The Mill BLACKBIRD: The Car That Can Transform Itself

The Mill BLACKBIRD: The Car That Can Transform Itself

By on Sep 19 2016

Special effects have completely transformed film and video productions—with the help of SFX makeup, green screens, CGI and other technological advancements, production companies can turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. But though looks and locations could be transformed as if by magic, there’s one aspect of filming that was lagging behind in SFX advancement: automobiles. Until now.

In a collaboration with JemFX, Performace Filmworks, and Keslow Camera, The Mill (a VFX and Creative Content Studio) has created the very first fully adjustable car rig that can transform itself into virtually any car.

The BLACKBIRD®: Winner Cannes Lions Gold Innovation award

At its core, the Blackbird is an electric car with a transformable chassis that can replicate the exact length and width of virtually any car—whether a Fiat or a limousine. With the car’s technology, it can be programmed to imitate acceleration curves and gearing shifts—and the adjustable suspension adjusts ride height, rigidity, and dampening to replicate driving characteristics to model those of the chosen model. All you’ve got to do is bring your own wheels.

A chameleon of video production (just add some CG renderings)

The transformation occurs similar to the process of capturing an actor or actresses’ likeness to transform it into a computer generated-image—lots of funky little dots. The production team then uses motion capture techniques to superimpose a new body over the frame. Super fancy cameras, along with rendering the car, can even match the reflections of real world surroundings, thanks to all the computers and sensors that ride shotgun with the single driver’s seat.

Because the Blackbird is real, it adds extra authenticity, rather than an entirely computer-generated effect—potholes, puddles, leaves, and all other elements of the real world (or film set) all affect the Blackbird as they would a regular car.

The Blackbird opens all kinds of possibilities for those involved in the production industry. Transporting cars to various locations can be expensive—especially when said cars are priceless classics or ultra-fancy, flashy supercars. The insurance alone could be budget-blowing, not to mention the potential difficulty in simply finding exactly what you needed.

So the Blackbird could benefit Hollywood and Television studios alike, not to mention car companies that want to have commercials or other video footage of their vehicles that technically aren’t built yet. Or else involve trade secrets. But something needs to be drivable, right? There needs to be some footage of something.

One thing this vehicle cannot do, however, is transform itself into a big truck—but those days are probably in the near future, if the concept takes off.

The Blackbird might not be able to fly (yet), but boy can she sure sing.

*Featured image from

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