Memphis Belle Corrections

Original film still

Original film still

Final shot.

Final shot.

Re-created shot with all digital aircraft

Re-created shot with all digital aircraft

Over a dozen separate pieces of nose art were created for the shot - some were only visible for a few seconds during the film!

Over a dozen separate pieces of nose art were created for the shot - some were only visible for a few seconds during the film!

Each aircraft had subtle variations in color and texturing, as well as unique markings matched as closely to the film-aircraft. In reality, the production only utilized 4 B-17s and aircraft were repainted (by hand!) between photo missions.

Each aircraft had subtle variations in color and texturing, as well as unique markings matched as closely to the film-aircraft. In reality, the production only utilized 4 B-17s and aircraft were repainted (by hand!) between photo missions.

G for "Generic" had a low poly version for distance shots to fill out the formation without overtaxing our  workstations!

G for "Generic" had a low poly version for distance shots to fill out the formation without overtaxing our workstations!

B-17 lighting, blocking & animation test.

Digital recreation of a shot from Memphis Belle (1990) with P-51s replaced by period-correct P-47s from the 334th FS, 4th FG (The Famed 'Eagle Squadrons')

When it's 1990 and (hardly) any P-47s are available to shoot your movie that's set in mid 1943, you use Mustangs - totally fair! We love P-51s and will take any chance to see them on screen we can get.

...but!

When it's 2023 and you love aviation history and know that in May of 1943 the USAAF would have been flying P-47Cs with no drop tanks (yet), you can do something about it!

Memphis Belle (1990) is one of our favourite movies. The use of actual aircraft for the extensive aerial sequences combined with mostly hand-held camera work lends a gritty authenticity to the shots that you just don't get with pristine, perfectly framed gyroscopically-stabilized camera ships.

It was a real challenge to match the camera movements, color grading, feel and sound of this shot, but in the end - I think our love of the source material won out and got us pretty close!

- The first two shots are entirely digital recreations of the original shots, with matched camera and aircraft movement. The original 3-ship of Mustangs in the first shot and 2-ship breaking into the attack in the second was impressive, but we had the opportunity to add extra airplanes to the mix so we took it! We also had some fun with sound design here as we unleashed the sounds of the proper R-2800 engines over the top of the instantly-recognizable Merlin engine sound mix from the P-51s. We sought to enhance, not replace the existing film audio, which is already terrific.

- For the third shot, we again matched the camera and aircraft motion, but we preserved the original background cloudscape by digitally removing the P-51s from the shot and replacing them with P-47s.

- For the fourth shot, we first stabilized the existing footage, shot from a camera ship with a lot of bouncing around going on, then removed the Mustangs from the shot, matching the Thunderbolts to their movements. There are 192 frames in this shot and every last one of them needed hand keyed animation and a lot of massaging to get the motion 'just so.'

We also added a few extra Buchons (Messerschmitts) into the shot to emphasize the underdog status of the US forces. See if you can tell the new bandits from the old ones?

Don't ask us why the P-47s didn't fire during the head-on pass, but they sure look badass stoically facing down the might of the Luftwaffe!

After the shots were rendered and composited, we re-introduced some camera vibration, blurring, noise, color grading, and more sound design.

It was a fun project, and one we learned a lot on.

Original Footage Copyright Warner Brothers, used for educational purposes only.