Epic Games, Chevy and The Mill present ‘The Human Race’
Adding visual effects to advertising is a notoriously labor-intensive postproduction process. But Chevrolet this week premiered a slick commercial that used technology from Epic Games and The Mill to allow the filmmakers to render virtual cars over live-action footage in real time—and see exactly how the scenes would look as they were being shot.
First, check out the film:
There were many technologies at play here. The first is The Mill’s Blackbird—a fully adjustable rig that acts as a skeleton for any CG automobile you want to layer over the top of it. (This story explains a lot more about the Blackbird, which won an Innovation Lion at Cannes last year.)
Here’s a shot of the Blackbird:
Automakers can use the Blackbird to simulate any vehicle, skinning it with CG in post. But for “The Human Race,” the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1—which is seen racing against the Chevrolet FNR autonomous concept car—was rendered and composited seamlessly in real time using augmented reality.
This was accomplished by using game technology from Epic’s Unreal Engine (which enables real-time rendering of very high-quality CG) along with The Mill’s proprietary virtual production toolkit, Mill Cyclops.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes video that explains more:
Sam Russell, general director of global Chevrolet marketing, spoke about the project during the Epic Games/Unreal Engine keynote address at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco this week.
He cited three main problems that an advertiser like Chevrolet has in filming car commercials. First, the new models are usually still in engineering when the ad people need to shoot them; second, filming the actual cars on the road risks that the new designs can be leaked to the media and public; and third, agency and production creatives need to be able to see the new car in the context of its filmed environment during a commercial shoot.
Using Blackbird and add the CG car in post solves the first two problems. Only the production process used to produce “The Human Race” can solve the third problem.
You can hear Russell talk about the project here.
Clearly this could be a game changer for auto shoots, but the applications could be broader too. Chevy says it’s excited about how the technology has the potential to impact consumer engagement—giving customers access to a configurator that could generate real-time results of a personalized version of a car they might be interested in buying.