit of this arrangement. It's not very natural to have one arm holding a stylus up to the screen and the other arm lower down on a keyboard for long periods of time. Having both arms on the screen seems more ergonomic. Having access to the colour wheel instantaneously also saves you from needing to move your pen hand around all over the screen.

What's interesting and something we've discussed in the past and predicted is the resurgence of tactile controls. Human beings naturally respond to touch, you lose an important aspect of control without haptic feedback. Even the latest iOS updates for iPhone include better use of haptic feedback. That was the potential disadvantage of touch UIs, gesture controls and interactive holograms. Having haptic feedback allows the user to fine tune their movement and force, allowing a much larger range of control. It's the same with flat keyboards verses button keyboards.

I for one am really excited to see Microsoft moving towards this trend. The touch screen era is well and truly established, now it's time to improve upon it.

Check out the official Surface Studio site here.

Boeing 100 - UI Design

Here is a video piece created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Boeing. Though this project is not exactly an example of an interface design, it does provide inspiration that's very relevant. The video showcases some beautiful imagery and examples of data visualisation, simulations, and infographics.

The overall theme and design style is based on a digital-simulation look with references to blueprints and wireframes. If this design style was applied to an interface, it would create a look that would be suitable to a very advanced UI and something scientific or mathematical.

The design is beautiful, you can pause the video at any point and be presented with a visually stimulating frame. The key outtakes would be the blueprint designs, the wireframing and the background information noise.

Blueprint design

This just looks stunning! I really love clean shapes created by the thin lines and varying line weights. Adding the shallow depth of field may have helped a lot too. We often see simulations in FUI design, but this is one of the most visually attractive examples I've seen. Perhaps it's because it doesn't just look like the basic shaded version of a 3D model, and instead is treated like a blueprint illustration. This really caught my eye.

Wireframing

This also blew me away! Having these beautifully detailed 3D models overlaid with these thin glowing wireframe outlines created such vibrant and visually rich images. It probably helps that the aircrafts have such lovely contours and complex shapes. The fighter jet shots are by far my favourite. The colour choices are worth mentioning too, they're nicely saturated and they complement each other well.

Background information noise

Here I'm referring to the background noise, the little dots and marks scattered around the screen. They help create the illusion of complexity, you can imagine each one holding lots of detailed information, that you just can't see because they're so far away. Besides adding to the aesthetics of the completed shot, they also offer information about space and depth. I think this was an excellent addition and really completed the look.

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Congrats to the team for an awesome project! Look forward to seeing more :)

Credits

Client: Boeing
Production Co / VFX: Aggressive / Loop
Creative Directors: Alex Topaller, Dan Shapiro, Alex Mikhaylov
Executive Producer: Dan Shapiro
Art Director & Design: Alex Mikhaylov
CG Supervisor: Max Chelyadnikov
Modeling: E.D.Satan, Valentine Sorokin, Roman Senko
2D Animation: Vladimir Tomin, Alex Frukta
3D Animation: Dmitriy Paukov, Roman Senko
Editing: Dan Shapiro, Alex Mikhaylov
FX TD: Nikolay Lvov, Daniil Rybkin
Matte Painting: Dmitriy Ten
Rendering: Max Chelyadnikov
Compositing: Max Chelyadnikov, Roman Senko
Production Manager: Dustin Pownall
Storyboard Artist: Anton Antonov
Sound Design: Wesley Slover
Sound Design (Dir Cut): Echoic

Link to Behance page

Hitman: Agent 47 UI by Territory Studio

Here's a glimpse at some of the UI work from Hitman: Agent 47 by Territory Studio. The film showcases examples of mobile screens, interactive glass, scopes and a range of screen graphics.

Overall the designs appear to be split into two distinct styles, one for Agent 47's equipment and the other for the syndicate's. Both depicting a modern covert feel, but the syndicate's UI show glimpses of a slightly more advanced and complex system.

Some shots worth checking would be the car tracking scene, the sniper scope, Agent 47's briefcase and the syndicate director's office.

Car tracking

This is one of the longer UI sequences in the film and part of an action packed sequence. The colour scheme and lighting of the 3D map is really attractive. The map elements are a nice reddish/purplish grey set upon black, which helps punch out the red elements of interest. The sequence is easy to follow and the little animated transitions are quite neat.

Sniper scope

The sniper scope looks clinical and what you'd expect from a professional hitman. It feels like a modern military weapon, and completely believable.

Agent 47's briefcase 0:29

Although this appears only momentarily, it's one of my favourite pieces. It's a briefcase Agent 47 uses, which opens up with a small satellite dish and multiple screens. Both the physical form and the digital displays look great. It instantly feels like a piece of advanced equipment that is only available to spies or in this case an advanced hitman.

Syndicate director's office

The syndicate director's office is a curved white room with various interactive surfaces built into the interior. It effectively creates an environment for a different kind of villain, one that's not overtly evil but instead the head of an evil corporation. Less of a villain than a businessman. There's two main interfaces in the office, the glass wall and the tabletop. Both help emphasise the advanced nature of the syndicate's technology.

If I were to scrutinise these as practical interfaces I would question the choice of having either one. The glass wall display although would be very useful to the director, feels too public for my liking. I would imagine the director of the syndicate would like a little more privacy on the things he's looking at. The trouble with a glass display like this is that anyone on the other side of the glass can see everything the user is doing. But I understand the appeal from a filmmaking point of view.

The interactive table is also questionable. With so much emphasis these days on office ergonomics, a table like this would wreck havoc on the user's posture. It seems interactive tables like these are great for standing and collaborating but not so much for long time use. It would have been ideal for the UI team to work together with the set design team to create a more suitable environment but from what I gather a lot of the UI work was done retrospectively, after the footage was already shot. The designs on the screens themselves are lovely!

Video conferencing could also be an issue. Normally a camera is positioned on the screen so that the video captured would be as though the user is making eye-contact with the receiver on the other end. In this case the footage is on such an angle that the receiver could be potentially looking up at the director's nose. Or if the camera was higher up, the director wouldn't appear to be looking at the person on the other end. But does the audience really care about this? Probably not. Does it affect the outcome of the film? Not sure. As practical applications it might be an issue but from a film making point of view, it's probably not as crucial.

Head over to Territory Studio's site to check out the montage, it's really a cool project! Congrats to the team!

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