Screen UI Design

Avengers Helicarrier Fury’s Glass Screens

“How does Fury even see these?”  ~Tony Stark


Fury’s screens began somewhat as a blank page. Literally, his screens were blank. Designing for glass is a bit different, in that the majority of the design will be black, allowing you to see the actors fairly clearly through the screens. We had text descriptions of different things that needed to happen throughout the nearly 30+ minutes of time that they are visible on screen.  Cantina Creative brought me in to architecture an F-UI (Fictional User Interface – or maybe more appropriately – ‘F-the-User’ Interface) that could accommodate each hero story-point. These designs also served as the basis for the science lab glass screens where Banner and Stark are analyzing the Tesseract and Loki’s Sceptre.

After many hypothetical and deep discussions with our awesome VFX Supervisor, Venti Hristova, (who had previously designed more than 60 onset playback monitors that they used while shooting!) I started by mapping out each of his four monitors into what we thought each should contain – in both ‘Standard Mode’ and ‘Battle Mode’. The directions we received were pretty simple:  It shouldn’t be colorful and thick lined, like Avatar – it should be military and tough looking – and keep enough void/black that the actors’ performances can be seen through them. They also wanted them to be a stark contrast to the more glossy/polished looking UI of Tony stark (seen in the hacking sequences in the science lab.)

Orange is my favorite accent color, and Venti had a particular love interest with it as well – so we began exploring in muted military tones with orange accents – and this initial exploration survived all future iterations of the designs.

I then drilled into basic nav features like menu systems, file hierarchies and various video and text panel layouts. Below illustrates how some side panels expand to show more relevant information.

The angular hard edged look was inspired by the hardware of the Helicarrier, and the simple bad-assness of Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury.

I designed with Fury’s eye-patch in mind. The more important screens are on the right.

During filming, the glass screens were entirely blank – so I also did some look-dev as to how they might look when composited.

Once we were approved for general content and look direction, I began designing out several general and hero story-point elements. The SHIELD logo file idea was a great one from my fellow designer Jonathan Ficcadenti.

Along with different modes – Like ‘Battle Mode’, when Hawkeye attacks the Helicarrier and Engine 3 is in jeopardy.

On set, they filmed the original Nav Table with static decal overlays (created by the Art Department)  – As a post-replace, I revamped the designs to work with the actors movements, bring them inline a bit more with my Helicarrier designs, and animated the new elements. Below are the battle mode and some temp slap comps in standard mode. Final film composites were done by Luma Pictures.

The Nav Wheels were done the same way as the Nav Tables onset – static decals. In post, they wanted a semi holographic look (my first slap-comp is below.) I thought of them as multi-level multi-variate display holographs. Friendly Aircraft Indicators (circles) and path markers (green with yellow numbers) on the chevron layer would have lines down to sub-levels to show plot-correlations with height indication.

If you’re truly geeky: The horizontal green arrow indicator below shows the pilots recommended course corrections (where to move the wheel, left/right), target trajectories (red) and auto-pilot course deviations (orange). The vertical green triangle ‘bugs’ can be slid around by the pilots to manually ‘bookmark’ their desired course angles, somewhat like a protractor (physical reference I used) or like the bugs on your more typical HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator).

Without them, the pilots are ‘flying blind’. This is why, when the turbines have failed and the system is recalibrating, Nick Fury has to tell them to simply use the sun to navigate by. Gotta love Fury.


Designed and Animated for: Cantina Creative
Marvel VFX Supervisor:
Janek Sirrs
Stereo Supervisor:
Wes Sewell
Cantina VFX Producer:
Sean Cushing
Cantina Creative Director:
Stephen Lawes
Cantina VFX Supervisor:
Venti Hristova
Cantina VFX Production: Lily Shapiro
The Cantina team and I all worked super hard on this film under the guidance of the always awesome Venti Hristova – and became a family of crime-fighting friends for life. So I just wanted to give a shout out to my fellow Cantina peeps here:

Cantina’s badass Design and Animation team
Jonathan Ficcadenti
Alan Torres
Navarro Parker
Sang Shin
Asuka Ashizawa
Takashi Takeoka
Sarah Blank
Stephen Morton
Aaron Eaton
Matt Eaton
Lukas Weyandt
Leon Nowlin, Jr.

The Avengers is ™ & © 2012 Marvel and Subs.