BLACKBIRD - The Mill: The Automotive Industries' Newest Secret Weapon for Filming

From the company that pioneered the use of virtual car reskinning for video use, comes the newest innovation of film technology. The Mill, in partnership with JemFX, Performance Filmworks, and Keslow Camera, launched their new product onto the scene, dubbed "Blackbird." Resembling a mix of a Caterham 7, a dune buggy, and maybe some sort of Batman-esque type vehicle, the Blackbird is a small electric car that has pre-mapped tracking points on it to allow for easy replacement in post.

In addition to providing a physical presence on location, the Blackbird also helps capture and generate its own HDR mapping and laser constructed environment so that after the filming is complete, the car can be replaced with just about any car under the sun that matches the wheelbase. Oh and did I mention you can widen and lengthen the wheelbase with just a push of a button? It can effectively be morphed to match any modern car or SUV. Wheels can be changed out to the right wheels or more accurate wheels for the car. Additionally, the suspension and motor drive system is completely programmable allowing for the car to be programmed to react similarly to the real thing. Have a front wheel drive car that has softer suspension that needs to show a fair amount of body roll in turns? No problem. Have a rear wheel drive car that has stiff suspension and needs to have a firm ride and hug the ground around corners or even engage in a little oversteer? No problem at all.

Video Rendering VFX Wiremesh Videography

In Process Reskinning of Cars for Final Video Rendering

3D VFX Video Automotive Videography

Active Demonstration of the Quick Rendering Software showing the options available in real time.

So what does this all mean? Say the car you so desperately need for a project is unavailable, or whatever driving sequences you are doing are much too dangerous to use a real car for risk of damaging it. Effectively, you can use the Blackbird for the driving sequences and have a picture perfect recreation of the car. To top it off, and this will be especially useful for production companies shooting cars that are still in the prototype phase or undergoing cosmetic changes, filming once with the Blackbird will allow the user to update the physical model being used for the render as many times as needed without the need to re-film. This saves hours and hours of time and heaps of money in the process.

While this technology is impressive, some have also deemed it a threat to people currently heavily involved in the automotive filming industry. Similar in nature to those that worked for years perfecting their craft in the practical effects industry for cinema only to be replaced by CGI. What are your thoughts on this next-generation technology?

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9 Comments

Justin Haugen's picture

Well now. That's a solution for a problem I didn't even know existed. Pretty cool stuff!

Ryan Pramik's picture

Right? That's why even though I focus on automotive I dabble in a lot of different genres and industries just because there are challenges you wouldn't have even considered before.

And this stuff is just awesome.

Fritz John Asuro's picture

I seriously didn't knew that they do this... That's really amazing!

Ryan Pramik's picture

Being in this industry I knew they did this, but not to this extent, still blows my mind when I watch it. Now when I see car adverts on TV I'm scouring the video to see if I can tell its been put in in post production.

That's pretty awesome. Makes me feel like all the work I do is pretty silly when you think about all the ingenuity that goes into something like this.

According to Engadget, the car was built in the same hangar as the Blackbird SR-71, hence its name.

Cool stuff, but no substitute for the real thing.

Well, about a decade ago when I was working with certain manufacture, budget already had exceeded what some game or film productions cost. CGI has been there for pretty long time because of the cost involves.

And locations shoots has been one of the major headache.

If they could shaved off that part of process even slightly bit, they save millions of dollar in production. And if they could shoot it for few models at once (since there are several models that share same chassis within group), they even save some more.

It can be especially true for model that is simple rebadging, and simple change of interior/exterior skin but share pretty much same chassis and powerplant.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

Whaaaat? So cool! I want one ;)