Wed, 20 Jan 2021 17:24:38 GMT
The way we create content for film and TV is changing. Many of the movies and TV ads you watch are no longer made solely using traditional filmmaking techniques—increasingly, they are being planned out, developed, and enhanced in game engines.
Nowhere is this more true than in automotive advertising. The Mill is a creative content studio that has been driving innovation in this space since 2016. It developed BLACKBIRD, the world’s first fully adjustable car rig that can quickly transform its chassis to match almost any car for a live-action shoot.
Following up on this groundbreaking concept, the pioneering studio created The Human Race, combining the hardware of BLACKBIRD with Unreal Engine’s high-fidelity real-time rendering capabilities. The result is an augmented reality process that enables creatives to instantly visualise a CG car model within live action shots and adjust accordingly.
The Mill has since been battle-testing these real-time innovations on TV advertisements. For the F1 2020 season, it harnessed the power of real-time rendering to deliver high-octane launch promo idents on a tight schedule ahead of Sky’s TV coverage.
Real-time TV ads
The Mill’s original brief for the F1 ads was to create a montage of driving shots of a single racing car. The team opted to create the ads fully in CG, which saw the concept develop into a narrative of racing drivers Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton going head-to-head down the straight of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Unreal Engine is one of the key tools in The Mill’s real-time technology stack. Game engine technology gives the team complete creative flexibility in the edit—on this project, it enabled them to hold 3D previs sessions with Sky where they had the freedom to make real-time iterations.
Alex Hammond is head of 3D at The Mill. For him, real-time workflows provide many advantages compared to traditional methods of creating ads. “Unlike traditional single linear narrative commercials, we develop 3D assets that take advantage of a real-time approach for the purpose of generating multiple versions of content that can be re-used with changes to details within the designed environment or character,” he explains.
New avenues for storytelling
How you ‘tell the story’ for automotive television advertising becomes completely different with real-time technology. Using Unreal Engine, The Mill is able to quickly explore animation and editorial choices that were not previously so fast to conceive.
Previsualisation—visualising complex scenes in a movie before filming—reaches a whole new level, with higher-quality visuals and a much better representation of the final film or content being created. With feedback provided in real time, the team can instantly change camera angles or lighting conditions, which will then automatically populate the edit, allowing for faster iterations and ultimately more outcomes to the film.
“Unreal Engine is like a Pandora's box of tools, which are all designed to emulate real-world and camera effects,” says Hammond. “When you start playing around in a real-time engine, you quickly see the benefits of it as a platform for directors and storytellers.”
A real-time revolution in the automotive industry
Hammond is emphatic when it comes to the impact real-time technology is going to have in the future. “Simply put, real-time workflows will revolutionise the automotive industry,” he says. “At The Mill, we have already used technologies to help car manufacturers visualise their products for rapid prototyping and high-end commercial films.”
Advances in game engine technology have provided the ability to quickly reskin cars, alter paintwork, and adjust details. Showing off these quick alterations in automotive conferences and car showrooms is incredibly appealing, as it becomes a powerful tool to sell vehicles customised exactly to the consumer’s specifications. “Unreal Engine really shines—quite literally—when it comes to rendering cars,” says Hammond. “Seeing super-slick vehicles rendered through a VR headset is really quite impressive.
“The automotive section for real-time is very exciting…and who knows, perhaps you won’t need to visit a Formula One track in order to get up close to the race action in the near future.”
You can download Unreal Engine for free and start experimenting with real-time workflows for yourself today. There’s also a wealth of free guided learning paths and video tutorials available on Unreal Online Learning.
Images courtesy of The Mill