From the Cover

Hard Work Pays Off

Since earning his M.F.A. at Academy of Art University, Vanni Brighella has made a name for himself designing imaginative 3-D renderings for acclaimed Hollywood studios 

By Kyle Roe

After a year of nonstop major studio projects fresh out of finishing his graduate program at Academy of Art University in 2017, Vanni Brighella has every reason to feel high and mighty. On the contrary, he comes across as down-to-earth, approachable and grateful for his success.

“We say that hard work pays off,” Brighella commented. “That’s the best advice that I can give to anyone who’s approaching to study at the Academy. Don’t stop working on yourself. That’s the point. It doesn’t matter who’s next to you or who’s over you, what is important is just working on your craft.”

Brighella relocated to Los Angeles after finishing his M.F.A. in animation and visual effects to work at Ingenuity Studios, developing 3-D models for big-budget music videos. His first assignment was a scene in Taylor Swift’s music video, “Look What You Made Me Do,” the lead single from her sixth full-length album “Reputation.”

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Image courtesy of Vanni Brighella.

“I was responsible for developing Taylor Swift’s 3-D clothes for a specific shot,” Brighella recounted. In the scene, Swift is standing above a mountain of her past musical personas desperately climbing over one another to get closer to her. Vanni designed “more than 149 clothes” for the shot, which involved dozens of actors. The video’s view count skyrocketed as soon as it was posted, garnering a “crazy insane” 43.2 million views in its first 24 hours. It now has about 959.5 million views total.

Brighella particularly enjoyed working on the video for another “Reputation” track for Ingenuity, “…Ready For It?” He designed the “likeness and textures” of Swift’s shapeshifting robotic double that is confined to a clear rectangular enclosure. Appearing both angelic and artificial, the duplicate remains under the “real” Swift’s control until she reaches her breaking point, tearing through the walls of its transparent cage with an explosion of electricity.

Since leaving Ingenuity to work at TNG Studios, Brighella has created visual effects for movies like “The Predator” and “Shaft,” while also applying his design skills to projects outside the scope of film and entertainment. Namely, a sculpture of legendary sprinter Tommie Smith, who raised his fist while receiving an Olympic gold medal in 1968 “to protest abuse of human rights around the world and in response to the struggle for civil rights in the United States,” according to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta’s website. The statue will be exhibited at the museum from September 29, 2018 – February 3, 2019.

Conceptual artist Glenn Kaino approached TNG with the idea of sculpting a tribute to Smith “as Smith looks nowadays,” according to Brighella. “I sculpted Tommie Smith in 3-D through ZBrush software, and I prepared the file to be printed out in real human scale,” he added. The exhibition is titled “With Drawn Arms: Glenn Kaino & Tommie Smith” and features sculptures, artwork and other objects from the Smith archives, as well as submissions from students across the country.

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Academy of Art University alumnus Vanni Brighella. Photo courtesy of Vanni Brighella.

Brighella attributes his ability to work in different creative fields and mediums to the cross-curricular nature of Academy coursework. He especially appreciates how the curriculum “has been able to apply ideas from fine art to modern design … The connection between a classic fine art subject to the way to represent it now and make it actual; in most of the cases, even with very advanced technologies. From an aesthetic point of view, this is very crucial.”

Even when teaching technical disciplines, students are not limited to a narrow set of courses. “The Academy encourages all students to study fine arts subjects that are crucial in the process of becoming an artist,” Brighella expressed. “Unconsciously, all students carry this knowledge that becomes crucial for them to express themselves and make it as a current, modern artist.”

Brighella’s instructors articulated fond memories of his time at the Academy, describing him as a talented, driven and sophisticated student. ANM 3-D Modeling Coordinator and Hard Surface Modeling Lead Ease Owyeung said, “Being a more mature student, I found him to be very serious about his studies. He was a pleasure to teach because he always asked important and relevant questions, he does his assignments on time and always to the best of his abilities, he is also very critical of his own work which makes him strive for excellence even more.”

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