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Building a Russian Plane
As with his previous film projects, which include the HBO epic miniseries The Pacific and The Bourne Ultimatum, Williams knew both creative and logistical considerations must be factored into his concepts for the film's main action sequences. By far, the biggest challenge for Williams and his crew would be the Antonov sequence, the film's biggest set piece, which saw the final showdown among Dom, Hobbs and Shaw and their respective teams.

Since an actual Russian Antonov plane can be difficult to come by, the crew would need to fabricate full-scale, fully functional exterior and interior versions of the plane. Working closely alongside production designer Jan Roelfs and construction manager JOHN MAHER was the first step in designing the Hollywood version of the plane. Logically, it was determined that the best approach would be to break it down into pieces.

They would ultimately craft separate, entirely functional exterior plane pieces -- from 6-foot-high plane tires, the rear cargo hold ramp and a skeleton of the entire wing span (visual effects would lay in the skin in postproduction) to a full-size 40-ton section of the undercarriage that could be stationary or towed by a semi-truck for filming (driving for shots at speeds up to 30-35 mph). Second unit director of photography Meglic would enhance these exterior sets by customizing his own mobile lighting system, also affixed to a semi-truck to create light (since the entire sequence takes place at night).

Two separate plane interior sets, each with spectacularly different uses, would wow both cast and crew when filming began in early October. The first, known as the shaker rig, served as the plane fuselage -- a 120-foot-long elevated set affixed to a hydraulic gimbal that shook to varying degrees. The lowest, level one, would initiate mild vibrations, while the highest setting, level 11, would invoke violent seismic jolts. A rear cargo ramp also integrated into the construction, allowing vehicles to drive up into the set.

Williams' goal for the plane interior was to make it look and operate authentically. The intricate mechanizations would be the priority, especially when it came to creating a setting to shoot believable action for the actors and the camera. The interior portion of the scene was shot over two weeks and was a shared effort between multiple departments. This labor-intensive fight sequence involved precise choreography among the nine actors and multiple cameras filming the action. Tight quarters inside the set meant that cast and crew had to compete for real estate with pallets of cargo stacked throughout the interiors. Not to mention, they needed to make room for the Charger, the Alfa Romeo and the Flip Car.

Cinematographer Windon devised a clever ceiling-based lighting system that ran the full length of the set and offered minimal lighting set-ups, but much-needed latitude to capture the multiple fights happening throughout the 120-foot-long elevated set.

The second interior set was a midsection of the plane, with an outer skin that spun up to a 270-degree revolution. This rotisserie gimbal simulated violent shaking of the plane as it spiraled out of control. It was a dizzying sight to watch the elevated set turn from the floor of the soundstage, but when viewing the footage from cameras placed inside the set, anyone witnessing the sequence was awestruck.

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