Top Gun: Maverick At One Point Had 27 Cameras Filming At The Same Time, Says Very Tired Editor


Filming a great action movie is no joke. Top notch directors have put hundreds of hours into filming incredibly intricate action pictures over the years, but it seems that 2022's "Top Gun: Maverick" is giving them a run for their money. At one point, the film had over 27 cameras actively shooting a scene at the same time — and that's pretty much unheard of.

In an interview with Deadline, editor Eddie Hamilton opened up about how many eyes were needed on set:

"It was quite honestly very overwhelming at times. There was one day in March 2019 when they had 27 cameras running because there were four jets up in the air with various cameras on them, and two units filming on the ground, which added up to 27 cameras. I remember getting so much footage the next morning and just thinking this was going to be very difficult. Also, the days were very long when we were filming the aerial sequences, it was just really intense."

In order to keep himself organized, he broke the footage down and labeled everything so he could find what was needed fast, but his main hang up was trying to keep calm and from getting overwhelmed. He revealed:

"Honestly, there were months where I didn't sleep very well and I was just dreaming of closeups of Hangman and Phoenix and Rooster and Maverick. Literally every night I'd go to sleep and all I would see is their faces in my dreams. That's just how engrossed you get in the raw material and in the project that you are doing. Plus, the immense pressure of delivering this sequel after 30 years and wanting it to be brilliant."

Wait, How Much Footage? How Many Cameras?

The whole 27-cameras thing is basically unprecedented, but it shows dedication to making sure every angle is represented in a set piece so it can be given to the editor in its fullest form for cutting. After all, the editor is the one who decides, usually in collaboration with the director, exactly what angles need to be seen and how to craft the shots in a way that reflects the action at hand.

This wouldn't be the first time a filmmaker used an excessive amount of cameras for a scene, though the number is certainly higher in the case of "Maverick." In the hit James Bond entry "Skyfall," cinematographer Roger Deakins used a whopping 11 cameras to make sure the tube train crash scene was captured from every angle — though Deakins and "Skyfall" director Sam Mendes have since discussed using less cameras in their future collaborations to lessen the potential of contaminating the shot.

"Top Gun: Maverick" was cut from over 800 hours of footage, which is groundbreaking in its scope. George Miller has previously discussed his own lengthy can of footage from "Mad Max: Fury Road," labeling the 480 hours he shot to be "ridiculous." It's pretty nutty that the Tom Cruise vehicle shot almost double the footage, as the shooting ratio — which helps filmmakers determine how much of their footage they must use—far surpasses "Fury Road" and shows that budget was not a constraint on this picture. 

But ultimately, getting as much footage as possible allows for editors to pick the very best takes and give the film the best look. "When you've got a lot of footage like that and a movie like 'Top Gun,' it has to be awesome from beginning to end," Hamilton told Deadline. "Because the whole audience wants it to be awesome."

Cutting The Film Together

Hamilton also opened up to Deadline about cutting together footage that was shot from inside and outside of the film's fighter jets, revealing that interior shots took place months before the exterior shoots — which created a bit of an issue for the cinematographer.

"I was having to imagine what the exteriors were gonna be. Quite often what we would do is we would have these model jets on wooden sticks, and we would literally move the jets around and film them with our phones, and then put that footage as the exterior shot of a jet, just to show what it was gonna be doing. It was very hard to watch for ages, and it required a lot of imagination. Then months later they would go and they would film the exterior shots, and slowly we would kind of fill in the jigsaw puzzle and refine it."

He also noted that every aerial sequence was originally set to be much longer than what made it to the final cut of the film — and some of them took a really long time to edit.

"The first dog fight scene, where Maverick's shooting the pilots down and they're doing the pushups, started out at about 15 minutes long. In the finished movie it's like four minutes, 50 seconds, so you can imagine it just got compressed and compressed and compressed and compressed, so only the very, very best shots were left at the end. We always wanted it to be this kind of punchy, exciting, dynamic, fun, entertaining sequence. I was editing that sequence for about a year, I would say, on and off almost every day. And it was the last thing we finished in the last week of the final mix."

"Top Gun: Maverick" is available to stream on Paramount+.

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