Canadian director James Cameron directed The Terminator (1984). He is well known for his use of cutting edge visuals and effects technology. The Terminator is his first groundbreaking sci-fi blockbuster movie in the visual effects arena. He pushed the boundaries of special effects with The Terminator. It was during a period of time where Hollywood was experimenting with new means of visual effects through the production of films that fused the genres of science fiction and horror.
Seven years later, Cameron came back to direct Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Judgement Day came back even bigger than before, in terms of CG. It was the first film to feature a computer generated main character. The VFX in the film was completely top notch for that period of time. Not only was there the CGI Terminator, it also morphed and regenerated body parts. And on top of that, it could also turn into a mercury like liquid metal that seeped through little cracks. The movie paved the way for all the other VFX-laden movies.
Most of the effects was provided by ILM and the creation of the visual effects took 35 people altogether that included animators, computer scientist, technicians, and artist. It took ten months to produce, for a total of 25 man-years. And despite the large amount of time spent, the CGI sequence was only a total of five minutes on screen. But all this work was worth it because the visual effects team won the 1992 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
For the scene featuring Sarah Conner’s nuclear nightmare, the people from 4-Ward Production constructed a cityscape of Los Angeles using large-scale miniature buildings and realistic roads and vehicles. The pair, after having studied actual footages of nuclear tests, then simulated nuclear blast by using air mortars to knock over the cityscape, including the intricately built buildings. 4-Ward created a large layered painting of the city augmented with a radiating blast dome and disintegrating buildings created with an Apple Macintosh program called Electric Image. They also contributed a number of shots showing molten steel spilling out of a trough onto the floor, and used real mercury directed with blowdryers to create the eerie shots of the shattered T-1000 pieces melting into droplets and running back together.