The making of T2 The Ultimate DVD
He's back, alright! Terminator 2, The Ultimate DVD is also the ultimate Mac project. Released this week (August 28, 2000) by Artisan Home Entertainment, this dual sided DVD-18 is packed full of dazzling menus, chilling animations, and smashing graphics, much of which was developed on a PowerBook and rendered on a Power Mac. Rounding out the Mac contribution to this mega-release are video editing done on a Mac-based Avid system, and sound editing done on a Mac-based ProTools system.
Power packed and double stacked
This is one feature-packed DVD. Side A contains three versions of the movie: the original theatrical release, the laser disk release with added footage, and a special release with even more previously unseen footage. If that weren't enough, Side B contains the ins and outs of how the movie was made, including on-camera interviews with actors and producers, the entire script and story boards, and hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos of the production. And it's all tied together and navigated with some of the most creative graphics and animations ever read by a laser. You'll get to work every button on your DVD remote!
Double-threat team of Banta and Ling
The two people most responsible for the exciting look and interactivity of this ground shaking DVD are Van Ling and Johnathan Banta. According to freelance producer Ling, "I would design the menus, and Johnny would create all of the 3D elements, usually entire environments, modeling, lighting, and animation."
Ling started work on this project in May of 1999. He brought Banta into the fray in December, 1999. Commenting on the pace of the project, Banta says, "It was pretty fast and furious from the get-go. Within the first week, I was producing elements that would be used in the final, and by the third week, I had pretty much all of the first disc 3D animations put together. Van and I conferred via web pages at first (I used iView for my presentation HTML pages). Later we would work late into the night at Van's office."
What's that sound I hear?
"We decided to remix the film in Dolby Surround EX," says Ling. "Gary Rydstrom, the original sound designer for the film, who won two Oscars for 'T2', was our mixer. We did the work at Skywalker Ranch in November, 1999. Gary used a Mac-based ProTools system for the sound editing work. This got us a complete 6-track of the different versions. We then spent [two months] encoding the Dolby Digital and DTS versions of the audio." To say that this DVD has awesome sound is a bit of an understatement.
Where do you start
According to Banta, lead 3D artist, the first step in developing graphics and animations is research. He relates, "To recreate the flying aircraft that are on the B side of the disc, I thoroughly researched all the available drawings and photos we could find. I even found a few photos of resin kits on the Web that were very useful. I used these as background templates in Form-Z 3.5.
"I typically begin my modeling with simple shapes that represent the form of my final model. We begin by blocking out the movement of the shot. I would then begin to cut the forms into more recognizable parts and after that began pushing and pulling points to get the shape I wanted. I particularly like Form-Z's ability to add individual points and segments to a model. I used that quite often to 'sculpt' the form as I needed it."
Really on the go
Johnathan Banta is a man on the move. For that reason, much of his work on the T2 DVD was done on his PowerBook, loaded with 320MB of RAM and an 8GB hard drive. According to Banta, "Portability is the key. I love the power of the desktop machine, but my PowerBook allows me to work anytime, anywhere. I am constantly writing articles, programming shaders for ElectricImage, checking email, creating 3D models, and animating them or compositing 4K IMAX films (using proxies) wherever I am."
Pulling it all together
As the producer, Van Ling had much to concern him. As he describes it, "For me, the biggest challenge was trying to keep as much of my vision for the disc intact while going through both the legal and technical limitations of the process. I had very specific ideas and goals, and I wanted to go even farther than we did in the laserdisc and take advantage of the DVD format. I also wanted to add more value to the package, so that even those who had seen the laser disc got to see some new material. We pretty much filled the DVD-18 to the brim."
Old van Mac had a farm
Ling used three primary Mac systems to accomplish the work on T2. He says, "The systems were all Power Macs. I'd jump from one machine to another, working on one while rendering on the others. I was using After Effects, Photoshop, and ElectricImage, as well as Form-Z and Illustrator, so I had 512MB of RAM on each machine. Most of our work was at 960x540 at 24 frames per second, and some of our animations were 25 seconds long with multiple elements, so we used a lot of disk space." Sometimes a render would take as much as 16 hours for five seconds of animation.
The great transfer
Ling and Banta converted all of the deliverable files to TIFFs or TARGAs to send them to the DVD authoring company WAMO (Warner Advanced Media Operations). Ling describes the process, "Because the Mac is a graphics-based system, it was easy for me to read or write files in different formats, using programs like Debabelizer. For the animated menus and transitions, I had to put those out to component video. So, to maintain quality, I delivered thousands of sequential PICT files to a post house on Jaz or CD-R. There we would process those files through an Inferno and laid it off to Digital BetaCam."
The Mac advantage
Van Ling swears by his Macs. As he describes this project, "It was perfect because I've worked on multiple Macs for twelve years. Johnny (Banta) is a Mac nut, as well. His motto is: 'Have PowerBook, will travel.' And my video editor, Lauryl Duplechan, works on my Mac-based Avid Media Composer. We could exchange files and imagery very easily without losing time having to convert files. And because it was all on one platform, I could immediately email images out to people or burn CDs to send out very easily. I even did some high-definition paint work for the film transfer on the Mac, using Commotion."
Don't be Terminated
So when you sit down to enjoy Terminator 2, The Ultimate DVD, don't think about the nearly 8,000 hours that Ling says he, Banta, and Duplechan spent on the project, or the hours of Mac time that enabled it to happen, or the more than 5,000 still images that had to be restored for the DVD. No, just think about what your going to do in a few years when the Sharper Image catalog advertises "Your own personal, life-size robot." I'd check the fingers for protruding sharp objects.