Imaginary Forces Creates Machine Vision for Terminator Salvation

Screen design is the term applied to the practice of creating interfaces or data visualization for prop displays and other screens in film and television. It’s a small but rich sub-field of motion graphics that comes with a special set of challenges.

As with real user interfaces, the imagined interfaces of screen design rely on consistent graphical systems in order to make sense. Designers must be careful to balance complexity and readability, making sure that the relevant information is obvious and keeps the story moving forward.

Machine Vision in Terminator Salvation

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A recent example of screen design can be found in Terminator Salvation, for which Imaginary Forces created “machine vision” used in POV shots to emulate the human-hating robots’ view of the world. The monochromatic graphics and fixed-width type call to mind early computer displays, suggesting a mechanically-minded consciousness (instead of, say, a sleek, digital one).

In the making-of featurette, IF explains that their research led them to depth-mapping technology, including a Bumblebee camera like the ones used on the (real-life) Mars rover. IF also embraced the imperfections produced by their process, another move that underscores the mechanistic nature of the terminator cyborgs.

Making Machine Vision

(The making-of video has been moved here, due to loading problems on this page.) Kudos to Fast Company for sharing this video.


Creative Supervisor/Designer: Karin Fong
Lead Animator/Designer: Jeremy Cox
Producers: Cara McKenney, Kathy Kelehan
Project Manager: Steven Giangrasso
Machine Vision Animation: Chase Massingill, Josh Van Praag
Editor: Danielle White, Joe Denk
Inferno Artist: Rod Basham
Coordinators: Heather Dennis, Kim Dates

Check out more screen design work from others:

Mark Coleran’s screen design reel

Check out this interview with Mark Coleran for a look at his process and background.

MK12 for the Quantum of Solace

Microsoft Sustainability

Read this Motionographer post for more information on the creative process behind this project.

About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.