Space in Real-time

Is there anything in history that is more admired by the VFX community than the Apollo missions?

In tribute to the Moon landing, two projects caught our attention as wonderful tributes:

  • NVIDIA’s recreation of the lunar landing as a real-time RTX project.
  • The ‘live’ broadcast of the mission, over 6 days, recreated using the 50-year-old unedited audio feed between the astronauts and mission control by Little Dot Studios.

Apollo11 recreated in RTX real-time by NVIDIA.

Moonlighting: Real-time Ray Tracing Snaps Apollo 11 Landing Into Focus

Rev Lebaredian, VP Simulation Technology at NVIDIA recounts how NVIDIA took aim at a real-time ray tracing tribute to the Apollo missions.

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

While the words were epic, the grainy, jerky images beamed back as Neil Armstrong clambered out of the Eagle lunar lander and onto the surface of the moon half a century ago, while a technical miracle, could never be described as gorgeous by today’s standards.

“This week’s anniversary of the landing — one of mankind’s greatest achievements — has inspired us to dramatically step up our own work, enhancing our earlier moon-landing demo with RTX real-time ray tracing technology” he explains. The result is a beautiful, near-cinematic depiction of one of history’s great moments using NVIDIA RTX GPUs, which allowed the NVIDIA demo team to create an interactive visualization that incorporates light in the way it actually works, giving the scene uncanny realism.

NVIDIA RTX technology allows the demo to mimic the way light behaves in the real world, with the interactive models, without the need to rely on pre-baked effects and lighting hacks.

“Our demo team’s work on this project began five years ago when they collected every detail they could to understand the NASA Apollo 11 landing image,” says Lebaredian. The team researched “the rivets on the lunar lander, identified the properties of the dust coating the moon’s surface, and measured the reflectivity of the material used in the astronauts’ space suits and rebuilt it all in a digital form” he adds.

In the demo the RTX real-time ray-tracing capabilities recreate how the sun’s rays, coming from behind the lander, bounced off the moon’s surface, how these rays interacted with the lunar lander to cast eerie lunar shadows, and even how the light bouncing from the lander and the moon’s surface interacted with the astronaut’s puffy spacesuits.


The result captures the desolate, otherworldly landscape Armstrong and Aldrin experienced five decades ago, in real-time.

Apollo11 Live by Little Dot Studios

Apollo 11 mission has also been recreated as six-day YouTube livestream.

The livestream, created by Little Dot Studios, will stream continually, documenting the entire mission, until 21 July

Little Dot Studios has reconstructed the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in a minute-by-minute live stream, as part of the UK Channel 4’s digital campaign around the 50th anniversary of the moon landings.

The live stream (see above) has been recreated using the 50-year-old unedited audio feed between the astronauts and mission control. The visuals have been taken from archive NASA footage and still images taken by the Apollo 11 crew, as well as specially-created graphics and reconstructions.

The team at The 124 hours of broadcast material will play out in real-time, 24 hours a day, on Channel 4’s YouTube channel and Facebook page from one minute prior to blasting off.

The live stream started exactly 50 years after Apollo 11 left the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will continue for the six-day journey to the moon’s orbit and subsequent moon landing and exploration. The live stream ends once the astronauts leave the moon on 21 July.

Using the un-edited audio feed from mission control as the narrative backbone, Little Dot Studios have reconstructed the Apollo 11 mission. Not only does this fully bring to life the magnitude of the mission undertaken by the astronauts but it also translates into 124 hours of broadcast material.

The live stream is visualised with archive Nasa footage and still images taken by the Apollo 11 crew, as well as specially-created graphics and reconstruction as needed to bring to life the story of the mission from the crew’s perspective.

Tom Hemsley, creative director from Little Dot Studios told Broadcastnow in the UK: “It took six days to get to the moon and we’ve never been able to appreciate that duration or sense the astronauts’ isolation in a single clip or edited TV documentary. In building the story as a continuous live stream that you can’t pause or skip through, I’d like to think we get a little bit closer to how it might have felt to watch the mission on television in 1969”

Little Dot Studios is a digital content studio and broadcaster specializing in the production of original and brand funded content, distribution, and monetization of video content across all social platforms. It was co-foundered by Andy Taylor who held several senior positions in media and has been a pioneer in online video. In 2000, he was MD of Victoria Real during the launch of Big Brother online live streaming. In 2004, Taylor was appointed Managing Director of Digital at Channel 4. He co-founded the company with Selma Turajlic who was Head of Interactive Media and Licensing at All3Media International. Before joining All3Media in 2009, Selma was Director of Interactive Media at Celador where she managed international digital licensing for formats such as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?  The project was creatively lead by Tom Hemsley, who is a multiple winner of Cannes Lion, D&AD, British Arrow and Broadcast Digital Awards.

Creative Agency and Production Company: Little Dot Studios

Creative Director: Tom Hemsley

Head of Production: Hal Arnold

Series Producers: Rob Barnes, Fleur FekkesLead

Editor: Andreas Georgiou

Edit Producer: Helen Crocombe