“Equatorial orbit nailed”: the story behind the computer animations of ‘Alien’.


The Nostromo Files

The retro-futurist design aesthetic of Ridley Scott‘s Alien lends authenticity to the depiction of the commercial towing vehicle, Nostromo, that veteran of untold ore-processing runs in the service of Weyland-Yutani’s extra-solar mining division.

The “truckers in space” conceit gains credibility through the unique computer graphics of that fictional vessel.  We can believe that the creepy leviathan is overmonitored by a semi-sentient computer brain that communicates with its supernumerary human crew through sophisticated animated graphics as they carry out their respective duties.

In the cloud of fan discussion surrounding the film, two men (whose names aren’t widely recognized) had tremendous impact on what was seen onscreen:  Brian Wyvill, Professor Emeritus, Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary; and George Mallen, co-founder and chair of software company System Simulation Ltd. (SSL).

I caught up with these men behind the images and share here with you — in Q…

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