A Look at the Process Behind Ghost in the Shell's Vision of the Future

Ash Thorp

The best thing about the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell is the film’s visual aesthetic. It presents a near-future that’s hyper-saturated with holograms, cybernetic body modification, and slick user interfaces. Some of the creators involved are showing how all that came to be.


In a reel posted to Vimeo, designer Ash Thorp catalogues some of the work he did to help create Ghost in the Shell’s particular look. An accompanying post on Thorp’s website goes more in-depth, showing how the movie’s solid holograms effects came to life and more:


Early on in the film’s development, I met with Rupert to discuss some of the creative direction. He expressed his desire to paint the city with neon lights in a new form that he coined as “Solograms,” which are solid holograms. It is something in the realm of a particle system of light that can be moved and augmented in Z space. I loved the idea and instantly got to work building out concepts and ideas. Below you will see a mix of various style frames, concepts, and final production assets that made it into the film. These concepts then went into post production where Chris Bjerre and I animated and created an asset library for Rupert to paint his city with.

Illustration for article titled A Look at the Process Behind Ghost in the Shell's Vision of the Future

Concept artist Maciej Kuciara, who worked with Thorp, has also been sharing some of his contributions to the film on Twitter.


This work went into the final version of the film and presents a big departure from earlier conceptualization done by Monika Bielskyte, where the fictional world looked more sprawling and brightly-lit. Despite the shifts and its other flaws, Ghost in the Shell looks good at the very least.

Video games. Comic books. Blackness.




It looks quite beautiful in theaters, I guess, but it doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the source material or the visual aesthetic of other cyberpunk material (Tokyo Ghost, Blade Runner, etc.). It still has a sort of derivative style to it that still feels like “Hollywood from the 80s designing cyberpunk” rather than doing something truly innovative. They designed a world that looks pretty on camera but doesn’t seem like a practical, lived-in world, or something that our world could plausibly look like 20-50 years from now, which is what all good speculative scifi and cyberpunk, especially GitS, has always been about.

I really like that io9 article posted a week or two ago about one of the other GitS concept artists who had way cooler ideas for the visual style drawing from much more prescient futurist concepts.


I would much rather have seen that movie in action. Sci fi is supposed to push the boundaries of what can be possible through narratives and visuals, drawing inspiration from the real world to sort of extrapolate our future, but big budget Hollywood blockbuster scifi movies haven’t done that in years. Was really hoping live action GitS would do that but sadly it hasn’t. Story-wise, it was a mess of a movie, and even visually, while it still looked pretty, did little to break beyond the sterile greys, whites, and neons (with a grey grungy undertone) that we’ve seen in cyberpunk cinema before (specifically with Blade Runner).

Like, remember the parade sequence in GitS2: Innocence? Imagine that in live action, that’s what I wanted: