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Sci-Fi 101: Tips for Creating Awesome Time Travel Films

Jourdan Aldredge

Follow these tips and tricks to create awesome (and accurate) time travel sequences in your next sci-fi film or video project.

Cover image from Future Man via Sony Pictures Television.

From time travel classics like Back to the Future to the recently released series Future Man, time travel has been a staple of science fiction filmmaking for decades. If you’re gearing up to travel some time in a sci-fi project of your own, here are some great resources for creating awesome effects as well as some general guidelines to help keep your timelines straight.

Study the Rules of Time Travel

Sci-Fi 101: Tips for Creating Awesome Time Travel Films — Primer Film
Image from Primer via THINK Film.

If you’re serious about making engaging and meaningful sci-fi, you absolutely need to do your research and understand how time travel works in film. Yes, films can often be loose with how time travel works, but defining your own clear set of time travel rules will help you craft your story and keep your audience in the loop.

There are tons of great resources for how time travel works in some cinema classics, and while it doesn’t have to be Looper or Primer complex, finding your balance will help you keep your head.

Period Clothing

Sci-Fi 101: Tips for Creating Awesome Time Travel Films — Back to the Future III
Image from Back to the Future Part III via Universal Pictures.

Another thing to take into account is proper time-specific costuming. Whether you’re in the past or in the future, to truly sell your production, you need to make your characters look like they belong in their time and place.

Appropriate Sets

Sci-Fi 101: Tips for Creating Awesome Time Travel Films — Looper Film
Image from Looper via TriStar Pictures.

Like wardrobe choices, set dressing becomes another big factor to keep an eye on as you transition between time periods. There are big decisions, like making something look futuristic — or like a western frontier — but there also small details to consider, like power lines and cars in the background that can become distractions when you’re working with conflicting periods. Finding creative ways to minimize uncontrollable elements is a must.


Sci-Fi 101: Tips for Creating Awesome Time Travel Films — HUD

Depending on the sophistication of your time travel apparatus, you may have some opportunities to create flashy special effects. While you can always create these on your own from scratch if you know your way around After Effects (or more advanced programs like Cinema 4D), you can purchase a full HUD (Heads up Display) pack from Shutterstock, which has over 200 video elements for some really cool and customizable HUD displays and loops. Check the Shutterstock Elements HUDs here.

Futuristic Title Sequences

Sci-Fi 101: Tips for Creating Awesome Time Travel Films — Title Sequences

Another good way to give your project some sizzle is a solid title sequence that can give your sci-fi film sophistication and style. You can always customize based on the thematics of your project, but to get started, here are some great resources for creating futuristic-looking title sequences.

Sound Effects

As a bonus, to really sell your futuristic sci-fi devices and technologies, adding some professionally created sound effects (SFX) can turn even the most rudimentary objects into powerful science fiction devices. Here’s a FREE DOWNLOAD PACK that has 29 royalty free SFX for you to use on any personal or commercial project to get your sci-fi time travel whirring, whooshing, booping, and buzzing.

For more sci-fi tips, tricks, and assets, check out some of these articles.

100+ Smoke & Fog Effects
Packed with 143 atmospheric effects, Vapor is an ideal way to infuse your footage with an elegant, cinematic look.