Lionsgate Home Entertainment has released “Terminator 2: Skynet Edition” on Blu-ray featuring three versions of the 1991 action movie that starred Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward Furlong.
“Terminator 2: Judgement Day” Blu-ray is loaded with special features including:
Multiple THX-certified versions high-definition versions of the film
All-new English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Lossless
Picture-in-picture of behind the scenes video, text commentaries and multimedia galleries
Storyboard-script mode – view storyboards and read the script while watching the film
Interactive quizzes and games
BD-Live™ enabled, featuring games, extra content and more for internet-connected players
Audio commentary with 26 cast and crew members
Audio commentary with director James Cameron and co-writer William Wisher
Enhanced for D-Box™ Motion Control Systems
Includes THX Optimizer
Freelance DVD/Blu-ray producer, consultant, visual supervisor and digital artist Van Ling has been involved with the film for over 20 years. He recently discussed this new “Terminator 2″ package with M&C.
M&C: How does the film hold up under Blu-ray’s crystal picture?
VL: For a film that was made nearly two decades ago, with multiple nominations for Adam Greenberg’s cinematography, we certainly feel it holds up extremely well. It’s a dynamic, high-quality film, and folks have been using it as a benchmark for various home video formats for years.
The challenge, of course, is to utilize the specifications of Blu-ray encoding in the hands of an experienced compressionist to bring that across to the home…and to educate the viewers at home about their collaboration in the process: they have a responsibility to make sure that their home systems are correctly calibrated and set for optimal presentation of both sound and picture if they want to get the most out of Blu-ray and the film.
M&C: What makes this version better than the past T2 releases?
VL: The T2 Skynet Edition is only the second Blu-ray version of the film released in the US, and the first one was done in 2006 at the dawn of the Blu-ray format, when there was a much more limited capability even to just play the film itself.
There were only single-layer discs available, which meant much less disc space, as well as nascent encoding options which didn’t have anywhere near the quality and efficiency of current encoders. There was also none of the major interactive special features -picture-in-picture and internet connectivity, for instance-that we have available in the format today.
So we were able to do a lot more in this new version, like seamless branching of multiple versions of the film and lossless audio tracks. And the dual-layer discs we have now allow for better picture and audio quality while still giving us room for interactive features like games and production information. It’s more bang for the buck.
M&C: How were you involved in this new version?
VL: I was brought on as the disc producer for the Skynet Edition because of my familiarity with the film and its bonus features -I’ve literally been involved with the film for two decades, since even before it was shot, and have been part of the creation of special features since 1991, from VHS to laserdisc to DVD and now to Blu-ray.
We had a short amount of time to put it together in order to get it out in time for the release of “Terminator Salvation”, and 16 years’ worth of special features that we needed to cull through and figure out how best to present that material using the capabilities of Blu-ray.
For me, that meant building picture-in-picture segments, audio slideshows, trivia data, graphics, menus, and a ridiculous number of intricate time-code lists to tie it all together to the film. The programming and authoring were a very complex challenge, so hats off to the folks at Blink Digital Studios in California and at Sofatronic in Germany for doing an amazing job.
M&C: In the Blu-ray edition, which version is your favorite? The theatrical, director’s cut or the other special edition, and why?
VL: I’m partial to the Special Edition version, but I like the original Theatrical version as well. They serve different purposes; the former is a little bit more character-driven, while the latter is a bit faster-paced.
One should also understand that ALL of these versions are “director’s cuts.” Jim Cameron has final say over them. And while we don’t actually have a 3D version on this Blu-ray, I certainly wouldn’t count that out for down the line. As they say, “the future is not set.”
M&C: Do you think the franchise will continue? Do you have any connections with T4: Salvation?
VL: “The Terminator” mythology resonates with a lot of people, especially in this age of smarter and more ubiquitous technology, so I think the franchise will be ongoing. We’ve seen three films, a fourth film coming out, a TV series, and an endless series of graphic novels and comic books over the years, so Cameron’s creation has struck a chord, even if he himself is not involved in the newer films.
I don’t have any ties to T4 at all, but I look forward to seeing the film and hope that it does justice to Jim Cameron’s original vision.
M&C: Which movie do you consider the best?
VL: I’m certainly partial to the first two films, but for different reasons. T2 was the one I had the pleasure of working on, and the original “Terminator” was one of the films that inspired me to get into the business.
It’s like with “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back”… you can really appreciate the scope and depth of the second film and how it takes the mythology to the next level, but you also never forget the rush of experiencing the first film.
So, obviously, the first two films are my favorites, since Cameron did them. Someone on the internet once noted, “the first two are canon; the rest are just fan fiction.”
M&C: How was it working with James Cameron on T2, in comparison with working with him on “Titanic”?
VL: I learned so much from Jim Cameron and the opportunities he gave me on all of his projects, from “The Abyss” onward. He’s a tough taskmaster and some folks can’t take that intensity, but he’s always doing it for the betterment of the film and challenges people to be their best.
He’ll never ask anyone to do something he wouldn’t do himself, but the caveat is that he can literally do every single job on a film set himself, often better than you can, so you had better be prepared. That aspect has certainly never changed over the years.
M&C: In one of your first jobs in 1987, you were the Alien Language Consultant for “Alien Nation.” What did you do?
VL: That was a bit of a lark; I got to “make up” an alien language for Mandy Patinkin and the other actors to “speak” in the film. What I learned from it was to leave it to linguistics experts, because not only is it a challenge to get actors to adhere rigorously to designed vocalizations that they feel are just “gibberish” anyway, it can all be replaced in post-production by other sounds!
Which, incidentally, is what I did a decade later for “Men In Black”…we created new vocalizations for various creatures and added them in post, rather than try to do them on the set.
M&C: I also noticed that you were in T2 – a Cyberdyne tech. Do you like acting?
VL: Guess I was accidentally caught on the set when the cameras started rolling. Actually, I do enjoy acting -Jim Cameron even called me down to Mexico to perform in “Titanic” as one of the historically-accurate Chinese passengers aboard the ship-but I don’t get much of a chance these days. It can be a lot of fun, but there’s a LOT of waiting, so you have to be prepared. It helps to have a laptop or a good long book!
M&C: After you graduated from USC film school, what did you want to do?
VL: Like most film school grads, I wanted to do a little bit of everything! I pretty much knew I wanted to work with visual effects, and also production and post-production work because I love editing. And computer graphics was just starting to become a reality, which was interesting.
As I mentioned earlier, it was after Jim Cameron screened “The Terminator” for one of my film school classes that I said to myself, “I’d love to work with THAT guy…” and I was lucky to have gotten that opportunity a few years later. And then I really got the chance to follow up on all of those areas I was interested in.
M&C: In your career, you’ve worked in various media. Do you have a favorite?
VL: It’s hard to say. I think all of these media, from film production to home video to digital video to the internet, are all inter-related, especially now that everything is digital-based. So it’s harder for me to think of them as separate disciplines, since something I do in visual effects for a film may end up being in a special feature on a DVD or Blu-ray, for example.
My film production experience can bring something to the home video work I do, and my computer experience can inform how I approach my production work. It’s all part of the broader creative process, and when it’s done right, all of these elements and media work together to create compelling entertainment.