When “Top Gun: MaverickThe audience almost feels the G forces in their own guts like tom cruise takes off from his aircraft carrier in an F/A-18 Super Hornet, it’s a moment that makes the cinematographer claudio miranda make.
Mounting six truly cinematic-quality cameras on a fighter jet—a feat that wasn’t technically possible until fixes were developed for the 1986 classic’s spin-off—generated so much stunning aerial imagery that it made the editors’ job nearly impossible. overwhelming.
“I feel like what we gave is that you have IMAX quality cameras; we work hard to make sure it’s a good quality camera,” says Miranda. “I think there is a difference. I’m pretty proud of it.”
Speaking at the Camerimage Intl. Film Festival in Torun, Poland, Miranda admits she has lost count of how many days of on-air filming “Top Gun” required, but there’s no question whether the investment was worth it, says Miranda. “I feel like it was, I mean she did a lot of work for publishers. It was 813 hours of footage to go through. You’re running six cameras at a time, two ships at a time.”
It’s no wonder Miranda picked up some Navy lingo for fighter jets after months spent working closely with pilots, technical experts, top military commanders, and actors during comprehensive Navy aviator training. , when he describes each daily combat flight, which was also overshadowed by a pursuit plane.
From the opening sequence of “Top Gun,” audiences get up close and personal with the actual fighters who took off from the USS Abraham Lincoln, shot down before the pandemic in August 2018 during a training exercise for the F-35C Lightning II. The shoot, which also made use of the Lemoore Naval Air Station in central California, was committed to demanding realism in every frame, Miranda says.
Getting the Sony cameras tailored to fit a fighter was central to the plan, he says, allowing the production to achieve what had never been done before. “I also helped design the original camera – I went to Japan and there was a bunch of stuff and they modified it. And then it was still too big for us, so we worked on that and we were able to get this little Rialto thing. It was actually originally for the chase jet and we wanted to get a bigger lens to have more variety. So we said, ‘Wow, we can do a lot with this.’”
Following Cruise’s return from virtual exile by the Navy to a crucial role in planning a dangerous mission over enemy territory, the story demands pushing the limits of what even the best-trained Navy pilots can do. in their best planes.
Of Sony’s special 6K mini camera, Miranda says: “Originally, they gave us one. And we were like… ‘Four more? Maybe six more?’”
“They told me I couldn’t get them in,” he adds. “But I was there constantly, saying, ‘What is this?’ I found an old version of an F-18 that didn’t have all the electronics. It was rather basic. That really appealed to me because it had a glare shield that was flat. The previous version was much simpler and that’s where we put the cameras”.
Working closely with the Navy engineers paid off, says Miranda. “I asked if I could take off the old electronics, we were there cutting them down every day. I was there for weeks, what do you need that for? Is that necessary?”
The weapons systems were not removed but, he says: “They took some things out of the video camera. When they fire some of the missiles, they sometimes have cameras. So there was a whole system. That whole system, I didn’t need it, so it’s gone.”
One limitation on the shoots was time, he explains. “I couldn’t link myself to the ship’s power like I wanted to, so that was one thing. Therefore, the cameras were limited in terms of the time they could be on the air: it was like 90 minutes.
Another challenge was how the actors would handle the pressures of being in the back seat of real fighter jets, not on a green screen sound stage. “I’m sure there were some outtakes of them throwing up,” says Miranda. “But the actors worked for three months, improving their tolerances, Tom Cruise’s pilot training program. They also used compression suits, G suits.”
High-tech flight suits that help keep blood from pooling in their legs so they don’t pass out during high-G-force maneuvers helped them take the really hard turns live on camera.
Flying F-15s also required the same training, he says. “Everybody went under in the tank and had to get out,” adds Miranda. “We didn’t film that, but you feel it. To be in the back seat of that F-15 you have to have done the training. They couldn’t give me a joy ride.”
Safety precautions were always paramount, Miranda notes. “If a pilot overdrew Gs, that had to be reported. The Navy had to test all the camera mounts to make sure they can handle all the G’s. If you drop a bolt, you can’t have any foreign objects rolling around. They check all your keys and equipment; when they are done with the plane, all their keys are back. There is a great security protocol.”
Using natural lighting with real skies and flying landscapes, Miranda was able to put audiences in the pilot’s seat in ways that have raised the bar significantly. And almost always in glorious solar halo lighting.
“’Top Gun’ is a sunset movie. If you look at it, it’s 5:30. So we’re all planning the day carefully, planning the morning runs, planning the afternoon runs, where the cameras are up in the mountains. There is a lot of planning. I knew where they were on the map, but I had to know how deep they were going and the direction they were going, the weather and we’re telling the pilots where we want the sun.
Camerimage fest audiences greeted Miranda and director Joseph Kosinski expressed deep agreement with the screenings.