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Film Studies 101
Feature
A History Of Syd Mead In Ten Designs
From Blade Runner to Elysium: the legendary artist on his greatest movies

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Syd Mead is the conceptual artist and “visual futurist” responsible for some of sci-fi cinema’s most iconic designs. Last year he worked with Neill Blomkamp on Elysium, and with that film’s recent Blu-ray release, we caught up with Syd and got him to talk us through ten of his most famous imaginings.

WORDS OWEN WILLIAMS
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STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979)

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

"I designed the V’Ger entity at the end of the film. That was fun to do. They already had this hexagonal machine, which was like the maw which was the entrance into a chamber behind. They had built a plywood interior set about eight feet in diameter, but they literally had no idea of what to do for the exterior. They were designing the camera tracks to shoot it, but they had nothing to shoot! The model I eventually designed, that they did the camera crawl over, was 40 feet long. You still never see the whole thing on screen. There was supposed to be a shot of the whole V’Ger casting a shadow on the Moon to show how big it was, but that was cut."
 

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Your Comments

1 RE: Aliens
@Nashwan Fair enough! It's something I hear a lot, even if I don't quite get it. More

Posted by wedgeski on Tuesday January 7, 2014, 17:52

2 RE: Aliens
L: wedgeski Not really, no. It's a great looking ship and that tracking shot is beautiful...but compared to, say, the eus and subsequent beauty shots, it's left in the dust IMO. ted, Prometheus is beautiful, but CGI never looks i] convincing to me. A real shot, even if it's only of a model, just looks real. Probably because it is... Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to hark back to a kind of rusticism where everything was better in old films, I just think it's a shame techniques like that aren't used as much anymore and the default option is CGI. Maybe now 3D printing is more commonplace and it's much easier and more cost effective to make complicated models we'll see more of it, who knows... More

Posted by Nashwan on Tuesday January 7, 2014, 14:30

3
On a geeky note, it's interesting how Syd calls Elysium an 'orbital', rather than a ring, ringworld or any of the other words he could've chosen. Is he an Iain Banks reader by any chance? More

Posted by Nashwan on Tuesday January 7, 2014, 14:16

4 RE: Aliens
A true master, though I never liked the design of the /i] that much; I thought it departed too greatly from the 2001 aesthetic. :) unnerertainly endure as one of the greatest pieces of production design ever. tally (and I somehow doubt I'm alone in thinking this), doesn't the shot where it flies past the camera look so much better than any CGI?really, no. It's a great looking ship and that tracking shot is beautiful...but compared to, say, the eus and subsequent beauty shots, it's left in the dust IMO. More

Posted by wedgeski on Tuesday January 7, 2014, 14:14

5 Aliens
For my money, the Sulaco is still one of the coolest spaceships ever designed, and it's only on screen for about 10 seconds. Incidentally (and I somehow doubt I'm alone in thinking this), doesn't the shot where it flies past the camera look so much better than any CGI? More

Posted by Nashwan on Tuesday January 7, 2014, 14:05

6 Artist without the art?
Great little feature, but it would have been nice to see some of his actual designs, preferably in a side-by-side format. The comparison from concept to final product is one of the most fascinating things about the designer's role. More

Posted by kevtiggersmith on Tuesday January 7, 2014, 00:22


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