Watch the Titles

Terminator Salvation

Karin Fong, Imaginary Forces (2009)

After designing the animated title sequence for The Pink Panther 2, Karin Fong and her creative team at Imaginary Forces worked on the main title of another iconic and successful movie franchise – the fourth instalment of the Terminator series.

Karin Fong talks about her title sequence and “machine vision” for Terminator Salvation, and other projects in this interview, which was recorded immediately after the Flux/Forget the Film, Watch the Titles event at The Hammer Museum in L.A., a day before the movie’s US premiere.

“The nice thing about working with McG [the director] on Terminator Salvation, which is sort of an origin story for the Terminator series, is that he asked us to develop not only the main titles but the language of “machine vision.” “Machine vision”, in the Terminator piece, is the point of view of the machines. So, everytime you see something through a machine’s eyes, it’s treated in that way. Back in the original Terminator these [images] would be tinted red and have a grid and have maybe some DOS language. We had to update that using technical references of today’s machines and technology.”

“One thing that really fascinated us was using depth camera’s. There’s actually one on the Mars’ Rover. They basically measure depth and distance from the camera. You can take that data and turn it into a point cloud and start to make images with that. One thing that’s really interesting about that is that you get these natural artifacts. The images are not perfect. You can program it and script it so you can get 3D images, but they kind of fall out in certain places in a way that’s really hard to do when you’re hand-animating. We didn’t actually shoot with the depth camera’s for the film as we originally had planned, but used it as a reference for how the machines would be taking in images.”

RV: The same technology they used for Radiohead’s “House of Cards” video?
Karin Fong: “The one we used was a little bit more primitive. This one was basically a stereo camera. We just used it as research to see the kind of imperfections, the textures and point clouds that would result from it. And then we’d apply that, to stylize how the machines would see.”

“And for the Terminator main title, I mean, it’s always a challenge with a well-known mythology and a well-known movie to tap into people’s familiarity with the story and turn it into something new – re-invent it in a way. McG always knew he wanted to reference the huge monolythic letters that were the titles of the first Terminator movie. You know, that’s a very classic main title sequence with huge letters that cross over. Designer/animator Charles Khoury – one of my collegues at Imaginary Forces – and I took that idea, and we were able to develop textures that referenced something that’s both very concrete and gritty – like the metallic textures – and virtual aswell because McG’s post-apocalyptic world is this combination of something run-down and worn with extremely advanced technology.”

Software used: Cinema 4d, After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

The typeface used for the main credits is FF OCR-F, “designed for FontShop International in 1995 by Albert-Jan Pool, based on the monospace sans serif OCR-B typeface (1968) by Adrian Frutiger.” * ParaTypeShop.
Thanks Leigh Hibell for the info about the font.

© 2009, Last update: 19 January, 2011

Year of production


About Karin Fong

Karin Fong is one of the most prolific and versatile title designers of the last three decades, often referred to as the “Saul Bass of her generation”. She’s a chameleon able to adapt to almost any style, often alluding to metaphorical or surrealist interpretations of the film or TV show’s narrative to great effect.
We met with Karin at Imaginary Forces in L.A. to discuss her Main Titles for Tell me a Story, Counterpart, South Park, Jack Ryan and Lost in Space.

More about Karin Fong

Full credits

Main titles and “Machine Vision”
Imaginary Forces
Title designer
Karin Fong, Charles Khoury
Lead designer/animator machine vision & titles
Jeremy Cox
Production Company (film)
Warner Bros. Pictures, The Halcyon Company
Director (film)

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