Geek Trivia

Greebles Are A Critical Element Of Set Design In Which Movie Genre?

Legal Thrillers
Historical Fiction
High Fantasy
Sci-Fi
What Common Electronic Device Was Once Remote Controlled By Ultrasound?

Answer: Sci-Fi

Pause for a moment, if you will, and call to mind the last starship you saw in a Sci-Fi film, TV show, or even a painting or a comic. Is the ship smooth and unadorned? Most likely not. Most likely it is practically bristling with textures: piping, ports, protrusions, lights, thrusters, and guns, just to name a few.

These textures give depth and realism to the ship. We expect giant spaceships to be complicated masses of technology and set and prop designers meet that expectation by covering starships, both inside and out, with complex textures that hint at the complex underpinning of the ship.

The textures even have a name: greebles. A greeble is the fine detailing added to the surface of a larger object to make it appear more complex and visually interesting. In the Star Trek universe, for example, the Borg cube could have literally been a smooth sided cube, but that wouldn’t have really hinted at the complexity and sophistication of the enemy contained therein. Instead designers made the Borg cube highly textured and grim looking to give audiences an immediate sense of how complex and formidable an opponent the Borg would be.

The first known use of the term “greeble” was among the special effects team that worked onĀ Star Wars (this is the group that would later become the FX powerhouse Industrial Light and Magic). The team referred to the complex surfaces of the Star Wars ships, bases, interiors, and of course the Death Star, as greebles and defined the design aesthetic as “guts on the outside”: a rather appropriate way to describe a design style where surfaces bristle with piping, conduits, and other ship components.