A deep-dive into one of the most expensive shots in cinematic history

Hmm. Doing the maths, it seem 80k is what Endgame cost per frame.

All of them.


I have not seen that, but have a big soft spot for Carlito’s Way, to me it’s quite a different gangster movie from the norm and possibly Sean Penn’s best role ever. (Plus of course there’s Scarface, depending on how you feel about that)

Oh, and personally I also really dig his much-loathed Snake Eyes, as I’m a sucker for in-real-time films and Nic Cage is at his most OTT, eyeball-swivelling, scenery-chewing madness.


The shot is less than 10 seconds long and can be seen very shortly after 3 mins into the video.

At least with the Concorde the expense is somewhat explicable.

In listening to the audiobook about the production of The Office, I was surprised to learn that the Jim and Pam engagement scene (in the rain at the rest stop) cost $250K to film and was the most expensive scene in the show. After a bunch of location-scouting out west failed to turn up a rest stop that looked like the one the showrunner envisioned, and after being turned down by (I think) Exxon to film at an actual east-coast stop, they basically constructed what I think of as a Merritt-Parkway-style rest stop in a Hollywood lot, used special-effects rain, and had cars drive in a figure eight back and forth to give the illusion that the camera crew was filming from across a busy highway.


I mean, if they’d really been willing to go all in on a British spelling, it would have been Concourd.

Since nobody has said it here yet and it deserves to be said- that’s a fucking amazing shot. The heat waves from the engine exhaust, the huge setting sun perfectly framing the jet as it flares for landing, with the Empire State Building filling the right third (which by the way is 15 miles away).

If you know the first thing about photography, this is all mind blowing. I make my living in amateur video production and have some photography training, but honestly, I’m not sure I would have believed that shot was possible. What goddam lens can pull the building in from 15 miles away while holding depth of field perfectly on that jet? How the hell did they focus pull that? How did they shoot directly into the sun which such good dynamic range? That lens would have to be stopped all the way up to pull in the building, which should have blown out the exposure on the jet, but they made it work somehow. The mind boggles.

The story (which makes the video a great watch) of how the guy did it because DePalma basically said that shot could never be made good makes it all the better. People poo-pooing this because it wasn’t so expensive after all or the movie is bad or whatever are missing the Wonderful Thing that this is.


I’m curious as to how they insured that they would make the 30 second landing window given that it is a busy airport. That seems like one of the most challenging logistical issues.

As to the filming, the write up in The Devil’s Candy is good, but lacking in technical details. It’s frustrating that old issues of American Cinematographer are not on-line, and my local library wouldn’t have had microfiche versions (and the idea of reading AC on low res, black and white microfiche is also kind of appalling) if they even still had microfiche.

The lens needed isn’t as long as I’d thought it would need to be were Schwab / Depalma to have been shooting 35mm spherical (the book doesn’t say what format the movie was shot in and I’m not going try to calculate for anamorphic formats).

Anyway, the sun is about a half degree wide, and the still frame in the video is about 3 and 1/4 sun diameters across, so about 1.6 degrees. An 800mm lens on Super 35 or 35 1.85 wide screen is 1.8 degrees horizontal coverage.


(I had to manually enter the 24.89mm x 18.66mm Super 35 format into the calculator.)


According to the IMDB you were right

Runtime 2 hr 5 min (125 min)
Sound Mix 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby Stereo (35 mm prints)
Color Color
Aspect Ratio 1.85 : 1
Camera Panavision Camera and Lenses
Laboratory Technicolor, Hollywood (CA), USA (color)
Negative Format 35 mm (Eastman EXR 50D 5245, EXR 500T 5296)
Cinematographic Process Super 35
Printed Film Format 35 mm (spherical)
70 mm (blow-up)


It’s a fantastic video and flew by if you are dithering. Not having seen the movie he makes a compelling case that while the movie is a failure there are parts that are sublime (the visual storytelling). I feel though that he misses a point when saying that the satire is toothless, the characters poor, that it’s unfunny without mentioning that the source novel is risible shite with no redeeming characteristics whatever.

It’s a bad novel, badly written, with poor dialogue, embarrassing exposition, typical Wolfe use of unnecessary large words for no purpose other than thinking it makes him look smart while also salting the text with tedious explanations which demonstrate his contempt for the reader.

Don’t touch that pile of toxic shit with someone else’s.


Yeah. People loved Electric Kool-aid Acid Test (I didn’t), but now Wolfe already seems justly forgotten.


Excellent figuring! 800mm indeed. Such a great shot.


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