2001's zero gravity toilet sign; more accurate typography!

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nkg

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Hey, folks!

So I thought I'd post about this in case it's of interest. Having made a HAL 9000 brain room sign I thought it might be fun to do a zero gravity toilet sign from 2001. Turns out a lot of people have had the same idea! I did a bit of web searching, but I was surprised that the typography was pretty well universally wrong. People were even using fonts like Helvetica Bold and Eurostile Extended for the top header lines! (it was Eurostile Black)

Of course, the body text is a real problem, since the best resource in the public eye (Jerome Agel's 1970 making-of book) doesn't really show the body with much clarity. So it's not surprising that there's been a lot of guessing about what it was.

Well, I can't say with complete certainty what it was. But I think I've got fairly close to the look of the original sign. I used Monotype Headline Bold in the end.


Thoughts? :)

First, here's the Agel image.
zero-gee-agel.jpeg

And this is my version:

3dsf.info-zero-gee-toilet.jpg
 
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Lightning

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Looking good. The only thing I'd change is the font of the numbers, which looks like Microgramma Extended Bold to me.
 

nkg

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Looking good. The only thing I'd change is the font of the numbers, which looks like Microgramma Extended Bold to me.

Hmmmm. I've swapped out Eurostile Extended Black for Eurostile Extended Heavy. The latter is just slightly narrower - it might be closer. I would have been surprised if both Eurostile and Microgramma were used in the original - I would think they'd have just used one or the other.
 
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rickhoward

Well-Known Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I went to check out your sign, NKG, but RPF sent back an error message. Any trouble opening it on your end?
 

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Lightning

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Hmmmm. I've swapped out Eurostile Black for Eurostile Heavy. The latter is just slightly narrower - it might be closer. I would have been surprised if both Eurostile and Microgramma were used in the original - I would think they'd have just used one or the other.

Microgramma is slightly more square. I was comparing the shape of the 9 specifically. I wanted to compare the title text to non-extened Microgramma, but that version is super obscure now.
 

Markus

Well-Known Member
This is some wonderful work that you did here!! When I couldn't find a hi-res version on the web, I made my own version some time ago (posted on my blog - and somewhere here on therpf). I was really happy with it - but now you show me how I failed :D. But here we see the scientific method at work: Someone starts and gets a (seemingly) good result, and someone else points out the shortcomings and improves upon it. I love it!
 

nkg

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Correction: I meant the numerals were the extended variant of Eurostile.

Markus and joberg : Thank you! Glad you like the work. :)

Lightning : Well, Microgramma doesn't have many variants in a digital form. The only one I can find is the URW one, and unfortunately it's not available via Adobe's type licensing. It looks a bit heavy, is slightly more rounded, and it has huuuuge ink traps. I still think the numerals look closest to Eurostile Extended Black.

From left to right: scan from Agel, Eurostile Extended Black, Microgramma URW Bold, Eurostile Black.

Screenshot 2021-01-23 at 19.49.30.png
 
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Markus

Well-Known Member
Correction: I meant the numerals were the extended variant of Eurostile.

Markus and joberg : Thank you! Glad you like the work. :)

Lightning : Well, Microgramma doesn't have many variants in a digital form. The only one I can find is the URW one, and unfortunately it's not available via Adobe's type licensing. It looks a bit heavy, and it has huuuuge ink traps. I still think the numerals look closest to Eurostile Extended Black.

From left to right: scan fro am Agel, Eurostile Extended Black, Microgramma Bold, Eurostile Black.
In your comparison, Eurostile Black is clearly ruled out. Compared to "Angle", Microgramma Bold's spaces inside the letters are too small (most obvious for the oval space inside the "6". So, Eurostile Extended Black comes out as the winner.
However, I was curious how the "Angle" version compares to the movie. So I made a screen capture from the BlueRay.
ZeroGravityToilet-capture.jpg

Due to the perspective, this is, however distorted. So I stretched the horizontal by a factor of 1.4 (which would be perfect if the original was filmed at 45 degree angle). And this is the result.
ZeroGravityToilet-capture-stretch.jpg

Unfortunately, the image is rather blurred which makes the openings in the letters appear smaller. Still, I would argue that the "Angle" version is not a perfect reproduction of the original, and that Microgramma Bold's smaller openings correspond more closely to the original. (But I know, this is on rather shaky ground - unfortunately, due to the blur, also a 4k version will not provide any additional insights).
 

nkg

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Well, I think it's unlikely that the sign was recreated from scratch just for the Agel book. I suspect it's a reproduction of the sign used in the film, based off the original negative or print. Of note is the hand kerning on the top lines - it's identical between the two; something that probably wouldn't have happened if the Agel image had been a remake.

The prop sign is backlit acrylic plastic, which causes a lot of blooming around the edge, making the fonts look thicker and chunkier than they actually were.

I've taken a screenshot from the 4K scan and tried to reduce some of the chromatic aberration that's visible on it. Can't fix the blooming, though.
 

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nkg

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
And this is the pulled back view from the 4K scan, with colour defringing applied and some sharpening. Of course, sharpening messes some of the finer details, but there isn't much at this point anyway. Also corrected the geometry.

1611436188529.png
 

Markus

Well-Known Member
Also, I kind of love that there's so much ridiculous nonsense to discuss about a toilet sign from a fictitious spaceship!
Right! And while it feels absolutely natural for me to do so, I love that there are others out there who like it too...
 

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joberg

Master Member
Right! And while it feels absolutely natural for me to do so, I love that there are others out there who like it too...
This is who we are Neil/Markus: discussing fonts on a panel that was made in the '60s by English blokes in a defunct U.K. Studio and appearing in one very, very short scene in one of the most iconic Science Fiction movie of all time:D(y)(y)
 

Markus

Well-Known Member
Exciting update: I've found another font that matches the Agel scan's font almost exactly in every detail - except for overall weight. Dang. Still, it's closer.

Monotype Headline Bold.
Congrats to finding that typeface!
Do you think that one could somehow compensate for the different weights by slightly reducing the horizontal width of the characters while increasing the tracking? ... or would that be a stupid idea? :D
 

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