Historically, most automotive content for movies or commercials relied on car availability and model revisions, while sometimes hampered by limited access to locations. Furthermore, some scenes may require the vehicle to be wrecked - an expensive practice if high-end vehicles are used.
Computer-generated imagery has become increasingly prevalent in advertising and cinema, allowing for intense chase scenes and epic explosions, but creative firm The Mill reckons its Blackbird is a whole other level of authenticity.
The firm has devised a one-size-fits-all solution, with the Blackbird developed as an adjustable car rig that can be manipulated to mimic almost any car in the world to create CGI vehicles.
The Blackbird can be shot at any time, in any location and without the need to rely on an actual production or rebodied car, opening up a whole new world of opportunities for directors seeking a dramatic visual automotive sequence without having to source an expensive new car or a rare classic, let alone have a replica built.
Like an octopus, the Blackbird is able to contort itself to match the exact length and width of just about any car. It’s powered by an electric motor, and can be programmed to imitate acceleration curves and gearing shifts.
Adjustable suspension alters the ride height, rigidity and damping to replicate typical driving characteristics of different models in various environments.
As for its name, the Blackbird was hand-built in the same hanger that housed the manufacture of the Blackbird SR-71 supersonic jet. The Blackbird’s name pays tribute to the aircraft’s legacy.
Not only can the rig be captured on film, but it can take quality footage itself using an array of cameras and tailor-made stabilisation system.
A combination of 3D laser scanning and high-dynamic-range imagery allows the Blackbird to generate a virtual rendering of its environment.
The Mill has also developed a bespoke Blackbird application that allows you to see the intended vehicle in CGI, tracking live over the rig on location.
Alistair Thompson, International Executive Vice President for The Mill, said: “We can unequivocally say that The Mill's Blackbird is a tool to solve real problems for the advertising industry”.
“It was the genuine needs of our advertising clients that made the Blackbird happen and their constant support and input has shaped its design and made it the game changing innovation that it has become.”
“We hope it will continue to provide inspiration for the whole industry and most importantly, in turn, our clients will create ways of using it that we have not even comprehended yet. This is what excites us the most,” he added.