- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Terminator 2: Judgment Day Extreme DVD, by Artisan Home Entertainment, Rated R, for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, $29.98. James Cameron’s science-fiction epic of man’s battle against machines lives on this summer through an excellent new movie in theaters as well as another DVD release of the 1991 film that melds on-screen entertainment with cinematic deconstruction, computer software and online action as easily as a T-1000 cybernetic organism changes shape.

Technophiles in love with “Terminator” are in for a treat as soon as they pop in the first of this two-disc digital video extravaganza. Now privy to the 152-minute scene-added masterpiece, the viewer gets the absolutely best-looking version of the work, thanks to technicians who finely tuned color and clarity during the transfer process with the latest technology available. Dolby 5.1 Surround EX Digital audio and the THX Optimizer option combine for the very best sound.

The first disc also becomes a fantastic film history lesson for viewers as director-writer James Cameron adds a commentary track with co-writer William Wisher. The option for extreme interactive mode runs a trivia text track on the bottom of the screen, production facts on the top, and viewers can access even more multimedia information on the film creation process when the Cyberdyne logo appears on-screen.

Viewers hear Mr. Wisher pipe in his thoughts on why the opening prologue of “T2” cost more than the entire first film, learn how to get popular music license rights and deal with popular actors on outside production settings, see a wide range of concept illustrations on futuristic machines narrated by designer Steve Burg, and find out that the computer used by John Connor to hack into an ATM was an Atari Portfolio, the precursor to the modern-day PDA (personal digital assistant).

That one disc alone could make for a long evening of viewing — but then Artisan throws in the entire theatrical release of the film, if the viewer can find it. To access it, click the right arrow on the DVD controller five times while in the Sensory Control area, wait for a tab labeled “the future is not set” to appear, click on it and enjoy.

After watching the two versions of the film, viewers can pop in the second disc to watch a 24-minute documentary on the making of the movie and eight minutes worth of shenanigans on the set.

Now place the second disc into a PC’s DVD carriage — Macintosh owners need not apply — fire up the Interactual Player and enter the halls of Cyberdyne Systems, where human rebels have procured three software simulations from the deadly robots.

First, the Skynet Combat Chassis Designer has the viewer acquire a unique log-in to a Shockwave-fueled Web site where two types of T-400 HK robots can be built and tested.

Through two basic configurations with four programmable hardware and software parameters, viewers become players who must finely tune a T model or the S model while destroying a couple dozen targets and monitoring damage, heat and neural net load. Once happy with a creation, the builder can challenge others online.

Second, falling under the stupidly cool category, users can import a photo of themselves or loved one and see their skull transformed into a T-800 machine just like the Arnold Schwarzenegger model. The slick software uses any 640-by-460-pixel portrait. Digital creators position a skull over the image using sizing and 360-degree rotation tools. Once in place, the machine’s organic camouflage capabilities — flesh over metal — take over and the true Terminator can be seen only by blasting away at his overlay. It’s a slightly gruesome exercise, but once completed, the final product can be e-mailed out for a big laugh.

The last visual illusion takes a little more work. Designers must find two images of humans in roughly the same pose. Now to simulate what the liquid metal T-1000 machine can do, the designer has the tools to morph from one photo to the silvery machine to another photo and export it. The metallic image can even have one of six backgrounds added and has nine possible poses from which to choose.

What truly astounded me during the entire computer process was that the software of the simulations worked flawlessly.

The final part of the technology showcase on the second disc involves being able to view the entire movie on a computer within Windows Media Player 9, which boasts resolution double that of current players. Unfortunately, my 700 MHz machine, even with a cable modem connection, is nowhere near up to the challenge. Anyone with a 3 GHz — that’s right, 3 GHz — machine want to give it a go?

Overall, the “Terminator Extreme” package, protected with a steel case, helps propel the digital video revolution even further into a future with an awesome amount of interactive firepower.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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