Top Gun: Maverick director reveals mind-boggling number of cameras used on set

Tom Cruise on the set of Top Gun: Maverick
(Image credit: © 2022 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.)

We’ve tested our fair share of serious photographic hardware here at TechRadar, but Top Gun: Maverick’s truly ridiculous film camera setup has put even our world-weary heads in a tailspin.

In an exclusive interview with TechRadar to promote the upcoming blockbuster, Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski lifted the lid on just how he and his team came to shoot more than 800 hours of footage (813, to be exact) for the movie, which is set to release in the UK on May 25 and globally May 27.

“Part of that [amount of footage] was just the result of having so many cameras running,” the Spiderhead filmmaker told us. “We had six [Sony VENICE] cameras in the cockpit. We had two jets running simultaneously. So that's 12 cameras. We had four cameras doing ground-to-air, one to two cameras doing air-to-air, and we had cameras mounted on the outside of the aeroplanes.”

That’s 20 different snappers, by our count. “Some of those cameras had to be turned on when the planes took off and turned off when it landed,” Kosinski added. “So just from the sheer amount of cameras running, you're generating that much footage.” 

But as the director revealed, an abundance of cameras is no guarantee of filmographic success: “When it comes to aerial photography, you might shoot a 14-hour day and get one to two minutes of great stuff. And that's just the nature of shooting practical aerials, because you're talking about very fast moving objects, passing each other occasionally.”

Monica Barbaro and Tom Cruise on the set of Top Gun: Maverick

Monica Barbaro and Tom Cruise on the set of Top Gun: Maverick (Image credit: © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All rights reserved.)

As for how Kosinski and company made use of those 14-hour days, he and his crew maintained a rigorous production schedule. “We would do a two hour briefing in the morning with all the pilots, the actors, Tom [Cruise], the editor and cinematographer,” Kosinski told us, “and we'd go through every single shot of the day – I think I did like 3800 storyboards – so we always had a plan.”

“Then we’d do a one hour rehearsal in a buck, which is essentially a mock up of the F-18 cockpit. The actor and the naval aviator flying with them would be on the ground next to me, and we'd again go through and rehearse everything from putting the visor down to sweat on the face to turning the cameras on.”

Only then, after all this preparation, would the movie’s stars actually take to the skies: “Then they'd go up and fly for an hour,” Kosinski said. “They'd come back, we’d load the footage in, we'd watch it, give them notes and send them back up again. So it was a highly rehearsed process.”

That painstaking commitment to achieving the desired aerial results certainly paid off. In our five-star review of Top Gun: Maverick, we said that Kosinski and Cruise successfully deliver "a string of aerial stunt sequences that truly raise the bar for edge-of-your-seat action," adding that "it's easy to feel as if you’re right up there with Maverick and the other pilots travelling at speeds nearing 1,000mph."

We’ll be sharing more insight from the the cast and crew of Top Gun: Maverick in the coming days, so stay tuned to TechRadar ahead of the movie's long-awaited release in theaters later this week. 

Axel Metz
Senior Staff Writer

Axel is a London-based Senior Staff Writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest movies as part of the site's daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.