Movie: Avatar

It’s safe to bet that interface design in movies will be a recurring theme here. They give us a glimpse of the future, but from a design perspective of when the film was made. They take current ideas of where technology is heading, and project it forward to a point beyond what is currently possible. They’re full of imagination and fantasy — but still trying to make sense in that future context, and seem, hopefully, usable.

The look and feel of the interfaces in the movie Avatar are remarkable. Not only is the film in 3D, but the interface designers took advantage of this by envisioning interfaces that were also 3D.

The display hardware, like the film itself, is fairly gritty and industrial — with a quasi-military quality. They often have heavy borders or exposed projector beams. The interfaces have a very functional look, with an emphasis on large amounts of data. Almost always transparent, or else visible from behind, it’s interesting to see glimpses of the “back view” of content.

The movie features a variety of display types. “Stereographic” displays for standard flat and panel-like interfaces. A big “Holotable” in the Op Center which projected three-dimensional holograms — such as of the Home Tree. And “Immersive” displays that wrap around the user for air traffic control.

From what I’ve been able to find, it appears that all of the user interface design work was done by Prime Focus. They credit Neil Huxley as art director and responsible for overseeing the design of the “motion graphics elements.”

From their press release:

These graphics were designed in 2D in Adobe Illustrator, animated in Adobe After Effects, placed on cards in 3D and rendered in Autodesk 3ds Max. Prime Focus Software’s Krakatoa particle system was used for the 3D terrain, which gave the images a scan-lined LIDAR-like quality, as if a satellite roving the planet’s atmosphere captured the footage.

1. Holotable displaying Home Tree
2. Holotable displaying schematic information
3. Immersive display

4. Immersive displays and Holotable
5. Multiple displays in Op Center
6. Stereographic display
7. Stereographic display
8. Stereographic display
9. Stereographic display
10. Stereographic display

All images TM and (C) Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication
Images 1-5 from
Images 6-10 from