IBM: Ninjas vs Superbugs

1st Avenue Machine’s Nico Casavecchia broke out the paper and glue for his latest directorial effort, a quirky short promoting IBM’s work in bioengineering.

This spot is fiercely hybrid, mixing puppets and physical objects with traditional animation and CG. Mr. Casavecchia was kind enough to explain some of his process and some production work with us.

Nico Casavecchia on making “Ninjas vs Superbugs”

I tried to focus the resources we had and come up with a system that could allow us to tell the story with minimal resources. I decided to use a chessboard system in 3 sizes, this allowed me to recycle the landscape depending on the shot value. Close ups would be done in the small board, and wider angle shots in the biggest.

We created different props to match the sizes of the boards, so we had the little boots of MRSA for the wider angle moments, and a giant boot to fit the small board, when the ninjas cut his leg off. The props were created using a combination of techniques, some of them were traditionally sculpted and painted, like the kid and the cells, boots and doctors office, and the MRSA and Ninja polymers were 3d printed, due to the amount of detail required.

The hand made props were created by Tilburs & Gazz in Buenos Aires, they did an amazing job with the finishing.

We puppeted the props and used a free-motion, hand-held camera to achieve the shots, pretty much what you could expect in a live action shoot.

Back in NY, we shot the piece and worked on the animation locally in 1stAvenue Machine, adding details, additional characters and effects.

“Ninjas vs Superbugs” is a follow up to another interesting project for IBM directed by Casavecchia, a “Boy and His Atom” (full Q&A), the first animation ever produced at the scale of an atom.

Director: Nico Casavecchia
Production Company: 1stAveMachine
Executive Producer: Sam Penfield

Group Creative Director: Mike Hahn
Group Creative Director: Ryan Blank
Associate CD: Niels West
Associate CD: Ricardo Lopes
Copy Writer: Lauren Costa
Art Director: Ramona Todoca
EP: Lee Weiss
Producer: Alicia Zuluaha

VP, Brand Expression, Global Advertising: Ann Rubin
Advertising Lead, Global Advertising: Cindi Ellis
Marketing Manager, IBM Research: Kristi Kolski
Advertising Manager, Global Advertising: Cecilia Correa
Sr. Manager, IBM Chemistry Group: Bob Allen
Post Doctoral Researcher: Amanda Engler
Communications, IBM Research: Ari Entin
Sr. Partner, Group Account Director: Ty Kendig

Producer: Leanna Amos
VFX Supervisor: Greg Anderson
Production Supervisor: Kathy Hoffman
Asst. Prod. Supervisor: Lucy Gibson
DP: Eloi Sanchez Moli
AC: Cameron Dingwell
Art Director/Animator: Tammy Hahn
Prop Makers: Tilburs
Animators: Gazz
Gazz – Producer: Lautaro Brunatti
Gazz – Production Coordinator: Paula Moura Garcia
Animator: Masa Nakamura
Animator: Beau Burrows

About the author

Justin Cone

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.

One Comment

Kris Merc

So amazing Nico :). Bravo.

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