Method Crafts Helicopter Explosion for New 'Terminator'
December 20, 2019

Method Crafts Helicopter Explosion for New 'Terminator'

Continuing the futuristic man vs. machine saga, Terminator: Dark Fate reunites a battle-hardened Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and a T-800 Terminator (Arnold  Schwarzenegger) in an unlikely alliance as they try to protect Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), together with mechanically enhanced super soldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis), from a deadly new Rev-9 Terminator (Gabriel Luna).  

Directed by Tim Miller, the high-intensity epic is packed with explosive moments realized through visual effects, including an intense five-minute sequence involving a stolen C-5 military aircraft and a crashing helicopter, all created by Method Studios under the direction of Method VFX Supervisor Glenn Melenhorst.

Hotly pursued by Rev-9, Sarah, the T-800, Dani and Grace break into a military base to steal a C-5. The quartet are followed in flight by Rev-9 in a helicopter and an epic battle ensues. Scenes inside the C-5 cargo bay were filmed on a predominantly bluescreen set piece. Method artists then digitally created the C-5 interior based on a provided asset, swapping out the actors for digital doubles as needed; the helicopter was full CG. For maximum authenticity as the helicopter explodes, the team created a highly detailed version of the asset, modeling everything from the engine block to the interior door upholstery.

“Our asset team worked hard to find the sweet spot in putting the right amount of detail into the helicopter,” said Melenhorst. “We wanted enough elements breaking apart to really sell the explosion as the helicopter smashes to pieces but keep the asset light enough that we could run it through a simulation. If it was too detailed, the helicopter wouldn’t simulate, but if there was not enough detail, it wouldn’t crumple properly.”

Nailing the helicopter crash animation was a balancing act as well, as artists worked to achieve realistic crash movements that were also art directable. As the vehicle crashes, the way it deforms and crumples informs how and where it rolls. On top of getting the simulation just right, artists added fire licking up the side of the aircraft.

“It took many hours of simulation and terabytes of data to get where we wanted to be in terms of photorealism and crash mechanics. We had a massive hill to climb but the collaboration with production was great and hopefully our work is completely transparent to the audience,” Melenhorst added.

Method also created a wide establishing shot of the military base and several shots at the border crossing after helidrones slam into police vehicles, resulting in large fiery explosions.

Behind-the-scenes look can be found at