Most Re­al­is­tic Fake Dog­fights


Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - INCREDIBLY SPECIAL EFFECTS AWARDS -

Director Christo­pher Nolan doesn’t like vis­ual ef­fects, says Os­car-nom­i­nated vis­ual ef­fects su­per­vi­sor An­drew Jack­son. “It’s about film­ing as much as pos­si­ble. So the start­ing point is: what can we shoot, what can we build, and how real can we make it?”

In Nolan’s World War II drama Dunkirk, Jack­son and his crew were able to make things very real. Es­pe­cially in the case of the dog­fights. In those ae­rial se­quences, Jack­son in­cor­po­rated ac­tual Spit­fire air­craft with large-scale re­mote-con­trol minia­tures with wing­spans rang­ing from two to six me­tres. The smoke and spark ef­fects in the fight were co-or­di­nated from the ground – which is where the re­mote pi­lots were sup­posed to be as well. But the range was too far and they couldn’t op­er­ate the minia­tures from land, which meant Jack­son had to take them up in the air. “In or­der to cap­ture one shot with two ra­dio-con­trolled planes, we had to get the two pi­lots into a he­li­copter, and the he­li­copter had to have the cam­era mounted on the nose.” The cam­era pre­sented its own prob­lems: “We were work­ing with IMAX cam­eras that were very old and not very re­li­able. We were push­ing them quite hard, with all the vi­bra­tions from be­ing mounted on he­li­copters. We had to take mul­ti­ple breaks. The whole car­a­van of planes and he­li­copters would have to land to fix the cam­eras.”

For shots inside the cock­pit, the creative team used twoseat planes. They dressed the front to look like a Spit­fire and then po­si­tioned the ac­tual pi­lot in the back­seat. Back­ground shots came from a sep­a­rate piece of equip­ment; a cock­pit mounted on a gim­bal and set on the edge of a cliff just south of LA. “That’s the real ocean and sky and hori­zon be­hind them,” Jack­son says.

Pi­lots for the re­mote­con­trolled planes had to be taken up in he­li­copters when the range was too far from the ground.

Ac­tual Spit­fire planes were com­bined with RC minia­tures.

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