To boldly go where fewer photons are needed

To boldly go where fewer
photons are needed

When it comes to observing the infinitesimally small building blocks of life, the lines between science fact and science fiction begin to merge. Peering into these murky areas, scientists rely on high-powered, increasingly sophisticated microscopes for much of their ground-breaking research. To see anything at all, it seems obvious that most of these microscopes need to shine some light on what they are investigating.

“Fire the photon torpedoes, Mister Sulu”

But what do you do when your sample is so incredibly small and delicate, that even, losely speaking, subatomic photons of light will eventually destroy it? Well, the scientists at Leica developed a microscope that solved this problem.


The Client

Our client, Leica Microsystems, is a world leader in providing innovative solutions for imaging and analysis of everything from the incredibly big to the “mindbendingly” small. Their confocal microscopes offer unparalleled three-dimensional imaging of sub-cellular structures and dynamic processes, making them pretty handy when you’re looking to perform top-level biomedical research. Leica works closely with the scientific community to develop solutions that meet their needs while overcoming the physical challenges of… um, physics. This process lead to the development of the Leica TCS SP8. While not a particularly memorable name, the Leica TCS SP8 is a really cool piece of equipment. The Leica TCS SP8 provides both improved photon efficiency and higher processing speed. Leica heard the cry and delivered a solution; now they just needed to convince their customers that they accomplished what they set out to do. This is where we come in.


The Challenge

Leica called TBA Digital, because of their new microscope’s technical complexity and sophistication, they needed a way to describe its various features and benefits in a way that was suitably technical, yet straightforward at the same time. Luckily, our team of creative and technical experts are bilingual, they speak both “Science nerd” and “English”.

Leica hired TBA Digital to design and produce a series of short animated videos to support their product launch. The videos would serve as a marketing tool for the sales team to be viewed on the sales team’s iPads and on Leica’s website.

The Solution

To develop the concept for the videos, our creative team worked with Leica to understand how they would regularly present their products when in conversation with their clients. Whenever possible Leica’s sales team would explain the complex concepts behind their technology using diagrams on a whiteboard, explaining concepts as they added more and more detail to the picture...

Leica Hybrid Detector

In this way their clients could grasp the features and benefits of the Leica TCS SP8; which, coincidentally, is exactly what the videos were meant to do. It became clear that the solution was to incorporate and expand the things that really worked in the face-to-face experience into the videos. The sales team had experience presenting to clients in the past, they had developed their presentation to anticipate questions and difficulties in understanding. By studying their approach we could develop a script that leveraged this acquired knowledge.

Leica Stage Movement

Building on Leica’s existing sales presentation, we initially thought of creating a timelapse animation, where an artist would draw out the visuals, live on camera then speeded up to match the narration of the script. However, we felt that this style was somewhat overdone, and creatively limiting in terms of explaining the dynamic “Whizz-bang!” of the technology ... Though we really wanted to preserve the engagement and unique look and feel of using traditional hand-drawn animation. We decided on a hybrid approach by adding motion effects to the visuals. This added flexibility allowed us to add focus on specific details and technical concepts while still preserving the high quality hand-drawn look. The effect was similar to the effect of a presenters gesturing to direct the audience’s attention during the presentation. This technique also had the added bonus of increasing the production efficiency to meet the client’s budget targets. Not to mention that it really made the Leica TCS SP8 shine.


Creating the script for each video involved combing through piles of information and learning a whole lot more about confocal microscopes than we ever thought possible. The team wanted each script to focus on how a particular feature solved a set of problems, rather than just telling a strict recital of features and benefits.

Because we were dealing with alien concepts like “specimen viability” and “quantum efficiency” we made sure to schedule frequent client meetings back at Starbase…um, Leica, to make sure that the messaging was correct and that it would be understandable to the right audiences. Every line of script, voice over and hand drawn and computer illustrations were reviewed and approved. We worked hard to distill all of the required technical information into 30 to 90 second segments, while making sure that the content was comprehensive, impressive, and engaging. The video series present the Leica TCS SP8 as tool designed and built to fill a demand from the scientific community.

“Leica, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the TCS SP8. On a 10 video mission: to explore strange tiny worlds, to observe new life, to boldly go where no photon has gone before.”