The Vehicle Making Car Commercials a Beautiful, Digital Lie

One production company has built a shape-shifting electric car. Their goal?


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Traditionally, if you wanted to film an epic car commercial, it required a film crew, a closed-off location and, of course, the car. Thats one hell of an undertaking to begin with, but the people at The Mill production company point out that shooting with the actual car is dependent on vehicle availability, and with ever-evolving models, car commercials have a relatively short shelf life. Their solution? Don’t shoot with the actual car.

The Mill has developed the Blackbird, essentially a bare-bones placeholder for the real vehicle being shot in the commercial — think of it as almost the Ditto of the automotive world. It’s designed to mimic just about any car: the wheels are interchangeable with those of any model, the chassis itself is scalable to the basic shape and proportions of the commercial subject, and the electric motor can be tuned to replicate the driving characteristics of the car as well. The whole thing is then re-skinned digitally (the company also uses augmented reality on set to see how it will look fully rendered), so it can be used to film a Chevy Spark advertisement one day, then an Aston Martin spot the next. What’s more, when a car undergoes a refresh or a facelift, companies won’t have to reshoot a new commercial — they can simply retouch the original commercial.

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