Boys' Toys, where are we going? - part 2 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

by Mike McNamee Published 01/12/2012


From the 2-D drawings of components the increasing power of computers allowed the creation of 3-D images, virtual drawings that could be spun around so you could even peer into the nooks and crannies of a design.

These same computer files are today used for stress analysis, calculation of weights, materials lists and costs and, in the ultimate expression, the computer file is used in a process called 'rapid prototyping' to make a solid object. The latest use of the 3-D file is for CGI applications. Now an entire motor car can be 'imposed' into an image so the car looks like it is parked outside a country house, in Monument Valley or whatever. And so by a long development path we have arrived at the photo opportunity of CGI - here is how it works.

The computer-based model, dropped into a scene can be adjusted for size, angle of view and perspective. But to look truly real the reflections, highlights and shadows on a car must be those made by the surroundings.


In order to provide this information an immersive 360° panorama has to be made available as well as the high-resolution 'backplate' or scene image. The panorama provides the computer with the required information on where the lighting is, and what the reflections should look like. The computer informs the software how shiny (reflective) the surfaces are so that chrome reflects everything and glass both reflects and transmits whatever is in front and behind it. If the placed 3-D model is moved, the reflections and shadows move accordingly. It's all done by software.

By now you might be wondering if it might not be easier to drive the car to the location and photograph it in situ. This is the least likely alternative for several reasons:
1. The car might only exist in the designer's eye
2. The car might only be available as a clay model
3. The car-maker might be (rightly) terrified of competitors and magazine spies seeing their new design.

Such is the paranoia over allowing designs to be 'leaked', when it comes to on-road testing, away from even a secure test track, the cars will be shrouded in padded 'coats' to disguise their features. If the car has to be 'clean' for aerodynamic assessments then a disruptive paint pattern will be used to confuse prying cameras. The whole thing is a massive cat and mouse game with 'scoop' photographers hanging out in likely locations and even employing helicopters as spy platforms.

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1st Published 01/12/2012
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