Few car designers ever expect to find themselves dreaming up flying cars, but that’s what happened to Harald Belker when he turned his automotive styling talent from the car industry to the movie world.
Belker, who creates concept vehicles for the big screen, worked at Mercedes in Germany before a random meeting at a Los Angeles party led to his first Hollywood job, to dream up a new Batmobile for the movie Batman and Robin (1997).
Since then Belker has created futuristic vehicles for Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, including the sporty red Lexus and the urban magnetic levitation pods, work that he says was the highlight of his career.
Other movie designs include the Lincoln Continental for Inspector Gadget (1999) and the space shuttle in Armageddon (1998) as well as vehicles for Fahrenheit 451 and The Cat in the Hat.
So how does designing vehicles for movies differ to real-world car design?
“Designing for movies means I can design to full effect,” he explains. “I am not under the control of a marketing department which can be the death of originality in the real world and I can stretch reality because designs don't have to really work. But I don’t get much time; everything is designed one day and built the next. It is raw, which isn’t always bad. What I like most is the speed of the process. It’s something you have to train for, decisions are quick and so are the results.”
Usually Belker helps imagine the futuristic environment in which his vehicles will be used rather that just design the vehicles themselves, which means he may be a futurist on a sci-fi movie one moment while submerging himself inside the weird world of Dr. Seuss the next.
Watch out for Belker’s latest work in two films to be released this year; he designed the race cars for Iron Man 2 and the guard bikes for Tron 2, work that took two years to complete.
“For Tron 2, I was part of the early concept group. We were able to take full advantage of the digital leaps that have made since the original movie. Lightcycles and other vehicles can now look real in 3-D.”