1st Ave Machine: “TED”


Well, that settles it. 1st Ave Machine are the masters of creating creepy but believable CG lifeforms. Their newest project, a music video for Warp Records’ Clark, is a showcase of their darker side, with dimly lit insects slithering, crawling and—dare I say, dancing?—to the electro-agitated soundtrack. Beautiful stuff (in a really gross way).

About the author

Justin Cone

/ justincone.com
Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.



hmm.. can’t get to /insects/ though.


are those insects 100% CG? or do they just have CG additions?


guess both URLs are working now.


the 3d and live action is so good but it feels kind of off pace wise to the music. Maybe its just me…


the insects are real, but they put cg ontop of it like in their previous clips.

oscar mar

real life combined with cg again with the guys from first ave. and again IMPRESSIVE

it has theyr style all over it, i thnk thats what makes it good


The music is cool… and the video is cool too… but they don’t fit together at all.

Feels as if they’re thrown together randomnly… it doesn’t seem as if they’re reacting to the music at all.

Simon Robson

I disagree with Alex. The shots are cut quite nicely to the music. Cuts fall on or around beats in a loose fashion that i think works well. Granted, the insects don’t dance and swing to the beat, but that’s not what insects do. If they had rendered realistic insects and synched their movement to the music, then you’re approaching ‘It’s a Bug’s life.’ I love what 1st Ave do. They are certainly ‘mining a seam’ and are doing it very well. With this insects film they are boradening a style which they ‘own’. Great stuff…


I’m not talking about animating Insects… I’m just saying that the slow and creepy movements don’t fit to the spectacular music… listen to the music with your eyes shut… do you “see” slow crawling caterpillar? Or a fast twitching mantis?

as I said before… the pictures are awesome and I love how they inconspicuously added things to the insects… but still the soundtrack doesn’t fit.

Simon Robson

I hear you Alex. I just don’t think visual always has to ‘hard-synch’ with audio in a promo. Sometimes the gap between visual an audio can be interesting. But i really think it’s a matter of taste…I would venture however, that 1st Ave probably had this idea before they heard the music, and saw the video as a good opportunity to execute the idea. But that’s OK, and it’s how many promo directors work. Would be interesting to hear 1st Ave’s comments on this…


i’d also like to hear 1st ave’s comments.. justin, an interview with them would be fantastic.. it’d be good to hear them dispell the fact that there never seems to be any substance to their work.. it’s apparent they have a style they mastered and treat ALL their work with.. i mean.. that nicktoons spot.. you gotta be kidding me.. from the standpoint of commercial design, these guys are 1 trick pony’s.. i respect the fact they do what they want.. but would like to hear their rationalization of how they’re able to do this.. and also where they see themselves going.. though the spot is beautiful, it’s pointless..

Simon Robson

pointles…1 trick ponies…Jeez, that’s harsh. They have created a unique look and approach to their work and are exploring it, that’s all. Remember, clients will be aware of them , and approach them for the style they have seen and want to buy into. THAT is the reality of commercial work. And it’s a very foolhardy director / outfit who turn down work just because they’re being asked to create something similar to what they’ve done before. Fashion moves so quickly in this industry that it’s prudent to ‘Make hay while the sun shines’. That said, i think there’s plenty more to explore for 1st Ave within the style they’ve created. Good for them!!!


This is from FEED.

From 1st Ave Machine director Arvind Palep: “These insects have a distinct regal quality, we wanted to augment that quality of perfect intimidation. We started designing and creating elements that would blend with and add to characteristics already present.�

“It’s a bit shocking, but that’s what we love to do,� says Palep. “Triggering that primary emotional response; that curious, excited surprise in viewers is what we are always after.�


And it’s a music video, not a spot lubalin. Music videos are allowed to seem pointless, since they sometimes represent an artistic individual interpretation of the music.


I think there are 2 kinds of design houses out there (in terms how how things work for them): those who are versatile and so diverse, like Shnyola, and those who are very good at one particular unique style that they do, like 1st Ave….and they get hired for different reasons I guess. Some of us prefer those who are versatile–one can not guess what they’d come up with next..Lubalin seems to be one of them. Although commercial reality is different (like what Simon said, ‘make hay while the sun shines’)..it’s still a subjective thing—choosing what you want to become and what sort of designer you choose to look up to.


if this is infact a one-trick pony, which it kinda is…
its still one hell of a trick. they have their lil aesthetic all kinds of locked up.

rad tad

Versatile good? One trick pony bad? So, according to you Michael Jordan should have mastered baseball and football as well, and Mike Tyson should come out with a grill.


Rad tad — no i didnt say that. I said each has their own merit. and each gets hired for different reasons..and i didnt call anyone a one-trick-pony. but its up to individuals who they choose to look up to!

but perhaps if mike tyson did come out with a grill, he’d be in less trouble than he is now :) let out those aggression!!!


I think the music and visuals fit. The insects don’t have to react to the music, but what I think ties the two things together is the tension present in the visuals and composition of the music. It looks as though there is a conflict between insects, and the music I think hightens this tension.

Simon Robson

Rad Tad – You mean Tyson doesn’t have a grill? Now there’s a missed opportunity…


If you reference another video with a similar feel and style, NIN’s “Closer to God” by Mark Romanek, I don’t think you’d say that that video was “pointless”. TED just happens to borrow from that disconnect feeling of music and visuals that Romanek made a huge mark with. Eliciting a primal response from the viewer is vastly more effective and thought provoking than some overt and heavy handed attempt to “connect” the two together.

Comments are closed.