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Chevrolet’s Groundbreaking Augmented Reality Camaro Film

BY: Alex Perrone

NEW YORK, USA - MARCH 23, 2016: Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on display during the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center.
As a special honor the 50th anniversary of Chevy’s iconic muscle car, the Camaro, Chevy has teamed up with video game developer Epic Games and The Mill, a London-based virtual reality studio to create a groundbreaking short film.

Titled “A Human Race,” the film uses Epic’s trademark graphics and virtual physics technology known as the Unreal Engine with The Mill’s virtual vehicle production toolkit, the Mill Cyclops™.

The short film is groundbreaking for the ways it technology above  beyond many current limitations of real-time computer rendering and modeling capabilities. This could be the film of the future, in terms of production techniques.

It’s essentially an interactive simulation of a heated race between the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 versus the Chevrolet FNR concept car.

How did they do that?

It turns out the only physical vehicle filmed was the Mill BLACKBIRD®, which we have talked about before, the fully adjustable rig that enables filmmakers to insert any car model into any filmed or simulated area. As fans of movies, we’ve learned that in your average blockbuster computer generated cars are usually added in post production by visual effects teams. That process could take upwards of weeks. The Mill and the Unreal Engine are game-changers in that during filming, the live video and positional data from the Array tracking system were fed directly into a computer system. That system renders a Camaro seamlessly and in real time.  That has the advantage of letting the directors to instantly see the final look and composition of each shot.

The director will be able to program the Blackbird to move and react like the car it’s playing would. On their screens they’ll see the star doing a full Daniel Day-Lewis and disappear into the role completely. This is thanks to the innovative live rendering tech that lets you see it all immediately.

Even at a mere 2½-minute long, the short is being well received. The VR experience places viewers into the middle of a race between the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Chevrolet FNR autonomous concept car. It’s a literal battle between man and machine that YOU get to be a part of.

“The ZL1 wins,” Sam Russell, Chevrolet’s general director of global marketing, told Automotive News. “Humans win over AI in our version of events.”

Regardless if this pays off for Camaros, WE win

This real-time technology used to create, alter and produce the short film forever blurs any distinction between film production and post production. Long since theorized by many filmmakers over the years, being able to make ‘final pixels’ in real time is the next step in how filmmakers create content and make decisions. The cinematic storytelling and real-time visual effects of this short probably won’t be up for Oscars anytime but they’ve now expanded the narrative possibilities via tech. The augmented reality nature of the production also means audience no longer default to a passive viewing experience. You can effect change in films in ways even video games are limited by. This is a totally interactive live action cinema experience.

As if that wasn’t enough of an ambitious project, the Camaro’s anniversary will see all sorts of specials throughout this year.

While it should be noted that Chevrolet sales were down 1.4 percent in 2016 and Camaro sales slipped 6.2 percent the same year, Chevy is sparing no expense to celebrate 50 years with this car.

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