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How ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Took Audiences Inside the Fighter Jets



When Joseph Kosinski took on the aerial scenes in Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick, he wanted to capture the experience of being a Navy fighter pilot. “The actors certainly behave differently when they’re experiencing that for real,” he says, describing how the filmmakers created that energy with some unique camera technology that was mounted inside the jet cockpits to film the actors while they were aboard.

It worked so well that now Kosinski and cinematographer Claudio Miranda are aiming to use similar technology to capture the experience of driving a Formula One car for their upcoming untitled Apple racing movie starring Brad Pitt.

An Oscar winner for Life of Pi who has been collaborating with Kosinski since 2010’s Tron: LegacyMiranda explains that he consulted with Sony on the initial development of its Venice digital cinematography camera, which was used to shoot Maverick, and more recently, he worked with Sony on the Rialto extension system that effectively detaches the sensor from the camera. “You have this little device that you can stick anywhere, and then the main body would be tethered somewhere else,” he explains, noting that there were six such cameras inside the jets, with very lightweight spherical lenses.

Kosinski with cinematographer Claudio Miranda (right)

Kosinski with cinematographer Claudio Miranda (right)

Courtesy of Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

“The Navy at first said we’d have a tough time finding space for one camera, and we ended up fitting six in there,” Kosinski adds. “That’s largely because Claudio and our whole camera department worked closely with the Navy to find places to tuck all of this equipment. [It took] a lot of back-and-forth to design a system that could withstand the speed and the Gs and be safe in case of an ejection.”

Miranda says, “We wanted to capture this in camera as much as possible,” though of course he acknowledges the handoff to the VFX team. “I mean, obviously we didn’t blow up planes.”

When in the air with a Navy pilot flying the jet, the actor would be responsible for starting the cameras. “There was a little button that would run all six cameras,” Miranda says. “Then they would say their lines and what was rehearsed on the ground.” After each flight, the team would review the take to determine if another would be needed.

For the Formula One movie, Kosinski says they want to apply a similar approach to shoot the actors in race cars — “to give the audience the experience of what it’s like to drive one of these incredible machines. There are only 20 people in the world who get to experience that every week.” Maverick‘s Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman of Jerry Bruckheimer Films are producing. Also on board to produce, along with Pitt’s Plan B, is seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Actress Monica Barbaro (left) and Cruise

Actress Monica Barbaro (left) and Cruise

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

More work on the camera system is needed before filming can begin. “When it comes to racing, lightness is everything,” Kosinski says. “We need to come up with a new way of capturing it so that the cameras are much smaller, much lighter, much like the cars themselves, but still capturing a very high-quality, filmic image.”

To achieve this goal, they’ve been working with Formula One and Hamilton. “I think each kilogram is like a tenth of a second on a lap,” explains Kosinski. “We don’t want to put so much gear on that we slow the car down because that works against the experience.” The movie is in prep, with production targeted to start in mid- to late 2023.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 7 issue of The News84Media magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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