Heads Up!!

I love trying new special effects and plug-ins in After Effects, my motion graphics program of choice. As a graphic and product designer, it stretches my imagination in new ways and is the perfect mesh of my “line” and “form” sides.

So this month, I’ve been playing with “heads-up display” (HUD) concepts and seeing what can be done in After Effects to explore movement and transparency in storytelling, backgrounds, or as main elements in my work. Here is one idea I developed in my learning process:


HUD is the display of data on a transparent surface that allows the user to view the data without blocking or distracting the user’s other viewpoints. Its first use was on the windshields of fighter jets, repeating the most crucial gauges and info, so the pilots didn’t have to look down to the instrument panel or be distracted looking forward. So the display has to be transparent but readable.

Now the feature is being included in luxury and sports car windshields and a variety of after-market products. Key information is now in your view without taking your eyes off the road. The future is here. Just in time for autonomous vehicles. Yikes!!

But the visionary world of science fiction is where we saw this concept first. When Philip K. Dick wrote the short story “Minority Report” in 1956, he had no idea how those amazing cars and freeway systems would look in the 2002 movie of the same name. But the transparent screens where Tom Cruise slid glowing graphic info around, sure looked cool to me, even though I’m not sure what he was really doing. Still…very fun. Images on transparent screens were used in the ”Matrix” series of movies and dozens of other sci-fi movies and shows since.

Then there are HUD systems that connect directly to the user’s face, as Google Glass attempted to market. Another great use is in drone racing, where drone drivers wear HUD goggles or headsets that allow them to see from the viewpoint of the drone they are controlling. And back to movies again, Tony Stark had the ultimate HUD built into his helmet in the “Iron Man” movies.

Looking at it from a commercial viewpoint, I’m seeing a lot of potential for product storytelling. HUD visuals can be especially good for telling technical and complex stories. A constantly evolving, interactive, expanding story can be created and modified, as you need it and the motion graphics direct the viewer’s eyes to what you want them to see. Add music, and you have a compelling movie!

Heads-up displays are still new and fresh enough that they can be quite mesmerizing and evoke a sci-fi feel. When you are marketing innovation, it can project the feel of your products and company. Are you ready for it?

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Bill Giobbi (bgob1) is founder and owner of Linea Forma Design, a 38 year old design firm specializing in creating graphic content for print, web and video. He is a graphic designer, industrial designer, model maker, technical illustrator and a digital 3D content creator/animator, with a love of all things design.
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4 Responses

  1. Gayle

    Another awesome post. A fun read and visually amazing. Love the music too.


    OHBEWAN GOBEE………at it again………my foggy sun glasses do that all the time for no good reason………..but still pretty cool.

  3. Mike Chisholm

    I always knew you lived in the graphical future! This is cool!

    • bgob1

      Thanks, Mike.