Spaceship Cockpit ideas for Short Film

Johnnyb1977

New Member
Hello Everyone,

New here

I'm making a short film with my son this summer and we need to make a spaceship cockpit, on a budget. $200-300ish It's a single seat transporter for a train of mined astroid rock containers. The pilot is a worker bee, glorified bus driver. Think Nostromos from the original Alien, but single seater.

Does anyone have any ideas where to get or how to fake switches, knobs, gauges, helmets, hoses, air tanks etc for cheap but look as authentic as possible? online or local

I'm local in Los Angeles (Burbank)

The plan is to use a TV as a back panel with some video created with screens and flashing lights and such. I know After effects pretty good. Then create a custom bezel to go over it so it looks like several different Instruments/Scopes. I'll construct most of the structure out of rigid foam due to the restraints of living in an apartment. Then cover it with all the details. Outside the windows will be CG.

I've looked on Amazon, Etsy and the usual, but didn't know if anyone had an inside scoop to something off the beaten path.

Locally I've been to Luky's Hardware.

I thought I would create an Amazon List to brainstorm ideas for the project in case anyone else finds this thread useful for their projects:
Amazon Sign In

Any help or suggestions would be awesome. Thank You
 
Last edited:

awol007

Well-Known Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
With that sort of budget you can gather most of the stuff on amazon. Grad a kit or button and joysticks like this:

Hoes for electronics is probably the easiest and you can spray paint it anything you'd like: Wire Loom Black 20' Feet 3/4" Split Tubing Hose Cover Auto Home Marine - - Amazon.com

For other cool electronic buttons just search for raspberry pi stuff like this: Amazon.com: raspberry pi buttons that will get you what you need most likely. The hoses and buttons above will run you < $50 so then spend another $50 on some screens or LED's or matrix like this: Amazon.com: Keyestudio Red Dot Matrix Module LED Display Module 8x8 Common Cathode for Raspberry Pi 3/B+/2 Model B: Gateway
 

SethS

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Hello Everyone,

New here

I'm making a short film with my son this summer and we need to make a spaceship cockpit, on a budget. $200-300ish It's a single seat transporter for a train of mined astroid rock containers. The pilot is a worker bee, glorified bus driver. Think Nostromos from the original Alien, but single seater.

Does anyone have any ideas where to get or how to fake switches, knobs, gauges, helmets, hoses, air tanks etc for cheap but look as authentic as possible? online or local

I'm local in Los Angeles (Burbank)

The plan is to use a TV as a back panel with some video created with screens and flashing lights and such. I know After effects pretty good. Then create a custom bezel to go over it so it looks like several different Instruments/Scopes. I'll construct most of the structure out of rigid foam due to the restraints of living in an apartment. Then cover it with all the details. Outside the windows will be CG.

I've looked on Amazon, Etsy and the usual, but didn't know if anyone had an inside scoop to something off the beaten path.

Locally I've been to Luky's Hardware.

Any help or suggestions would be awesome. Thank You
Luky's is great. I've gotten pounds and pounds of custom lightsaber parts there. It's too bad that giant auto parts pull lot on Sheriden is gone. I have friends who got cool stuff there. There may be smaller ones where you could score a seat and dash parts. The military surplus place on Victory and Alemeda had some old pilot helmets last time I was in there (but that was a few years back).

The Rosebowl swap meet is this sunday, sometimes there's some great junk there.
 

Stansfield

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I hit up my local goodwill to scavenge for electronics and tool parts for greeblies. Also hit up electronic repair shops and see if they have trash/junk that you can get for free or a couple bucks
 

13doctorwho

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
You might use the keys from old keyboards. Spray paint the keys and glue them in groups to look like switches. They actually did that on one of the control consoles in classic Doctor Who. Using different colors gives the feel of a color coding system for the controls.

36448564912_fec85c6017_b.jpg
 

awol007

Well-Known Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Careful of the spelling unless you are suggesting to hire some people to play other roles.

TazMan2000
Hoes have great advice for prop building. In their line of work they have to get their sets together quickly on a small budget :)

But yes, hoses would have made more sense.
 

doppelganger

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
My Nephew did a starwars short for a college project and I had the idea of using a helicopter cockpit as we have a fairly local helicopter museum. They were very accommodating and it looked really good as they have switches and dials everywhere. Do you have any local airfields or similar museums that could help. That way it wont cost you anything (other than maybe a small donation).
 

Duncanator

Sr Member
A simple "touch panel" can be done with a piece of clear acrylic. Mask off the "buttons" on the backside, then spray paint the backside of the acrylic with the color of your choice - and then peel the masking off to reveal the buttons. From the front side, it'll look shiny and manufactured.
Then you can put colored gels or paper behind the buttons to color code them. The throw a light behind the panel to light it all up.
 

Friendly flyer

Well-Known Member
If you're going for the Nostromo/coal.miner look, anything would really do as longs as it is suitably grimy. With low light and grime you won't see much detail anyhow. Put the details where you'll see them in the shots, and stick to larger, structural elements (pipes, boxes) anywhere else.

A simple trick is to make a cockpit where more less resistant bits are hidden behind covers. Then you can glue a heap of square MDF bits to the wall and and get away with marking them with suitably cryptic technical names. By putting in a greebly to simulate an opening mechanism and two diodes (green/red) besides them, you have a very nice set-up that let you get away without much detailing. Leave one or two hatches open (with all manner of greeblies inside), and the audience will automatically "fill in the blanks" and assume all hatches hold equally exciting things. If the protagonist open a hatch to fiddle with something inside during the film, the illusion should be complete.
 

Friendly flyer

Well-Known Member
Here's a pick of an actual spaceship cockpit (Frendship 7), as you can see it's really cramped (we also see where the set makers from Alien got their inspiration):

1028207
 

teslabe

Active Member
Apex Surplus at 8909 San Fernando Rd, Sun Valley, CA 91352 had a lot of old electronic gear/parts, I haven't been there in year but might be worth a trip, it's near by....
 

epoxinator

Active Member
Too bad you can't just trick out the driver's (or passengers?) seat of some less popular junker car. It would have the cockpit/cramped look ready built in, and just clutter it with all the greeble mentioned above. If you pulled out the windshield it would make shooting in it easier.
 

13doctorwho

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Actually the bumper come in white, black and grey... common switch colors. You might not even paint them depending on what look you decide on.
 

robstyle

Master Member
Being youre after a heavy equipment transporter train type of feel, the slick and modern sci-fi look and fancy panels isnt needed. Youll likely spend more on wood for framing than the actual interior itself. Spend it where you need it. With coming up with a design consider the materials involved. Foam core is a dollar a sheet but many times youll find better materials on the materials section of craigslist, or even for free in the free section. Think about lighting, you want it to be practical yet within the confines of the cabin. At the same time you have to consider camera placement, thats where a fly out wall or panels will come into play. Thats just a section of a set wall that can be quickly removed and replaced at will. Dont overlook the floor! The typical sci-fi or industrial look is a grated floor. Plastic shipping pallets are the go to for sections where pallet racks are used for structural or larger sections you see on space ships or such in tv/film. You can get plastic pallets off craigslist for about $5 or $10 each or even free if you go out hunting. They also double for walls and even tables. For ceiling grids look at bread tray pallets. Literally what you see bagged bread being shipped and stored on in super markets. The grid ceiling is an old sci-fi gag that gives you texture and mood in lighting. If you get some movement going on those grids will give lots of live to anything beneath. Add a little haze for atmosphere and youve got some depth. A little haze goes a long way.

Places like Apex or other industrial surplus shops are great to get inspiration but will quickly drain your budget for just a few items. Where a completed static panel off the shelf will look nice, what will it cost to get the amount needed vs a few rolls of pin stripe tape, foam core and some clear bits (packaging, clear plastic sheet, scrap plexi...) to make the same but better. If you know the basics of LED's some off the shelf fx gags are easy to do for panel illuminated buttons/screens. Meteor/twinkle/Rain Shower strip LED's have a built in pattern and can be used for panel lights with some basic trickery. Again spend it where you need it. Being a train type setting maybe consider a roof or wall mounted mesh cargo or overhead bin type section for the pilot/operator. You have limited space to make the interior personal for the character. A backpack, change of clothes, lunch box... something to give the visual the character is in it for more than a minute.

The ship interior pictured is about what $200 in materials will get you. In the case of whats shown it was all spare materials and a rush job. Took about a day total to build and paint while working on other stuff. It wasnt the design but what time and budget allowed. Just made it up based on what was on hand. It had blinky lights and illuminated panels. The meteor LED's mentioned prior gave life to static printed out control panel graphics.

In the other photos you can see what grates will do for lighting along with a little haze. The wider picture shows worn white metal panels used as a wall and vents. Those are simply ceiling light fixtures sourced for free from an office building that was updating the lights. A lot of sci-fi wall or panel parts are just something everyday turned backwards in many tv shows and films. Its just not the way youre used to seeing them.

 

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CessnaDriver

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I know there may be a particular look to go for to convey the story, but spacecraft cockpits like Dragon, Orion and CST-100 are getting pretty slick in design. They could still be dirty to show much use and impact of a day to day exposure to environs.
 
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