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Moon (typesetinthefuture.com)
689 points by edj on Feb 14, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

This is great.

I remember the first time I watched Moon and felt like I recognised the style of the design. Then later in the film when I saw the vehicles I thought to myself "That looks like massively like Gav's design"; referring to Gavin Rothery who I'd worked with a number of years earlier at a games company called Pure Entertainment.

We both worked on a title called Lunatik, which was a futuristic space game - I did the Playstation 3D graphics engine and he worked on the concept models for the spaceships, cities, etc. Very bladerunner-esque.

When I left the company we lost touch, so it was very nice to see his name up in lights on the credits 10 years later - and to just recognise his style without knowing that he'd worked on it.

Just a warning: if you haven't yet seen the movie, the article contains significant plot spoilers. Moon is a fantastic movie, so go watch it on Netflix then read all about the typography afterwards.

Moon is fantastic, but also no longer available for streaming on Netflix.

This is a great film, but I'm not sure why knowing more about the plot or the background to the design would ruin it for you? Do you also worry about spoilers for works of literature or films from the past? What about spoilers for young people on the entirety of human output?

I agree everyone should go watch this film, as it was really fascinating and a probably far more realistic take on living in space than most - the boredom, paranoia and drudgery were very effective - I feel compelled to stop discussing it here though in case I violate your no spoilers rule! I think I'll watch it again sometime, and I'll probably enjoy it more, not less, having read some of the discussion here and knowing more about it, and having seen all the twists of the plot already. Those are the least enjoyable and least important parts of the enjoyment of the film, and a focus on them omits all the other fascinating parts of this story (the repetition, the model-making as a way of escape, the corporation that controls his life, the convincing drudgery of space etc).

If you really don't like spoilers, don't click on discussions which purport to be about the film until you see it, or stop reading them as soon as the film is mentioned. That's really the only solution for you, and more effective than calling for no spoilers. Where did this recent obsession with spoilers come from?

A great story should not need the prop of plot-twists to be enjoyable - there are so many facets of entertainment which don't depend on plot (character, narration, allusions, themes, language, even setting and typography as here!). Stories like The Odyssey or Julius Caesar are not ruined by knowing the plot, because the pleasure is in the telling (and sometimes the retelling) and worrying over spoilers shuts down any sort of significant discussion of a film or story. To me shutting down all that discussion is far more damaging than any potential loss of momentary surprise when something happens you didn't expect.

I disagree. Even without plot twists, a movie is often a process of discovery. You explore the character, narration, allusions, themes, and language in the order they're shown in the film. And Moon in particular is such a carefully paced movie. So while I agree that the plot spoilers may not matter much in this case, I think you'd have a much different and likely inferior experience watching Moon after reading this because of all the other stuff it reveals.

So what Biot said: go watch Moon and then come back and read this excellent blog post.

If you do consistently find things spoiled by foreknowledge, there is a simple solution - just avoid reading articles or discussions which mention the film before you see it (stop reading at the word Moon!), no need to call out spoilers because every meaningful discussion of this film will be a spoiler in some sense, and many people enjoy discussing films and books online after or before they see them. I'm not sure where this cult of no-spoilers has come from, but it damages public discussion - all content could be spoilers for someone so reviews become a cryptic set of hints instead of a full discussion with examples and no-one can speak frankly about stories without hearing 'spoilers'. The responsibility for avoiding exposure should fall on the person who doesn't want to know things, rather than on everyone else.

It's interesting, because I find more pleasure sometimes in rereading a book or watching a film again than the first time, specifically because of having a deeper understanding of it, the background to the characters, other films like it, and perhaps noticing things that were missed the first time round. Broader knowledge (from others or from previous experiences) actually helps further enjoyment in many cases, because it deepens your understanding when you are exposed. So I'd say go ahead and enjoy reading about things beforehand, you may well find it actually improves the experience - in some cases like James Joyce, or to a lesser extent Shakespeare, it becomes almost essential.

Like you, I often re-read books or re-watch DVDs. But I find the enjoyment that I gain from this is different the first reading/viewing, and I'd prefer to experience both. Spoilers would detract from this.

Different strokes. I find that spoilers make me more interested in how the story unfolds, personally. But yes, I understand that a lot of folks don't like them.

I don't really understand. There are plenty of examples of work that discuss films without spoilers. Professional reviewers, especially, excel at this because they are explicitly aware of what parts of the movie will be fascinating to discover. And so your idea that everyone should cover their ears and run for the hills when they hear the word Moon would prevent them from finding out whether, say, they might want to watch it in the first place.

But regardless, you're missing the point. No one is complaining about the article containing spoilers or are trying to shut down the discussion; I think you must be reading too much connotation into the term "spoiler". What we're doing is providing the advice that people haven't seen the movie may wish to do so first, because it may be a lot more fun (I understand you may disagree, which is fine, but I stand by the advice). Your diatribe against "the cult of no-spoilers" is simply misplaced.

> It's interesting, because I find more pleasure sometimes in rereading a book or watching a film again than the first time [...] So I'd say go ahead and enjoy reading about things beforehand, you may well find it actually improves the experience

That's lovely for you. You are not me. You are basically doing this:

me: "I don't like artichokes."

you: "Oh, that can't be true! You must never have actually eaten artichokes! Surely you are laboring under a tragic and inexplicable delusion! Here, hold still while I stuff artichokes down your throat! You'll thank me later!"

Yes, thank you, I have had artichokes. I have never enjoyed a work of fiction more for having pivotal plot details spoiled, and I have often enjoyed it less. I am quite capable of evaluating my own reactions to things, thank you very much. You are not doing a public service by telling everybody to just be more like you.

This is exactly how I feel about people crying spoilers, because it ruins reviews or discussions of films and leads to people tip-toeing around discussions because they can't just discuss the details of the film without lots of hedging and caveats, and even then there's always someone who will say 'oh this ruins it for me, I need to see the film first before anyone discusses it on the internet you should have hidden your thoughts behind a spoiler warning or not written them at all'. I see this comment all the time on professional reviews of films, which are intended to discuss the film.

I wouldn't 'stuff artichokes down your throat' as you put it and didn't properly discuss the film here because of the spoiler warning, but I don't want to be policed by other people in what I can say about a film, which is exactly what talking about spoilers does - it shuts down discussion and damages the discussion of everyone else.

If you don't want to read about a film before you see it, don't do that then, but don't attempt to police the thoughts of everyone else.

It's clearly an emotive topic, and I'm sad now this has taken over the top of the discussion of this film and don't think any of these comments including the OP deserve to be anywhere near the top (they were not when this thread started), so will leave it there.

> but I don't want to be policed by other people in what I can say about a film, which is exactly what talking about spoilers does - it shuts down discussion and damages the discussion of everyone else.

Does it? The parent comment just warned people who haven't seen the film yet to watch it first. It didn't stop anyone from discussing the film, or suggest that the article should be spoiler-free.

Classic HN comment. "The whole concept of spoilers is an anti-pattern"

Here's a radical concept: some people appreciate knowing when something contains spoilers, and now they know.

Your entire comment can be boiled down to "suspense is an unnecessary prop", and I couldn't disagree more.

What a weird, unnecessarily long and comprehensive response to a well-intentioned and relatively neutral advisory comment.

I managed to get my girls to watch Empire Strikes Back at just old enough to appreciate the films, and fortunately before they had heard that Vader was Luke's father. More than most spoilers, for some reason for this one it was really important to me that they experience the revelation in the film.

I remember watching Psycho with my first girlfriend. She had what you'd call a sheltered upbringing. (If readers have had one too, SPOILERS FOLLOW.)

Janet Leigh gets in the shower. "Is...is this the film with the shower scene?", says my girlfriend.

Janet Leigh is attacked. "But she can't be dead - she's the main character!"

As a film student, I was grateful to see the initial 1960 reaction played out in my living room.

> This is a great film, but I'm not sure why knowing more about the plot or the background to the design would ruin it for you? Do you also worry about spoilers for works of literature or films from the past?


Something I excitedly noticed I've never been able to tell anyone because it's too specific:

Moon (2009) opens with the line "Where Are We Now?," the title of the first single off Bowie's new album (2013).

David Bowie is, of course, Duncan Jones' father.

Damn, that's a really cool easter egg, thanks for sharing.

David Bowie is also named after Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which heavily influenced Moon.

I notice a recurring theme of '80s retro-futurism in Moon. It all looks like the way we imagined the future at the peak of the Space Shuttle, but with little nods to modern technology to avoid obvious anachronisms. Brilliant design.

For example, the black-backgrounded GUIs with wide text on them remind me of old DOS-era applications, but they're displayed on modern high-resolution flat-panel displays.

The T-shirt is also painfully '80s, as directly noted. The only music mentioned is an early-'90s song that was hokey the day it came out. The Flowbee and the magazine are other noted '80sisms.

The rescue-crew-manifest with poor-quality black-and-white images on a color screen? That could've been lifted directly from the '80s-era Alien films.

Which really, all makes sense - the '80s were the end of the space race. For space-travel nostalgia, that's where you go for modern Gen X movie fans.

Very interesting! My follow-up post to Moon is actually Alien, and I've come to a similar realization. I reckon the main reason that 2001: A Space Odyssey hasn't aged half as much as Alien, or Silent Running, or other 70s/80s sci-fi, is that in 2001, all of the monitors are flat-screen displays, not curved CRTs. Ironically, this is only because they didn't have the computing power to generate the HAL graphics on an actual computer, and so it was all hand-animated on film and then back-projected onto a flat display. This combination of flatness and high-resolution animation means that it looks just like the retina displays of today.

It's worth contrasting against contemporary SF films that don't stylistically tie themselves to the past - look at Sunshine with its touchscreens, or Children of Men with the hyperflat TVs, or minority report with the gesture-driven holograms.

Something that I wish would hit Lucas mind before he made the SW prequels, it's contravariant on the imaginary basis of space.

This is a phenomenal Easter egg: http://companycheck.co.uk/company/06346944 (A corporate Id number for the fictional space mineral extraction company is flashed on a screen in the movie - a search on that corporate Id in the UK database shows its in fact a real registered corporation!)

Yep – turns out Lunar Industries Ltd. was the name of the production company they set up when they made the film, and that is indeed their registered company number.

> He’s keeping count of his days on the Moon with a dry-wipe marker on the bathroom wall. By my reckoning, this is 146 days and counting – not quite the nearly-three-years mentioned in the plot:

No, but 3 years is remarkably close to 146 weeks.

There are actually 156 smiley's on the wall, which is (of course) exactly 3 years.

Good spot, sir! Turns out I miscounted. I've updated the article to include a correction.

With hueman* it would have been easier. It is funny how I never thought about emotional updates and now two are kind of on the HN frontpage.

[] http://www.huemanapp.com/ [*] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7229040

The haircut machine in Moon blew my mind, I can't believe it actually exists, and on such a prestigious domain name!


"Well, as you can see, it sucks as it cuts!"

"It certainly does suck!"

That was the first thing I thought of as well.

"It's sucking my will to live!"

if you're a child of the 80s you'll also recognize:


They showed this on the UK tv programme "Tomorrow's World". The person receiving the haircut was distressed at the results.

TW was great because they demod the tech live and it often failed. Watching someone Getting a terrible haircut, live on tv, and being visibly upset by it was interesting.

I've actually used one of these once. Once.

If I cared that little about how my hair looks, I'd just get some clippers.

I thought Flowbee was just clippers - the thing I hate most about cutting hair is the hair getting everywhere, especially short clippings. That's exactly the pain point being addressed with vacuum haircutting isn't it.

The vacuum also provides suction to pull the hair straight, I think. Notice how a barber pulls your hair out straight with a comb to see the length while cutting? The suction gets you that service.

The one that was used on me was set to do a 2" cut or something. It looked way worse than what you'd get with regular clippers set closer to the head.

I still cut my hair with a Flowbee! First thing I thought of after reading this section.

"The results are a refreshing vacuum haircut."

That was a fantastically entertaining analysis!

Not a typographical Easter egg, but one I noticed while reading: could the Eliza rescue team be a reference to the early 'robotic psychologist' ELIZA? That would fit with the other playful human/machine blurring in the movie.

Hahaha I didn't think about that but that would also be clever. Another possible explanation is the Eliza Protocol which I understand is involved in protein breakdown – not unlike the way his body breaks down. http://www.piercenet.com/method/overview-protein-protein-int...

More protein identification rather than breakdown

That is ELISA (with an `S'), if I understand what you mean correctly.

Simply astounding. Wonderfully done. The wealth of typographical research into various movies is almost Limitless. Twelve Monkeys couldn't pull me away from this. Regardless of what Her's got to say about it.


What an absolutely wonderful idea for a blog.

I'd beseech you to do Metropolis, but I feel like that'd be a relatively short post, so to speak.

There's a very short article on the typography of Metropolis available here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/21906884/Artistic-Typography-in-Me...

I too would love to see a more detailed blog post on Typography and Metropolis as it's a hugely important part of the film's style and sense of "future".

Before this post, I was thinking about watching Moon again. It's such an incredible and unknown film. I will watch it again.

If you haven't seen Moon, then the following song will not make sense, but the sense of desolation and uncertainty rhymes with the film. The ending of the song captures the denouement @ 7:20.


Moon was fantastic.

Clint Mansell's original soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. I read they managed to get him involved in the film because it was during the writers strike 07-08 (remember that?!) and Hollywood had ground to a halt, hence Mansell and ilk were looking for projects to keep them active.

I like your song, but it's a different vibe. To my ear, it sounds a bit too military to be Moon. I do like the vintage synth sounds though!

I remember hearing at the time that the reason they were able to build such a big set for the moon base was because the stages were mostly empty, also due to the writers' strike.

Two posts in and already my favourite blog. The editorial rigour, attention to detail and depth of knowledge are outstanding.

Moon's score written by Clint Mansell is perfect.

Here's a link to a section often used in documentaries:


I haven't seen Moon, and stopped reading the OP when it got to spoilers. Finding out about Clint Mansell doing the score from your post has completely convinced me to watch it!

Oh, Moon is absolutely fantastic. See it immediately, and use headphones.

I'm not really a font nerd, but I disagree with:

"Moon uses an interesting angular typeface for its location-establishing shot... This typeface is OCR-A, which was designed in 1968 for use in optical character recognition systems.... Moreover, it looks like THE FUTURE, and so it makes a perfect choice for on-screen interstitial positioning shots."

OCR-A does not look like THE FUTURE; it looks like the future in 1968. To me, it looks like bitterness and cynicism. Apparently, it looks that way to others, too, since it or something similar is used in the same way for every other similar movie.

I haven't seen the movie. Is that message typed out on the screen, complete with teletype noises? That has to be one of the weirdest anachronisms ever adopted as a trope.

> I haven't seen the movie. Is that message typed out on the screen, complete with teletype noises?

It is. I think it's necessary in this case - it's used as a mechanism to distinguish it from the credits, which are being displayed at the same time (e.g. [1] from the next shot). The typing noise and animation causes the audience to pay attention to it, even if they weren't paying attention to the credits.

In most other cases, it's just foley - audiences expect to hear futuristic computer-clicky noises to accompany their space-text, so it feels weirder to leave it out than to leave it in.

[1] http://i.imgur.com/hrsqgoA.png

> OCR-A does not look like THE FUTURE; it looks like the future in 1968. To me, it looks like bitterness and cynicism. Apparently, it looks that way to others, too, since it or something similar is used in the same way for every other similar movie.

It's certainly context-specific. For me, OCR-A letters look like THE FUTURE, but the numbers frequently trigger the "oh, how quaint" response you seem to be describing.

> I haven't seen the movie. Is that message typed out on the screen, complete with teletype noises? That has to be one of the weirdest anachronisms ever adopted as a trope.

Lots of video games do that for dialog if it's just printed on the screen and there's no voice track.

Another good blog on a similar topic: http://www.scifiinterfaces.com/

Read this! I feel like having to rehydrate after all that dry wit. Here's a spoiler (seems only fitting) that illustrates the writing style:

Maybe I should go and have a lie down for a bit, and come back when the conspiracy theories have subsided. It’s a shame sci-fi films don’t have intermissions these days. Let’s transplant the one from my 2001: A Space Odyssey post, and go and have a cup of tea while the [characters] work out what to do next.

<embedded http://typesetinthefuture.com/postfiles/2001/2001_intermissi... >

I worked on the post-production of Moon, particularly the titles and the screens in the base and Gerty's face. Pretty humbling to have someone pay so much attention to what we did!

It's funny to hear about the Microstile/Eurostile differences - when we had to replace type that was on the real set we made new elements using Eurostile, so there are probably some inconsistencies.

The Bank Gothic/gradient fill/outline choice definitely haunted us for a while after - it was already a bit of a scifi poster trope but it's got out of control since. I've cringed a few times seeing posters on the tube and wished we'd picked something slightly different. I remember being keen on an outlandish faux-Cyrillic face at the time but it wasn't legible enough. I did win the argument about colour though - my boss at the time did a bunch of concept frames with translucent orange type for the main credit lines... there's a little interview with him here: http://www.artofthetitle.com/title/moon/

Maybe it's too obvious to bear mentioning but there's a big foreshadowing in the shot where Sam Rockwell's credit appears - a second copy of his name dissolves up out of focus further back inside the base...

The OCR-1A type was set by me, in a slight hurry as I recall, type-on effect and all. It had to look different to the Bank Gothic credit lines, and I'm sure we tried the obvious Eurostile and it wasn't readable or was too heavy for that amount of text. It feels a bit of a case of too many faces in succession, in retrospect. I love machine-specific typefaces. I think I first got into them after reading The Computer Contradictionary, which mentions E13B a couple of times, the type used for the numbers printed in magnetic ink on cheques: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_ink_character_recognit.... That book is worth a look if you appreciate a bit of cynical tech humour... http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=tZKCZje8178C&printsec=fro...

The dot-matrix background on the text fields of the "big board" with the countdown on it was probably my bad also... we replaced that whole board wherever it appears in the film because the real prop had light leaking into the four harvester status lines and you could see they were acetate. We definitely tried having the letters formed by the actual dots but they weren't legible enough, and making the dots smaller made them not legible enough. Sense of nerd embarrassment. I guess it's some kind of future display technology with... big dots? Err...

Trivia: the postcard reading "wish you were here" was inserted in post because we had to cover up the real one which couldn't have its rights cleared ;)

More trivia: there was a spelling mistake on one of the panels on set, the one which says "satellite uplink" when Matt Berry is yelling at Gerty. It was caught by QC and I have some memory of fixing it for that shot since we'd inserted the video into that screen anyway, but it might be visible in other shots. It had "satellite" spelled "satelite".

Looking forward to more from that blog. I've thought of starting something similarly one-track, favourites being "over-obvious ND grad filters in film" or "non-circular lens vignettes done badly in post through the ages" or "10 worst skies graded without highlight rolloff" ^_^

Wow – that's some cracking trivia! I spotted (but chose to ignore) the ‘satellite’ typo – I think it's actually ‘sattelite’ when it appears on screen.

Please do post this as a comment to the original blog post as well – I'd love for people to be able to read it after they've finished reading my article. And thanks for the kind words about the blog – there's plenty more where that came from :)

I love it when fellow font nerds come out and proclaim their love of typography with wild abandon. People who are into type are really into type.

Just FYI there is a mildly NWS image in here, (a shower scene bum). Not the end of the world, but my scroll timing was suboptimal :(

The internet approved acronym is NSFW.

Not if you've been around long enough to be a regular on Slashdot, SomethingAwful, or Fark.

As someone with a five digit /. uid, I feel I've been around long enough. NSFW won some time ago.

I was really jazzed when this came out. For me, it fell flat. Perhaps it needs a second viewing. Kudos for the use of models instead of cgi for this filmmaker, though -- pretty awesome decision. The results speak for themselves. Striking visuals!

I saw a post-screening Q&A with Duncan Jones and co-creators a few years back and he mentioned that when they were prepping to make Moon, it was around the time of the Hollywood writer's strike, so there were lots of productions on hold, which had the happy side-effect of meaning there were some awesome old-school FX people available to work on Moon.

No kidding! I recall that strike, and had no idea. Thanks for sharing.

For similar stuff, don't miss the link at the bottom to the blog of the designer behind the film:


Beautiful beautiful movie! Sorry didn't read the article though. I'm going to watch the movie again today. Work can wait!

My favourite thing (among many) about this article is finding out that Lunar Industries Ltd. is actually a registered company. Duncan Jones is indeed registered as a company director.

I'm not sure when filming started, but the company was registered just about two years before the film was released.

It's those small touches that make me really appreciate it.

Can I nominate the Aliens franchise for your next post? The Weyland-Yutani logo looks similar to Eurostile, but the W is much broader.

The "friendly rescue crew" have names like Rap14 and Dop1, so they are clones too!

moon was a great movie. it was the movie oblivion could have been.

Soylent is in this film! Predicting today's Soylent future food. http://soylent.me

I wonder if this is how Rob came up with the name for his future food.

It's an allusion to Soylent Green, from a much earlier cult sci-fi film.

Good god I hope you are kidding and not an idiot.

Not knowing random pop culture references makes you an idiot these days, interesting.

No calling Soylent future food repeatedly is. But based on their follow up comment they were kidding.

I for one preordered this future food a while back. Excited to receive the first batch. Cheers to no more chewing in the future.

looks like Dogecoin just got another font


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