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A Flexible Finish
American Cinematographer Magazine
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Burgess acknowledges that lighting the prosthetic makeup to look as real as possible, while ensuring that the greenscreen and bluescreen elements remained viable, "was tough. I had to play that fine line of keeping the lighting alive while doing certain things to make the screens read so ILM could pull their mattes."

Back at ILM, transforming the footage of Schwarzenegger into the half-man/half-machine Terminator required a complex application of keyframe hand animation, motion capture and "matchimation," a newly developed 3-D rotoscoping technique. "The matchmover lines up the endoskeleton geometry with the actual plate of Arnold wearing a half-greenscreen costume, then rotoscopes the animation frame by frame over his movements," explains Helman. "Much of our R&D focused on developing this very sophisticated tracking tool, because we had to create the T-800 endoskeleton, the muscle tissue, the skin and the Terminator's leather jacket, which is full of holes that you can see through. On top of that, we were working with the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and some of the shots are very close up!"

But not every effect was so digitally intensive. T3 introduces the retro T-1, a 9'-tall sentient killing machine on treads. "It's a very destructive anthropomorphic robot tank with a personality," says Winston. "It's an amazing battle machine, a hydraulic and servo-driven combination of metal, aluminum and fiberglass casings, operated by a number of puppeteers via radio control." Although the five T-1s "worked perfectly," according to Burgess, "they were connected to a lot of cables, so they could only travel so far. We had to see exactly what they were capable of doing, and then use camera speed, focal lengths and lighting to create the illusion that they could do anything. It was fairly time-consuming, but it boiled down to defining the shot and making sure that everyone understood exactly what the shot was."

Another newbie to the Terminator saga is a female Terminatrix, or TX, the next generation beyond T2's T-1000 liquid-metal man. In designing the lethal female cyborg, the Winston team strove to avoid clich‚. "When things started looking like Metropolis, we changed direction," says Winston. "Our concept art director, Aaron Simms, designed a feminine elegance into the lines of the TX's black-chrome battle-chassis endoskeleton. She's a more advanced machine than the T-800; all of her plating fits together much more intricately, like a watch. She's elegant, she's sexy and she's evil."

Indeed, the Terminatrix has many deadly tricks literally up her sleeve, such as arms that open to unleash all manner of weaponry, courtesy of Winston and ILM. What was the most advantageous way to light her? Says Burgess, "She's beautiful and she's the ultimate killing machine, and I wanted to keep that dichotomy in play, so I lit her for beauty and then gave her a bit more edge, a little more contrast, a slightly harsher look. I reflected warmer tones into the Terminator and cooler tones into the Terminatrix, so the enemy always has a colder feel."

Winston's crew built a TX puppet for certain shots in which the Terminatrix's liquid-metal "skin" is disrupted. But much of the character was created in ILM's computers, using motion capture of the actress, Kristanna Loken, to drive her mechanical alter ego. The trick was for ILM artists to replicate Burgess' lighting in their CG work. "ILM had one person who did nothing but take notes of every element involved in the look of the shot," recalls Burgess. "They shot the sets using a reflective sphere to see where every light source was coming from and what its color was. They always worked off of what we'd established in principal photography."

According to Helman, Burgess "took digital stills of every setup, and built a book with printouts showing the exposure and everything else he needed to maintain consistency throughout the film, and that helped us a lot as well. Those reference shots gave us a chance to get inside Don's head and see what kind of vision he had for the film overall, as well as for specific sequences."

Of course, certain sequences could only be visualized in computers. An example is the climactic sequence, wherein the TX's skin literally melts away from her endoskeleton. "We knew when we read the script for T3 that fluid simulation was going to be the focus of our research," says Helman. "We spent eight months working with a Stanford University team that had written a paper on fluid-simulation engines in order to develop a technology that would allow us to accomplish this effect. We used motion capture, bluescreen photography and also did some matchimation of Kristanna Loken's actions and facial expressions to create a piece of geometry that is her digital double. We then filled that geometry with particles and put them through a fluid simulation. It's a great idea, but it was a very complicated, unfriendly program. Fluid simulations are always unpredictable, but in this case we had to control the viscosity and the mass of every little strand of liquid metal so it could peel off like heavy water and have all the characteristics of a liquid."

Maintaining the integrity of the image when the effects house starts compositing is one of the biggest challenges a cinematographer faces, according to Burgess. "It's tough because this part of the job always comes at the end [of post], when a cinematographer is usually off on another project," he says. "There are a lot of burned-out people who are trying to hang on at that stage, and it's hard to maintain enthusiasm. But Pablo is certainly doing the best he can, and ILM's work is amazing."

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© 2003 American Cinematographer.