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The Pixeldust team produced this TV commercial for Universal Studios LA using CGI head replacements for actors dressed as test dummies. Our team digitally generated facial expressions for the CGI dummy heads as they enjoyed the new rides at Universal Studios Park in Los Angeles.

Creative Direction: Ricardo Andrade / Paintbox Labs
CG/VFX Supervisor: Samar Shool
Senior Animator: Andy Hencken
Senior Producer: Emily Vitek



Pixeldust designed and fabricated 3D-printed helmets with markers that the actors wore on set. Then replaced in Nuke with detailed 3D rendered test dummy helmets enhanced with complex physical expressions and dialogue. It was critical to study and capture the actors’ expressions as that was this campaign video’s key selling factor. Our team was also tasked to deliver a Spanish version of the commercial.

An essential step for the Pixeldust team was to seamlessly 3D-track the practical helmet heads using the power of Foundry Nuke 3D object tracking. Some more challenging shots with actors on rides required micro-tracking with additional setups. Pixeldust mirrored the camera data inside Nuke for all plates and thus achieved an accurate match of 3D rendered helmets. For one of the shots where the ride splashes through water, in addition to tracking the heads, we integrated animated bubble drops and water sprays tracked on the surface of the TIM helmets.



In addition to CGI integration, Pixeldust was tasked with animating lipsync of the TIM helmets as they voiced their excitement through the rides. Pixeldust used reference footage generated by our artists to capture the Tim’s priceless expressions. Having a robust facial rig with efficient controls was essential for this task. Our team did the final lipsync animation in Autodesk Maya.

Special attention was given to lighting setups for the most accurate CGI integration into the footage. Pixeldust made efficient use of 360 HDRs captured on-site by our VFX Supervisor. Special rigs/attachments had to be designed to capture 360 videos of the environment as the ride was in motion. The Pixeldust team would later use the 360 photographic data as image-based lighting for rendering the helmets with Redshift inside Maya. This pipeline was crucial to the photoreal compositing of helmets and helped seamlessly match the lights and reflections onto the 3D helmet.


Our team’s choice of Maya renderer was GPU-based Redshift owing to its speed and lighting quality. We finally composited all 3D Redshift rendered helmets back into Nuke on top of the original plates. Pixeldust has chosen Nuke’s professional and robust compositing and tracking toolset for live-action CGI shots for many years.