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Skies over Skull Island: Godzilla x Kong

Posted on Mar 13, 2024

In The New Empire, Godzilla and Kong go head to head in an epic showdown. The Marzano Films team share how they helped capture the aerial action

Coming this April from Legendary Films, Godzilla x Kong is a monster mashup to end them all. Marking the 38th film of the Godzilla franchise and the 13th outing for Kong, The New Empire follows its duo of hulking heroes as they battle against a threat to their own – and humanity’s – existence, exploring the titans’ origin stories and the mysteries of Skull Island.

During production, the filmmakers embarked on a globetrotting adventure to capture the colossal clash, enlisting the help of Marzano Films to provide equipment and crew for a combined aerial and ground shoot by their VFX unit, directed by Alessandro Ongaro.

The journey began in Iceland, where Marzano worked with True North Productions and the helicopter team at Nordurflug, which provided an AS350 B2 helicopter flown by legendary pilot Jon Bjornsson. For this expedition, they installed the Marzano Films Eclipse XLHD 6 camera array system onto their helicopter, configuring the array with six 8K RED WEAPON HELIUM cameras (supplied by Brownian Motion) in a toed-in arrangement in a 2×3 matrix.

Stitching together all six images in post-production was complicated, but it ultimately provided a 70-megapixel image with a 145° horizontal and 120° vertical field of view. Marzano Films shot using six of its own matched Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lenses, networking and syncing the cameras for seamless, unified camera and lens control.

After the frigid landscapes of Iceland, the next stop was the sun-kissed shores of Gibraltar, where Marzano’s aerial coordinator Jenni Saunders worked tirelessly with production and multiple agencies to design flight paths that satisfied not just environmental considerations, but the stringent requirements of military bases close to the desired filming locations.

After some headaches, Marzano Films secured permissions for close-proximity flights, allowing the team to capture important footage for the production narrative. For the helicopter work, they switched the camera system to the smaller and lighter Mini Eclipse, teamed with an ARRI ALEXA Mini LF and FUJINON Premista 28-100mm zoom.

Equally at home on the ground or in the air, the Marzano team made the most of the Mini Eclipse’s impressive flexibility. When John Marzano, BSC associate and GBCT member, had to shoot in the morning from the helicopter, the crew could remove the camera and lens from the Mini Eclipse system, reconfigure it in less than 30 minutes for ground work, and have the team ready to shoot ground plates in the afternoon.

The final stop for the VFX team was Rome, which presented challenges as an aerial filming environment. The Italian aviation authorities have strict rules regarding helicopter operations over the city – and thanks to abuse of these regulations by several productions over the years, permission to fly low over any of the ancient architecture is often denied. Marzano Films leant on relationships with helicopter operators around the world, and its pilots, to assist in the planning and permit process, and once again managed to seal the deal. Working with the Italian aviation authority, Saunders secured flight levels that enabled the team to fulfil the Godzilla x Kong storyboards. “With the support of the Legendary VFX team, collaborating with multiple aviation agencies was smooth and efficient,” says Saunders. “We’re looking forward to seeing the fruits of the hard work on the big screen.”

This story appears in the March 2024 issue of Definition. Read the full magazine here.

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