Designing Sci-Fi Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, October 9 at noon Pacific for the Designing Sci-Fi Hack Chat with Seth Molson!

We all know the feeling of watching a movie set in a galaxy far, far away and seeing something that makes us say, “That’s not realistic at all!” The irony of watching human actors dressed up as alien creatures prancing across a fantasy landscape and expecting realism is lost on us as we willingly suspend disbelief in order to get into the story; seeing something in that artificial world that looks cheesy or goofy can shock you out of that state and ruin the compact between filmmaker and audience.

Perhaps nowhere do things get riskier for filmmakers than the design of the user interfaces of sci-fi and fantasy sets. Be they the control panels of spacecraft, consoles for futuristic computers, or even simply the screens of phones that are yet to be, sci-fi UI design can make or break a movie. The job of designing a sci-fi set used to be as simple as wiring up strings of blinkenlights; now, the job falls to a dedicated artist called a Playback Designer who can create something that looks fresh and new but still plausible to audiences used to interacting with technology that earlier generations couldn’t have dreamed of.

Seth Molson​ is one such artist, and you’ve probably seen some of his work on shows such as TimelessStargate Universe, and recently Netflix’s reboot of Lost in Space. When tasked to deliver control panels for spacecraft and systems that exist only in a writer’s mind, Seth sits down with graphics and animation software to make it happen.

Join us as we take a look behind the scenes with Seth and find out exactly what it’s like to be a Playback Designer. Find out what Seth’s toolchain looks like, how he interacts with the rest of the production design crew to come up with a consistent and believable look and feel for interfaces, and what it’s like to design futures that only exist — for now — in someone’s imagination.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, October 9 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.


9 thoughts on “Designing Sci-Fi Hack Chat

  1. Gonna go out on limb and deign to suggest that you people in Hollywood (actually) read some of the ‘Big Four’ stuff (Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury) before you endeavor to create your next mess.

    For what it is worth (not much), the reason that many sci-fi movies either excel or suck has little to do with CG effects, it has to do with acting, writing, and editing.

    Now get off of my dirt…

    1. Not sure you really get what this guy does. He is responsible for making the software look futuristic while still realistic. Judging by this body of work, it seems he’s pretty good at it.

    2. at least go look at some glass cockpits in action (or play with the mfds in orbier and other flight sims), cnc dros, medical monitors, and the like. the one thing they all have in common is they display useful information and commands relevant to the thing being done with it. minimize pointless graphics and animations because that’s like holding up a big sign that says “i dont know what this should look like”.

  2. There will be no control panels or GUI.
    People will take a seat in a comfortable chair and log-in via their Brain-Computer-Interface.
    Nothing fancy to see on the outside…

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