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Posted by on Jul 9, 2009 | 5 comments

Gary Rydstrom Special: Terminator 2: Judgment Day


One of the most important Gary Rydstrom’s work was the sound of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, directed by James Cameron and distributed by Tri-Star Movies.

Terminator 2 won 4 Oscars and another 19 wins & 18 nominations. In sound won an Academy Award for Best Sound, Academy Award for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing and BAFTA Award for Best Sound

Some time ago, Gary talk about the movie sound at filmsound:

Hyperrealistic sounds

Gary Rydstrom: In Terminator 2 Cameron’s approach to sound was hyperrealistic. Everything had to be so much bigger than life. Every sound effect in Terminator 2 had to sound like it was injected with testosterone, it had to be inflated to unworldly possibilities.

It is hard because when you get the mix, you have one sound after the other which you have designed from the beginning to be the largest sound ever heard. The challenge turned out be more in the mixing than the creation. You have the dialogue, the music and larger than life sound effects thrown together. James Cameron really shaped the mix. He had a very distinctive idea of how he wanted to feuture music and effects in each scene. He saw things in terms of rhythm.

Voice-type sounds
Gary Rydstrom: likes sounds that have a vocal characteristic. He loves real-life sounds that have the same emotional envelope a voice does. He says that there are so many sounds in real life – squeals, squeeks, and air hisses – that reminds him of a voice. Gary Rydstrom likes sweetening non-voice events with voice-type sounds to give them intelligence and resonance.

The transformation of T-1000
Gary Rydstrom: My first instinct was to put a goopy mud, liquid sound to the transformation of T-1000. It would sound very low tech and I did not want that. So my first attemps at transforming metal were very musical, taking a violin string bow and sliding and sliding it across different pieces of metal and coming up with very rich tones that evolved. It was a very beautiful sound, but it just did not fit for the director James Cameron.

There is a definable moment when the sound you are making just snaps onto the film and meshes with what it is representing. It had not happening yet. – I was making too etheral a sound. So I went back to record back recording liquid effects – but I tried to record them in a unique way.

Metallic, evolving quality
For the transformation sounds Rydstrom was spraying Dust-Off into a flour and water mixture, with a condom-sealed mic stuck in the goo. The Dust-Off would make huge goopy bubbles. The moment the bubble is forming, it has this sound that is similar to a cuppucino maker or a milk steamer. The slowly forming bubble has a metallic quality to it. It also had an evolving quality. The sound seemed to fit because it had beginning and an end.

T-1000 passing through steel
The basic element of the sound of T-1000 passing through steel bars is nothing more than dog food being slowly sucked out of a can.

Bullets hitting T-1000
For the sound of the bullets hitting T-1000 Rydstrom slammed an inverted glass into a bucket of yoghurt, getting a hard edge to accompany the goop.

The sound of the molten pit
Gary Rydstrom: I wanted a deep sound of something huge and hot – the high sizzle of something hot and the liquidy goop of something you could splash. That was made by compressed air into a lot of mud, but there were also boiling sounds which have been pitched way down.

Key sounds in T2 is metal
Gary Rydstrom: We did a lot of banging in all sorts of metal. The archive building at Skywalker Ranch was still under construction – all the girders were exposed. We recorded banging on big long girders in various ways so they would really resonate. I mixed together different piches of metal hits until they were matched and sounded like one metal hit. You would get the deep thud with a high ring-out. Some of the girder sounds were used for the rolling I-beam used to smash the Terminator.

The wind in the opening scene
The sound of the wind in the opening scene comes from a crack of an open door to main mix room at Skywalker sound.

The sound of the crushed skull
The sound of the crushed skull is actually a pistachio beeing crunched by a metal plate.

The silence and small sounds
When the Cyberdyne building blows up – when the big explosion of the building is preceded just by a long period of silence and the clic of the detonator.

When Arnold shoots the frozen T-1000 n the steel mill, all background ambiences fades out in the split second before the gun goes off.

When Arnold flies on Harley, the engine, the music, everything cuts out until he lands.

All the incedential movements have been replaced as the leather creaks on the Terminator jacket, the buckle clinks, and the footsteps etc.

Shining moment of foley is when Sarah is getting out of her straps in her hospital bed. She takes the paper clip, spits it out, it lands on the bed, she puts it in the buckle, she gets out of her strap, and she uses the paper clip to pick the lock of the door. The whole scene is nothing but Foley and music. And a lot of the tension is coming from focusing in on those little sounds from Foley – the paper clip into the tumblers of the lock. – What is foley?

70 % of the diaglogue and most of the breathing is ADR.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Trailer

Terminator 2: Judgment Day at IMDB


  1. My favorite sound in T2 is the ambiant note that always accompany the T2. Pretty much like the “kill, kill, kill” of the Friday 13th. Fantastic gimmic.

  2. This is an excellent thought provoking post.
    Good work, i like your blog theme, and content ofcourse

  3. the violing strings that my sister use is made up of those nylon strings, they sound good anyway ;’.

  4. I saw this movie 3 times in the theater when it came out and a couple dozen times on the laserdisc set I bought when it came out.  This is the film that got me interested in sound as a career choice.  I never get tired of it.


  1. Michael Klier (chimeric) 's status on Friday, 10-Jul-09 10:35:45 UTC - - [...] [...]
  2. Audio Black Hole! « CINEMA SHOCK - [...] Gary Rydstrom Special: Terminator 2: Judgment Day [...]

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