How ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ got cameras inside the cockpit of a F/A-18 fighter jet

Top Gun Maverick
  • Promotion for “Top Gun: Maverick” is starting to pick up as the November 2021 release date approaches.
  • In a recent interview, director Joseph Kosinski described how his crew pushed the technological envelope to create the movie’s in-flight action scenes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The long-delayed sequel to “Top Gun” is slated for November 2021, and promotion for “Top Gun: Maverick” is starting to pick up as the release date approaches.

Paramount Pictures partnered with the YouTube show “Could You Survive the Movies?” for an interview with director Joseph Kosinski about how his crew pushed the technological envelope to create the movie’s in-flight action scenes.

The new clip is an addition to the “Could You Survive the Movies?” episode that explores the science behind the original 1986 movie. Series host Jake Roper joined Kosinski for the conversation highlighted in the new clip.

Kosinski reveals that he studied to be an aerospace engineer before getting into the filmmaking game. That makes sense because the director behind sci-fi movies such as “TRON: Legacy” and “Oblivion” always has shown a bent for cutting-edge movie technology.

To help the actors get their performances right, the crew built a replica of an F-18 Super Hornet cockpit on the ground, and Kosinski rehearsed each scene with the actors before they did the actual scene inside a jet screaming across the sky.

Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet
An F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Since the team was inventing new ways to film airborne action, the process could be incredibly slow.

“Some days, we’d work a 16-hour day and get 40 seconds of footage; 25 cameras running simultaneous,” Kosinski reveals to Roper in the clip.

The big reveal in the interview is that cinematographer Claudio Miranda worked with Sony to develop a new camera system called the Rialto, which is an add-on to Sony’s popular Venice 6k camera. Kosinski says they captured the footage using six Rialtos on each plane, with four cameras facing the actor and two cameras facing forward.

The images featured in the video suggest a kind of hybrid setup, because it looks like at least two Venice units are included in the four-camera array that’s facing the actors. The Venices are definitely too large to be connected to the front-facing cameras.

The Rialto comes with a 9-foot cable that allows it to connect to a Venice unit, so it looks like the filmmakers figured out places to stash the Venice units around the plane.

Even though the photos make the Venice look like a monster piece of gear, the unit weighs only 8.6 pounds and the Rialto extension units weigh 3-4 pounds. To anyone who lugged around digital cameras when they first arrived on the market, this will seem like impossible news. Welcome to the future.

You can play with this tech yourself if you’ve got the cash or qualify for Sony’s interest-free financing. A Venice body retails for $42,000, and a Rialto starts around $12K. Then you need lenses and all the other rigging. You can get started for around $65,000, but $100K would give you a ton of options.

You can watch the entire interview for yourself below.

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To fill a fighter-jet gap, the US Navy is about to get some of the Air Force’s F-16s

Air Force F-16 fighter jet
An F-16C Fighting Falcon at RAF Lakenheath in England, August 3, 2018.

  • The US Navy’s will receive F-16s from the Air Force to fill a gap as the Navy retires older F/A-18s.
  • The Navy will shelve some 55 aircraft over the next year, and to make sure it has enough fighters available, it expects the Air Force to give it F-16s.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Navy is preparing to receive F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from the Air Force as it moves to rid its inventory of legacy F/A-18 Hornet models used in its Reserve fleets, according to its fiscal 2022 budget request.

The Navy will shelve roughly 55 aircraft over the next year, the documents state, in hopes of transitioning to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. But to make sure it has enough fighters available amid the conversion, it expects the Air Force to transfer some F-16s to it.

“This divestment reduces long-term support cost of older [Hornets] while retaining adversary capacity,” the documents state, but do not specify the number of F-16s needed. Seapower Magazine reported earlier this month the F-16s could come from Air National Guard units.

The Drive reported the F-16s will be used for aggressor training, or to act as enemy forces in air-to-air training.

The service is moving to reduce its fighter force and focus on the Super Hornet; the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; and the F/A-18 follow-on aircraft, currently known as the F/A-XX, which defies traditional categorization as a single aircraft platform or technology – potentially using a fighter flying alongside artificial intelligence-enhanced drones.

The service is weighing whether the F/A-XX will be manned, unmanned or partially autonomous, Navy officials have said.

F/A-18E Super Hornets
F/A-18E Super Hornets.

The Navy has accepted F-16s before, with 26 special F-16N versions – 22 single-seat and four two-seater aircraft – used between 1988 and 1998 for aggressor training.

Following the retirement of the N models, the service acquired 14 F-16s originally slated for the Pakistani air force in the early 2000s, which it currently uses at its “Topgun” school at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.

Air Force officials have said the F-16 still has a place in its fleet for now, even as it reduces the number of types of fighter jets and attack aircraft it keeps.

“The newer block [F-16s] that have been upgraded are going to fly for some time,” said Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements.

The Air Force will weigh what types of roles or mission sets make sense for the F-16 as a multirole fighter – including homeland defense – and whether the newer aircraft can be upgraded down the line, Hinote said in an interview with Military.com earlier this month.

Air Force Magazine reported that the service will introduce a program known as Multirole Fighter-X, or MR-X, later this decade. It is expected to join the service’s inventory in the mid-2030s, according to the magazine.

US Air Force F-16
A US Air Force F-16.

Hinote said it’s possible F-16s could fill the MR-X role. But if upgrades are too extensive or too costly, the next MR-X could be a “clean sheet” fighter design.

“That would be a digitally designed new type of fighter affordable mainly for missions where survivability is not the most important concern,” he said, referring to homeland defense over a near-peer conflict.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown said he’s open to something beyond the F-16 for the future multirole jet.

“Let’s not just buy off the shelf; let’s actually take a look at something else out there that we can build,” Brown said during a Defense Writers Group virtual chat with reporters in February.

Like Hinote, Brown said that the service wants something that can be economically sustainable, digitally designed, produced quickly and has an open-architecture software system that can be rapidly modified to keep up with missions.

“I want to be able to build something new and different that’s not the F-16, that has some of those capabilities, but gets there faster and features a digital approach,” he said in February.

– Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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