Are the Planes in Masters of the Air Real or CGI?

Apple TV+’s ‘Masters of the Air’ is a thrilling war drama that never has a dull moment. The show takes the audience through the journey of the 100th Bomb Squad, as every member of the unit experiences war firsthand and comes face to face with its horrors. If the setting of the war was not enough to dial up the danger, it increased tenfold for the squadron because of the planes. Because the planes form such an important part of the story, one is bound to wonder how much of them is real in the show.

Masters of the Air Creators Worked With Replicas of B-17 Planes

In making ‘Masters of the Air,’ the show’s creators were intent on making it as realistic as possible. For the purpose of the show, they recreated a US Air Force base in Buckinghamshire and displayed a similar enthusiasm for the making of the planes. The production had three purpose-built replicas of B-17s, which were built down to the last detail. According to the show’s creators, they had everything, except they couldn’t be flown. So, for the movement of the planes, they were attacked by cranes and rigs to allow them the movement their plane would experience 25000ft in the air while dodging enemy fire.

Considering that the real B-17 was rather narrow, the crew realized that they couldn’t film the scenes without being completely packed. So, the replicas were given a bit more space, making them wider than the real B-17. This space allowed for the proper movement of cameras, making the scenes more realistic.

In all the scenes in the show where the cast is seen inside a plane, they are actually inside the replicas, placed several feet in the air. While it was clear that they couldn’t shoot at the height the B-17s flew at, they did need to show enemy fire, giving the actors a way to react to the situation. For this, CGI was brought into the equation using The Volume.

About 20 to 25 screens were placed around the planes to give the actors the impression that they were actually in the sky, surrounded by the enemies and being continuously fired at. The movement of the planes was controlled by rigs and gimbals, making the movement entirely real for the actors, bringing their experience closer to what someone in their characters’ shoes would feel. The screens around them allowed the actors to react in real-time, giving a better push to their performances.

It wasn’t just the planes and the CGI screens that helped them get into the heart of the scene. The actors spent around 5-6 hours inside the plane filming the scenes, packed with cameras around them and in a layer of clothes that made the entire thing pretty uncomfortable. They experienced the feeling of being trapped inside the plane and also got a touch of the cold that their characters would feel. The production allowed them to be more natural about their performances, where they didn’t have to force anything out. Instead, they got a taste (even if a fraction) of what their characters would have felt like in real life, and this helped elevate the performances.

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