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T2 SPECIAL EFFECTS AND CGI
Terminator 2 is a movie focused on story rather than just a nonstop barrage of effects. But the movie storyline involves a number of digital special effects. Robert Patrick's T-1000 character could not exist without computer effects such as morphing and warping. The T-1000 changes from one form to another via a computer process which is generally known as morphing. Some may think Terminator 2 is the first movie with such computer generated morphing, but that is simply not the case. The Fantasy movie Willow featured the world's first morph onscreen. Termintor 2 however took morphing to a whole new level. The T-1000 does not just change from one thing in the real world to another. In some scenes the T-1000 changes from a computer generated form, "liquid metal" into a humonoid structure. The T-1000 morphs in scenes where the camera is stationary and the T-1000 morphs in scenes where the camera is moving. All of these effects present different challenges to be conquered. Morphing is done via computer programs and simple morphing programs can be purchased affordably by anyone at this point. But the believability of a morph depends more on the skill of an artist than the powers of a program.
Morphing on a deeper level involves taking two images or series of images and finding similarities between the pixels or dots of one picture and the pixels of another. Even within two completely different static images there will be similarities within certain pixels or between certain physical shapes. When morphing between human forms, the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears are often used as reference points. Recognizable structures are often shaped or changed from one image to another over time while other parts are blurred or their color pallettes are reduced over time so that the colors of one image or one dot can come to be the same as those of another.
In addition to morphing or simply changing one form into another over time, another digital process used in T2 is commonly referred to as warping. Warping is when you take an image or series of images and alter them in some way for a desired effect. Digitally one can take a frown and turn it into a smile over time by stretching, squeezing, or moving the pixesl or dots of an image or series of images. In T2 warps were used to distort the T-1000's body in scenes such as the one in which the T-1000 appears as part of the floor and slowly rises up as if being distorted into a new form via stretching.
Other digital effects used in T2 include dissolving such as one sees when the T-1000's gunshot wounds dissolve into his body. Some digital effects are done by just frame by frame going through and altering images by hand without the aid of a computer program's mathematical computational ability. The opening scene of T2 showing an endoskeleton with red eyes was created by manually going in to individual frames of the movie and painting in the red glow of the eyes. Laserblasts are also just added later frame by frame usually by just painting or drawing them in. Anyone with home video footage on a computer can create simple laserblasts by taking a colored line, and saving several images of that line at various levels of length due to erasure. The images of the line if pasted onto any video footage appropriately frame by frame will make a laser blast appear.
T2 features digital effects that are more traditional than morphing, warping, and dissolving of course as well such as compositing and digital removal of elements from a scene. In many scenes involving the T-1000 an actor is shot against a blue screen, so that the actor can later be combined in any other scene desired. Blue is digitally removed from a frame and what is left is combined with another frame such as a background. With this blue screen technique two images can be combined with the places with blue in one image being lost so that parts of the other image will show through instead. Blue screen techniques have been done for years via chemical processes with film even before digitally it was possible. The scene where the T-1000 emerges from a damged truck and marches in liquid metal form before mophing and walking out was created with the help of blue screen technique as well as morphing. Digital removal of elements is when something is removed or erased digitally. In T2 cables used to stablize the Harley Davidson as it appears to jump off a bridge to save John are removed via erasure. Something that looks acceptable is substituted in its place.
Gun Shot blasts effects of the T-1000 were composed of latex rubber and attached to the T-1000, in some scenes these wounds dissolve into the body of the T-1000 in others the gun shot blasts allow one to see clear through the T-1000 to the other side. In the one scene where the T-1000 is shot in the face and you can see a big hole, a blue screen shot was used. What you see behind the hole was later added into the scene via blue screen while the element covered with blue, the T-1000's face was removed.
Makeup and physical props work throughout Terminator 2 to give scenes greater realism. Robert Patrick's T-1000 character wore metallic hooks and other devices for certain scenes even when digital warps or other effects were added later. Makeup or physical props can also hide or prevent physical injuries that otherwise would appear by doing a scene as it appears. In the bar scene of T2 Arnold's character is burned with a cigar. In reality a fireproof material underneath a makeup appliance attached to Arnold's body is all thats burned. When a biker swings at Arnolds head and breaks a pole stick, Arnold was not hit at all, in reality a metal pole obscured from view is what the biker really hits. Makeup is also used for protective appliances that make sewing up Arnold's wounds in the movie appear real, as a durable makeup appliance is dug into and not human skin.
In summing up, T2 uses a variety of then new digital effects techniques while still relying on old tried and true techniques. Via digital alteration, makeup applianaces, and creative use of combing layers of film a wide variety of effects are created to awe audiences. Since T2, other films and characters have been created using some of the same digital techniques pioneered in T2. The character Odo on Stark Trek Deep Space Nine had the ability to morph as the T-1000 did. The personal computer revolution has put technology and software within the reach of amateurs that in 1991 when Terminator was released was unattainable. Today anyone with a computer, video capture card, and software can accomplish the types of digital effects seen in T2. That is of course provided they are skilled and creative as there is no huge technological expense prohibiting such creations as existed in 1991.
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