McLaren’s stunning light painting
McLaren light painting
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Nov 2012   |  11:17 am GMT  |  27 comments

F1 fans will be familiar with the way that aerodynamicists explore air flow lines over a car, working with wind tunnels but also at circuits with flo-viz paint, to see how the air passes over a car.

But here is something which takes the exploration of aerodynamic lines to a new – almost artistic – level. It’s a ‘light painting’, done on the McLaren P1 and I have to say I’d love to see this treatment done on an F1 car.

Here is what the artists who did the light painting, MarshmallowLaserFeast, and James Medcraft, had to say about it.

“Light painting has been around for decades but has never been put into full motion. Until now.

“Working with McLaren we were able to process their wind tunnel airflow data and score out paths for individual trails of light. Each frame was then sliced into 650 frames that represent depths of 3D space and a plasma screen, mounted on a motion control rig, was used as a 3D light printer to play back the 650 slices as it moved through the space. We then repeated the move a thousand times for each frame of the animation and with each frame the camera, mounted on another motion control rig, moved a few millimeters so that over the course of the shoot we were able to create the effect of a moving camera.

The finished film merges photography, animation and sculpture and is a truly unique way of representing aerodynamics.”

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  1. Merlinghnd says:

    Is this how Adrian Newey sees his cars when he designs and looks at them??

    1. Sebee says:

      Yes. He’s also backward compatible with seeing F1 cars this way.

    2. Wayne says:

      made me smile, thanks :)

    3. MiG2009 says:

      lol, good one. He is THE ONE.

  2. ArJay says:

    I preferred ‘Tron’ (1982).
    Such is 30yrs. worth of ‘progress’:-)

  3. Mr Bobby says:

    It’s a P1, not a 12C. The clip was a teaser for the launch of their new car.

  4. Paul Piggott says:

    Hi James,
    Will this help the team to optimise the airflow around the car, or is it just for show.

  5. jj says:

    I think that is the P1, not the 12C.

  6. db4tim says:

    That is so cool…..

  7. Rick says:

    Isn’t that the MP4-P1?

  8. Cedricbaum says:


  9. Stuart Brown says:

    WOW… now how do I set that as my desktop background :-)

  10. Gary Naylor says:


    I read the description several times – still don’t understand how they do it but – wow!

    There is definately beauty in the artistic respresentation of the unseen elements that surrounds motorsport. Would love to see more if this!

    1. Peppers says:

      Completely in the same boat Gary.

      Have decided I don’t care how they do it, but it looks fantastic anyway.

  11. Nathan says:

    That’s the P18 James

  12. Andrew Carter says:

    That looks great, but I doubt we’ll see it done with anything like a modern F1 car, the team would be worried that it’d give away too many secrets.

  13. Wayne says:


  14. Mike from Colombia says:

    James, on the subject of McLaren…will you be posting anything on Whitmarsh’s interview with

    He seemed to have some rather frank and pointed things to say about Hamilton’s move to Mercedes. Seems that there is some nerves over Hamilton leaving and Perez joining.

    Stated that Hamilton was dispassionate and implied that Hamilton moved not based on a rational though but more in terms of money.

    Surprised to read these comments of this tone from McLaren.

  15. Tom Haythornthwaite says:

    I’m surprised this would not have been easier to render completely with software – but I’m sure there’s a good reason.

  16. Jim Howell says:

    Tom H.–

    As a retired IT guy, my guess (never had access to CFD software) is that the software most likely can do this and they tune their algorythms by comparing computed to reality. At least, that’s what I’d try to do.

  17. Davexxx says:

    They wouldn’t do this for a new F1 car – would give away too many aerodynamic secrets to the opposition! ;-)

  18. IgMi says:

    Beauty is all around us – we just have to learn to see it!

  19. KRB says:

    Is this before or after the car has ground to a halt midway thru its program? :-)

  20. Mike says:

    Just more marketing clap trap.
    Whose got the fastest computer again?

  21. PaulD says:

    That’s incredible, and from the description, it sounds like it was painstaking to produce. Really impressive.


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