ILM has been closely associated with the Terminator franchise since first contributing to James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day back in the early 1990s. For this installment in the series, we were tasked with creating digitally de-aged versions of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Edward Furlong as John Connor, and Arnold Schwartzenegger as the T-800 as they had appeared in Judgment Day.
A pivotal moment in the film relies on a flashback where we see all three of them as their younger selves. The effect was achieved through the use of actor doubles for the physical performance and the visual effects team who had painstakingly sculpted and recreated each of the character’s younger selves. The digital heads were then performance-matched to the actual heads of the on-set actors replacing their own. We utilized data captured with Disney Research Studios & ILM’s Anyma markerless facial capture system and combined it with significant amounts of traditional keyframe animation augmenting the performance due to the disparity between each actor’s current age and how they appear in the film.
Two other challenging scenes included the fight in the Turbine room in which Grace and the T-800 are trying to pull the REV-9 into a spinning turbine and what was perhaps one of the largest and most exciting action sequences in the film, the air battle between a KC-10 and a C5 aircraft.
According to visual effects supervisor Jeff White, “what was great about working on the film is that each sequence came with a huge variety of different visual effects challenges to solve. How many films do you get to de-age famous actors, create an aerial fight with planes colliding, an underwater scene with tank and dry for wet work, and a huge fight involving a liquid metal villain to end the film? Almost every shot required multiple departments and tremendous coordination to pull it all together.”
ILM split the work amongst its Vancouver, San Franciso, London, and Singapore teams with the project being led out of Vancouver with the ILM Art Department playing a key role in developing several looks and designs for the film and ILM’s shot work.