Film Craft in User Interface Design

Chuck Clanton, Aratar

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University June 3, 1992


Why study film for ideas about user interface design? Like user interface designers, the filmmakers' challenge is to engage us in a world of their making, while hiding the technical apparatus. They are masters at using pictures and sounds to communicate, entertain, and manipulate our feelings and sense of space and time. Ninety years of filmmaking have created a rich store of knowledge barely tapped by current interface designers. From multimedia to character display applications, this knowledge can significantly enhance user interface design. Film craft is divided into story, production values, camera/composition, and editing. Each has much to offer the adventurous user interface designer. This talk focuses on the latter two--highlighting issues of time, off-screen space, and animation. The speaker explores cinematic techniques for compelling interfaces, rather than theatrically condemning interfaces not to his taste. Specific techniques are illustrated by juxtaposing video clips from films with clips from user interfaces. Bring your own popcorn.


Dr. Clanton consults in the design of graphical user interfaces. His research background includes perceptual and cognitive psychology at Harvard, neurosciences at UCSF Medical School, and computers and psychology at Stanford. He has exploited insights from film and animation in his designs for over a decade.


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