Softimage Software Used to Create Groundbreaking 3-D Attraction At Universal Studios Florida: Terminator 2-3D

May 10, 1996 

Digital Domain Uses Softimage 3D for Modeling, Animation And Rendering in One of the Most Ambitious 3-D Productions Ever

ORLANDO, Fla. - May 10, 1996 - This month, Universal Studios Florida will debut Terminator 2 3-D, a spectacular interactive 3-D attraction based on director James Cameron's blockbuster feature "Terminator 2." The stereoscopic 3-D production breaks new ground in many ways, including the fact that it is the first major production of its type to be 100 percent digitally processed. The stringent demands of digital quality, combined with an oversize, high-resolution, 65mm film format, challenged the creative principals in each area of the production to achieve new levels of photorealism and visual dynamics.

Terminator 2 3-D employs dual 70mm film projectors to project the action onto three 23-by-50-foot screens situated at 60-degree angles. The unprecedented 150 feet of 3-D image space immerses the audience in a dazzling display of 3-D animation, filmed sequences, computer graphics and live-action stunts. Frame for frame the most expensive live-action film ever produced, the three-act production climaxes in an edge-of-your-seat finale in which Arnold Schwarzenegger fights the ultimate liquid-metal war monster - the T-1,000,000 (T-Meg). Digital Domain's feature/theme park attractions division produced Terminator 2 3-D. Digital Domain used Softimage® 3D for all the modeling, animation and rendering for the T-Meg.

Softimage 3D Creates a Monster

The T-Meg was created by a team of 10 digital artists at Digital Domain in Los Angeles, the widely acclaimed full-service digital production studio best known for its Oscar®-nominated special effects in "True Lies" and "Apollo 13." According to digital animation director Daniel Robichaud, the original plan was to use Softimage 3D for animation alone, but as the project evolved, the team found the modeling and mental ray rendering of Softimage 3D to have unique benefits in creating the desired effects.

Revenge of the NURBS

Like the T-1,000 in the feature film "Terminator 2," the T-Meg constantly morphs, implodes and regenerates itself. To effect the constantly transforming nature of the giant spiderlike creature, modeling specialists required an especially fluid modeling capability, one afforded by the Softimage 3D NURBS (non-uniform rational B-splines). "NURBS make the modeling process much more controllable," said Digital Domain's Robichaud. "And they allow you to go further in the 'sculpting' process. That's really what it ends up being - sculpting with virtual clay." The Digital Domain team developed a technique called bi-spinal skinning, which uses NURBS to model and skin the six-legged creature using a single, continuous curve as a "spine."

Softimage 3D Metaclay proved ideal for the T-Meg's forming process, in which liquid pools of metal coagulate and re-form into John Conner's worst nightmare. In walking sequences, Softimage 3D Inverse Kinematics was used in combination with shape interpolation, allowing the T-Meg to transform from one shape to another while walking.