Behind The Scenes

Terminator 2: Judgment Day - T1000 Effects - Part 1

Creating the T-1000 Effects for TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. Behind the Scenes at Stan Winston Studio -- Part One

Nov 19, 2012


Although Stan Winston Studio vastly improved upon the techniques used to create the T-800 endoskeleton effects in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, they would be breaking all new ground with the unprecedented T-1000 liquid metal effects.

“The endoskeletons, which had been the big deal on Terminator, were the least of our problems on Terminator 2,” said 25-year SWS supervisor and Co-Founder of Legacy Effects, John Rosengrant. “By far, the most challenging things we did for Terminator 2 were these physical effects involving the T-1000 character. We did a lot of in-camera magic tricks for that — splitting open bodies, finger blades, heads blowing open, bullet-hit wounds. Every day, there was something new and challenging to do.”

Pictured above: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY's T-1000 (Robert Patrick)


When John Connor and the Terminator break out Sarah Connor from the state hospital, the T-1000’s head is split apart at an elevator door by the Terminator’s point-blank gunfire.

Pictured above: The final "Splash Head" effect as it appears in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY.

Stan Winston Studio built two articulated puppets for what was dubbed the ‘splash head’ effect. The first was employed for the shot of the head initially springing open, viewed from behind the T-1000. SWS artists sculpted Robert Patrick in clay, then split that clay sculpture down the middle and pulled it open, sculpting a ‘splash’ area into the middle of it. The foam rubber puppet was then made from molds of that sculpture.

Pictured above: SWS concept designer Mark "Crash" McCreery's rendering of the "Splash Head" effect.

Picture above: The clay "Splash Head" sculpture. The shine was achieved with several coats of Krylon Crystal Clear.

Pictured above: SWS artist Beth Hathaway seams & patches the foam "Splash Head" before painting.

The "Splash Head" puppet had a hinged fiberglass core that would spring open with the pulling of a single pin. The following frontal view of ‘splash head’ required a more detailed puppet that featured eye mechanisms working independently on either side of the T-1000’s split face. Pulley mechanisms pulled the sides of the head toward the middle to suggest the beginning of the healing effect, which was finished off with ILM’s computer graphics. A final ‘splash head’ makeup appliance was worn by Patrick’s double for shots of the T-1000 stumbling backwards as his head wound continues to heal.

Pictured above: The final "Splash Head" -- painted, mechanized and ready for action.

Pictured above: SWS supervisor John Rosengrant performs the "Splash Head" gag during the testing phase at Stan Winston Studio.


TERMINATOR 2's steel mill finale featured some of the more complex liquid-metal-man gags created by Winston’s team, including the ‘cleave man’ suit worn by Robert Patrick, for shots of the T-1000 after the Terminator has sliced through his body with a steel rod.

Pictured above: The TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY finale featured multiple T-1000 effects, including the "Cleave Man" effect.

Originally, Winston had assumed that he would have to build an entire puppet for the effect; but when Cameron suggested that he would be willing to shoot it from a locked-off camera angle — rather than having the camera move around the T-1000 — Winston realized that a more simple approach would work. Christopher Swift sculpted a foam rubber body appliance that was vacumetalized in the center liquid metal splash area.

Pictured above: The "Cleave Man" sculpture, featuring a resin impregnated police uniform with a clay "splash" sculpted by key SWS artist Christopher Swift.

That appliance was then pressed firmly against Robert Patrick’s body to simulate his right shoulder and side, while the actor bent his real shoulder and side backwards. From one specific camera angle, Patrick appeared to be standing in a normal position.  When Schwarzenegger brought the steel rod down through the split line between Patrick’s body and the appliance, the device sprang open.

Pictured above: SWS artist Ian Stevenson wears the T-1000 "Cleave Man" suit for the initial test at Stan Winston Studio.

Pictured above: Ian Stevenson holds an extreme posture to sell the "Cleave Man" effect during testing at Stan Winston Studio.


Winston’s crew built three final T-1000 puppets for the ‘pretzel man’ effect, which has the character blowing open after the Terminator has launched a grenade into his mid-section.

The first puppet was a spring-loaded replica of Robert Patrick in splayed-open position, which could be closed up through cables, then released to create the initial exploding action, while a pneumatic ram drove the head upward.

Pictured above: SWS concept designer Mark "Crash" McCreery's rendering of the T-1000 "Pretzel Man" effect.

Pictured above: Before executing the full-size puppet, Stan Winston Studio created a clay maquette of the "Pretzel Man" effect.

Picture above: SWS artists Andy Schoneberg and Christopher Swift sculpt the full-size "Pretzel Man" puppet.

A stage two puppet was built for shots of the cleaved T-1000 stumbling towards a pit of molten steel. The puppet was mounted onto gimbals at the ankles to create a teetering motion, while other body movements were achieved through rods, puppeteered by crewmembers stationed below the set. Jaw and eye movement in the head were radio-controlled, while spinning head action was cable-controlled.  A third non-articulated puppet had a thirty-five pound weight in its back to aid its fall into the molten steel, which was actually an underlit gelatinous concoction created by the special effects team.

Pictured above: A rough version of the "Pretzel Man" during rehearsal at Stan Winston Studio.

Pictured above: SWS mechanical designer Evan Brainard touches up the "Pretzel Man" puppet on the set of TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY


Made on an incredibly tight schedule and featuring hundreds of character effects, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY would go down in the Stan Winston Studio record books as one of its most difficult projects — ever. “Terminator 2 was all-encompassing, and often overwhelming,” John Rosengrant noted. “There were so many gags, so many effects, it felt like we were always playing catch-up. There were lots of puzzles to solve, and very little time to solve them. There was never a moment to just stop and enjoy the process. Because of the number of effects, the variety of effects, the lack of time, and the intensity, Terminator 2 was the most difficult show I’ve ever worked on.”

Looking back on the experience, Stan Winston, too, recalled the challenges of the show. But he also took satisfaction in the quality and number of effects he and his studio were able to achieve live, in-camera. “Everybody who looks at Terminator 2 now thinks that it was all done with CG — and that’s fine with me, as long as they watch the movie and enjoy it. But nearly all of those liquid-metal-man shots were done using our puppets. We created 300 separate effects for Terminator 2. It was the biggest show we’d ever done, up to that time.”

Dinosaur-sized, in fact.

-Jody Duncan