Small Design Decision – Boo Shangyou

Movie: Oblivion (2013)

One small design decision made in the movie that I realised was the asymmetrically-designed Scav Binoculars. Unlike regular binoculars that have symmetrical lenses on both sides, these binoculars have one side that is clearly a lot larger than the other.

The film is set in the year 2077, where humans have fled the Earth after a race of aliens known as “Scavs” had devastated the planet. Early on in the film, we see a Scav spying on the protagonist, Jack Harper (played by Tom Cruise), using one of these Scav Binoculars.

As a regular movie viewer, one might think that the Scav Binoculars are really strange, and assume that it is alien technology. (Did the Scavs design it that way because they had one eye that was a lot larger than the other?)

However, later on in the movie (spoilers), there is a big plot twist where it is revealed that the Scavs are human after all (they were wearing masks the whole movie so they always looked like aliens to the movie audience). I think the design of these binoculars (by the filmmakers) is brilliant, because at a first glance, one might naturally associate it with being alien technology because it looks nothing like the technology we have in our world today, but upon viewing the movie for a second time (after knowing that the Scavs were human from the very beginning), the binoculars actually look like it could be used by regular humans when you think about it. Each side of the binoculars actually gives a different view (left: visible light, right: infrared) as seen in the image above. Although these binoculars only appear for a few seconds in the film, its the small design decisions like this that really build the world and serve as “easter eggs” for audiences to catch upon repeat viewings.

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