Apple’s human-interface chief Alan Dye sat down with Wired to discuss the process of making each of the Apple Watch’s customizable faces, yet another glimpse of the attention to detail Apple’s always been famous for. For starters, the company spent weeks photographing jellyfish, butterflies and flowers in incredible detail for Watch faces.
In one example given, the company had a designer spending countless hours capturing a photo of a jellyfish in its design studio.
“What Dye seems most fascinated by is one of the Apple Watch’s faces, called Motion, which you can set to show a flower blooming,” says the article. “Each time you raise your wrist, you’ll see a different color, a different flower. This is not CGI. It’s photography.”
The human interface team built a tank in Apple’s design studio and used Phantom cameras to shoot many different species of jellyfish at 300 frames per second in order to make up a single, moving Watch face.
“We thought that there was something beautiful about jellyfish, in this sort of space-y, alien, abstract sort of way,” Dye said.
Because the jellyfish on the device’s face are upside-down, the photographers had to flip their monitor 180 degrees to frame their shots because the jellyfish swam towards a light at the bottom of the tank during the photoshoot.
Then they shrunk the resulting 4096 x 2304 images to fit the Watch’s screen, which is less than a tenth the size. “When you look at the Motion face of the jellyfish, no reasonable person can see that level of detail,” Dye explains. “And yet to us it’s really important to get those details right.”
The Motion face displays a different animated image every time you raise your wrist. Interestingly enough, the blooming flowers on the Motion face are actually stop-motion time-lapse photos, not traditional animations. “They picked different flowers to photograph, and then trained a camera on them for as long as it took,” reads the piece.
A single flower took more than 285 hours and 24,000 shots to photograph!
Another fascinating detail: Mickey Mouse’s one-second foot tap is exactly the same on every Apple Watch. If you lined up a bunch of Watches, they’d all tap at exactly the same time.
“We have a group of people who are really, really super-talented, but they really care,” Dye explained. “They care about details that a designer might not show in his portfolio because it’s so arcane. And yet getting it right is so critical to the experience.”
Of the Astronomy face, he said this:
When you tap on the Earth and fly over the moon: We worked really hard with our engineering team to make sure the path you take from your actual position on the Earth to where the moon is and seeing its phase, is true to the actual position of the Earth relative to the moon.
And those three circles in the Activity app are not there by chance, because there’s just something about “a not-quite-complete circle that drives you just crazy enough to take those last 400 steps.”
Apple’s recently published Guided Tour video series offers a detailed look into using the device’s varied functions, including Messages, the Digital Touch and Watch faces.
More will be added in the coming days, including video tutorials on using Phone Calls, Siri, Maps, Music, Apple Pay, Activity and Workout apps.