Animation, Producer & Director

(Note: The content below was recreated as a fan film and this posting is for educational purposes only)

Case Study: Oblivion Interactive Screens

In 2016, I embarked on a passion project with some friends, spending several months meticulously recreating the screens from the movie Oblivion. This fan-film endeavor required us to faithfully remake the four user interface panels featured in the film. We relied heavily on reference images from the movie and insights gleaned from various fan forums scattered across the web. With this valuable reference material in hand, we set about the painstaking process of recreating all the artwork in vector format, which would be crucial for our animation purposes.

While my friends Zac and Jay assisted with the intricate task of remaking the artwork, I began the detailed process of animating each item, screen by screen and element by element, as they became available. I initially focused on the globes before moving on to other screens. To keep this ambitious project organized, I found that this methodical approach was the most effective. It also made the process more manageable when it came time to render out the completed pieces. Pre-renders were especially time-saving given our work involved 4K exports for videos that were up to 10 minutes long. The primary objective in this initial phase of animation was to match the original film as closely as possible. This necessitated extensive analysis and comparison between the film and our reference material. There were many moments where we meticulously matched frames, while in other instances, we had to rely on our best judgment to fill in the gaps.

Screen 1

The excitement of this project lay not just in the recreation and animation of the art but also in crafting scenarios that aligned with the chronological events of the film. It was exhilarating to imagine what Tom Cruise's character might be doing or where the drones might be flying on each monitor. We endeavored to create extensions of the film's narrative, adding depth to the interactive screens. For instance, in one particular scene, I animated Tom Cruise repairing drone 166 in real-time, mirroring the sequence as it unfolded in the movie. This level of detail added a layer of authenticity to our fan project.

Screen 2

Screen 1

For Screen 1, I enlisted the help of my friend John to create all the 3D drones. The other elements on this screen were animated to reflect repairs happening in real-time or to show drones going missing, as depicted in the movie. This screen was also used as a remote control interface to manage all four screens simultaneously. John’s meticulous 3D modeling brought a level of detail and realism that was crucial for the authenticity we aimed to achieve. The dual functionality of this screen added to the complexity and enjoyment of the project. Balancing the control interface with real-time updates required careful planning and execution, but the result was a highly dynamic and interactive display that enriched the overall user experience.
One of the most challenging screens to render, due to the constant motion of red bars and the multitude of elements, was Screen 2. Unlike the other three screens, which were primarily diagnostic, Screen 2 offered us a bit more creative freedom. This screen tracked the position of Tom Cruise's character, TECH 49, throughout the movie. In our scenarios, we animated scenes where TECH 49 exits the pod and walks around. A particularly memorable sequence involved TECH 49 slowly walking back across the screen after an attack while searching for drone 172. Additionally, we animated moments where TECH 49 flew in the pod, disappearing off the map and then reappearing, which allowed us to speculate and have fun with the narrative. All the flying drone animations were carefully synchronized with scenes from the movie. These moments provided an opportunity to enhance the story, making TECH 49’s journey more immersive and engaging.

Screen 2

Screen 2

I enjoyed writing After Effects expressions to animate various elements on this screen. Creating animations for the platform rotation and the audio waveform was both challenging and rewarding.
Another significant aspect of the project involved animating the rotating drones around the Hydrarigs on Screen 3. This required complex expressions for accuracy. The dots on Screen 3 were attached to the drone positions on Screen 2, and these drones rotated around the Hydrarigs. To maintain realism, the drones auto-oriented towards the camera. This was one of the many technical challenges I relished.

Screen 3

Screen 2

An additional example of our animation work was a scene we recreated from the second day depicted in the film. In this scene, Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough's characters are awoken by an explosion from one of the Hydrarigs. We assumed that a Hydrarig losing power following an explosion would result in a complete shutdown, which we animated accordingly. This sequence also showed Tom Cruise in his pod, heading out to survey the damage, adding another layer of realism to our work. The complexity of animating the explosion and the subsequent shutdown added a thrilling challenge to the project.

Screen 3

Screen 2

Screen 4

Finally, Screen 4 was the last screen we animated. Unlike the other horizontal screens, this one was vertically oriented. It was used to indicate wind speed, velocity, and communication signals with Skytower 49. Its design resembled a clock, and it was a pleasure to animate this distinctive element. The vertical orientation and unique function of this screen added variety to our project, making it a standout piece.

In the end, this personal project was immensely enjoyable and relied on the collaboration and support of many friends and fellow enthusiasts. It was a delight to work with a team to recreate elements from a beloved film. Much like fans who build movie props, vehicles, or costumes, we found joy in recreating these interactive screens. While the original artwork for Oblivion belongs to its creators, our work was a tribute made by fans for fans, intended for educational and entertainment purposes. This project stands as a testament to our passion and dedication to bringing a piece of the film to life.

Animation - Patrick Flaherty
3D Modeling & Animation - John Lee
Graphic Design - Zac Saathoff & Jay Wise

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© 2024 Patrick Flaherty