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Car and Driver: This Chameleon Car Is a Stand-In for Any Car in TV Commercials


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-Here’s the annoying thing about shooting an ad for a car: You have to have the car. That sounds like a pretty basic requirement but starts turning into a real hassle when it comes to minor model revisions. Suddenly, all those pretty clips you shot last year are useless. The solution? Just use the Blackbird, and no one will be any the wiser.


The Blackbird is not a looker, but with a wheelbase that can extend an extra four feet in length and a front and rear track that can pop out 1o inches in width, that hardly matters. Just get the wheels in the right place, tweak the suspension along with the electric motor, and worry about the rest in post. No, seriously.



The Blackbird was built by The Mill, a London-based VFX company that won an Oscar for its work on Gladiator back in 2001, and whose work with CGI cars is all over the release trailer for its new rig. The compositing process works not just by using the Blackbird’s adjustable wheelbase, suspension, and programmable electric motor to replicate the performance of any car you want; it’s also got a laser scanner mounted up top, which records the surroundings so the footage can be used to make sure that everything around the CGI car’s nonexistent edges looks just right.


Using CGI in car commercials isn’t a new trend. One producer for a post-production company told News.com.au that most car commercials were already dabbling with the tech back in 2009:


“In the higher-end market, I would say at least 80 to 90 percent [of commercials] would contain CGI. At least 80 percent of car ads would.”


The Blackbird just makes it easier. While the tech is certainly impressive, it is sort of unnerving to know that so many of the cars you see in advertising aren’t even there. So just keep in mind that you won’t have a real idea of how these things handle until you get a chance to give them a virtual-reality test drive.


This story originally appeared on Popular Mechanics via Digg.


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