Back to:
last page

Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

Terminator II
Mark Dippé, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) , Dennis Muren , Steve Williams

For the film "Terminator II", dozens of people at ILM worked for more than six month on more than thirty Silicon Graphics Iris 4D workstations to create the special effect which reflects the surrounding environment on the shiny chrome Terminator.

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) was selected by director James Cameron to create critical special visual effects for his new motion picture, "Terminator 2." ILM used computer graphics and digital image-processing techniques to help create the "T-1000", one of the principal characters in the film, The T-1000 is made of a fluid chrome-like metal capable of assuming the form of a person or other object. ILM created the transition effects of the T-1000: changing from an amorphous chrome blob to human shape chrome and finally to a real-looking person; changing its appearance from one person's to anotber's; flipping itself back-to-front and deforming in a fight scene; turning a finger or arm into a metal spike, and back to human form; walking fluidly tbrough jail bars; rising out of a tiled floor; pulling a steel bar out of its 'body' and reshaping or 'healing' its human form after being wounded. All these effects had to appear completely realistic in order to carry the story convincingly.

Dozens of people in various departments of ILM worked for more than half a year on a very tight schedule to create the 45 computer graphics shots in the film, including five minutes of computer-generated and computer-manipulated imagery. The result, in the words of director Cameron, was proof "that photo realistic computer graphics can be used in an integrated way to create characters in feature films ... I had assumed that there would be some things they (ILM)wouldn't be able to do ... but, to my amazement, there was nothing that they weren't able to solve. Literally nothing."

The live-action production footage for each scene was scanned into a computer on a unique film-digitizing system developed by ILM and Kodak to yield a high-resolution digital representation of the 35 mm film, frame by frame, The computer-generated chrome was created by computing the reflections by the three-dimensional forms of their environments, which in turn were represented by the film of the scene and other film elements and supplemental still photographs shot at the scene. This allowed the computer-drawn chrome to reflect the actors and scene in which it appeared. The chrome forms were modelled and animated in three dimensions, carefully matched for position, motion, and lighting to the scenes in which they appeared.

Each of the chrome elements was computed as a separate digital element, which was then digitally composited with the background scene and other elements. The chrome human forms were modelled and animated based on motion studies of real actors. Some shots required hand painted animation and touch-up, frame-by-frame. Many employed computer software that allowed the animator to spatially distort live action and computer-generated imagery. As work progressed on each shot, low-resolution tests were done and viewed each day on video. Later tests, and the final results, were output directly to 35 mm film by high-resolution film recording systems.

Creation of these effects required the combined talents of animators, computer scientists, artists, and technicians with many other diverse areas of expertise. Their tools included over thirty Silicon Graphics Iris 4D graphics-workstation computers using proprietary software developed by ILM (much of it especially for this production), the RenderMan renderer from Pixar, the Alias12 software package from Alias Research, and several Apple Macintosh computers using Adobe PhotoShop. Human faces and other parts were sculpted with the assistance of a Cyberware digitizing system.
ILM also did optical enhancement and compositing of several other shots in the film

Technical Background

HW: Silicon Graphics 4D/340 VGX, 4d/240 GTX, 4D 25GT, Apple Mac IIFX
SW: Modelling, Animation, Rendering, Image-Processing: ILM Proprietary, Renderman, Alias 2, Photoshop