June 25, 2016

This Fully Adjustable Blackbird Car Rig Can Become Any CG Car You Want It to Be

Something very interesting is going on over at The Mill—you could even call it revolutionary for automotive advertising.

Just days ago, London-based VFX studio The Mill unveiled the Blackbird, a car rig built with a fully adjustable chassis, a programmable electric motor, as well as onboard cameras and lasers that produce "100% realistic CG renderings" of virtually any car in the world. Essentially, this thing can become whichever car you want—past, present, or future.

Knowing that the Blackbird can shapeshift into virtually any car imaginable, car manufacturers won't be forced to reshoot commercials every time a new model comes out.

With its array of cameras and custom stabilization unit, the Blackbird uses a combination of high dynamic range imagery and 3D laser scanning to create a virtual version of the environment in which it's driving. This allows users to apply photorealistic CG overlays in order to transform the Blackbird into whichever car they desire. The suspension can be modified at the click of a button in order to mimic any real-world vehicle, with a wheelbase that can be adjusted by 4' in length and 10" in width. 

Credit: The Mill

The Blackbird also accepts wheel lugs from all car manufacturers, which means it can be outfitted with any type of wheel of the market. The electric engine can be programmed to emulate the driving characteristics of almost any vehicle.

Furthermore, The Mill developed a bespoke Blackbird AR application "that allows you to see the intended vehicle in CG, tracked live over the rig on location." This means users (and clients) can see what different cars would look like in the recorded shot. 

Credit: The Mill

The Blackbird spent two years in development with the help of JemFX, Performance Filmworks, and Keslow Camera. It'll be interesting to see how it will be used in advertising. The Mill's International Executive VP Alistair Thompson says:

We can unequivocally say that The Mill BLACKBIRD® is a tool to solve real problems for the advertising industry. It is no vanity project. It was the genuine needs of our advertising clients that made the Blackbird happen and their constant support and input have shaped its design and made it the game-changing innovation that it has become. The Blackbird journey has only just begun though and the technology and the thinking behind it will evolve.

Credit: The Mill

Knowing that the Blackbird can shapeshift into virtually any car imaginable, car manufacturers won't be forced to reshoot commercials every time a new model comes out—in fact, footage shot with the Blackbird can be repurposed with new CG overlays of current vehicles. But though it may have been created with automotive advertising in mind, we may also see a huge change in how action films that feature car chases are made. Only time will tell.     

Your Comment

6 Comments

Wow, that is pretty amazing.

Will this start the age of stock car commercials? ;-)

June 26, 2016 at 8:10AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9004

I shot an in-house conference for the company that bought this company, the creators said it has some limitations like shooting actors entering or exiting the vehicle..they said they are developing a larger one to accommodate for trucks and vans
Other than that this thing is amazing, totally stole the show at the conference

June 26, 2016 at 4:16PM

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John Lee
108

Maybe I missed it, but how do they solve for the light and reflections coming onto the car from different light sources?

June 28, 2016 at 2:29PM

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Davey
147

From those cameras in a spherical formation on top of the car.

June 29, 2016 at 4:53PM

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Andy
74

That's insane, in a good way. Wow!

July 1, 2016 at 4:08PM

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I love working in a field that pushes boundaries like this! Awesome to see.

July 16, 2016 at 1:23PM

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Mark Moran
Director/Editor
74