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The Mill’s Blackbird Camera Car Is a Real-Life Autobot

Michael Maher

VFX studio The Mill built their own adaptable camera car to replace any vehicle imaginable in post.

Top image via The Mill

The Mill's Blackbird Camera Car is a Real Life Autobot: In action

The Mill teamed up with Performance FilmworksJemFX, and Keslow to create the ultimate camera car. Unlike other camera cars and trailers, the new Blackbird camera car is designed to fully replace any type of vehicle in post. This is great for The Mill, because it allows them to use this vehicle for all of their car commercials and VFX work in film and television. 

Take a look at the vehicle in action.

This car took two years to develop. The rig can be used at any time of day, in any location. Best, it doesn’t rely on the final physical vehicle in any capacity. The Blackbird is literally a transformer, with a chassis that can adapt to match the exact length and width of nearly every car.

The Mill's Blackbird Camera Car is a Real Life Autobot: Up Close
Image via The Mill

The car is powered by an electric motor and can be programmed to imitate another vehicles acceleration curves and shifting gears. The adjustable suspension allows the Blackbird to change its height, rigidity, and dampening.

The Mill's Blackbird Camera Car is a Real Life Autobot: Endless Possibilities

This car can actually replicate other vehicles, giving it chameleon-like powers that allow the VFX team to go in and drop a CG body on top of the Blackbird.

The Mill's Blackbird Camera Car is a Real Life Autobot: SR71
Image via Lockheed Martin

The Blackbird is named after the Blackbird SR-71 jet, as the technicians from JemFX actually built the car in the same hanger the plane was manufactured.

The Blackbird camera car is equipped with a tailor-made camera array and stabilization unit. Performance Filmworks technician Lev Yevstratov holds several patents for his stabilization tech. The cameras have a high dynamic range, which allows The Mill to create a virtual version of the car’s location — giving them 3D laser-scanning capabilities. This produces 100% realistic CG renderings. With these capabilities, The Mill can use the Blackbird AR app to see a live CG rendering of the vehicle on location. 

The Mill's Blackbird Camera Car is a Real Life Autobot: Sleek
Image via The Mill

The Mill’s International Executive Vice President, Alistair Thompson, has this so say about the Blackbird, its development, and future use.

We can unequivocally say that The Mill BLACKBIRD® is a tool to solve real problems for the advertising industry. It is no vanity project. 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. The Blackbird journey has only just begun though and the technology and the thinking behind it will evolve. 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!

For more on the vehicle, check out The Mill’s Blackbird release.


What do you think about the Blackbird? Awesome, right? Yup.