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Penangite Works for One of the World’s Biggest VFX Companies

May 25, 2023 | Campus News

Brian Lai Zheng Chien’s story is testament that the spirit of never giving up is bound to yield desired returns. As a 3D artist, he has made a name for himself not just locally, but now internationally as well since he started working as a Facial Modeller at Wētā FX in New Zealand. The company is responsible for the visual effects behind blockbuster movies like Lord of the Rings, Avatar I & II, Black Adam and Avengers: Endgame. Graduating with a diploma in Digital Animation, he was scouted and offered a job by Wētā FX based on his impactful portfolio. However, the 30-year-old Penangite’s journey to success was not an easy one.

“I was born with cameras and films around me, sometimes I feel like I was destined to be a part of visual effects production,” said Lai. For as long as he can remember, he has always wanted to be an artist. As a child, he loved watching movies like Ninja Turtles, Terminator and Robocop. When the Sandman character from Spider-Man 3 captured his attention, his father handed him a 3ds Max software CD and told him that this was how the character was made. He installed the program and has been immersed in 3D graphics ever since.

He got to know about The One Academy through a workshop brochure given by his friend, who told him it was the best art college in the country. One by one, the obstacles came when he decided to study at The One Academy Penang. Back then, financial difficulty was an ever-present problem faced by his family and they couldn’t afford to pay for his school fees. Fortunately, his cousin stepped in and offered to lend them the money. However, his SPM results did not meet the entry requirement to enrol in the college. So, he attended tuition classes for his weakest subjects and retook SPM again before finally fulfilling the requirement. This spoke volumes of his determination.

Just after a year of studying at TOA Penang, he discovered a whole new technique of pencil drawing – Invert Art, as he calls it. The idea is to draw in inverted colour much like a film negative and flip the colour to see the real genius behind it. As the inventor of this unique art that blew the internet away and garnered a hundred thousand ‘likes’ on Facebook in late 2013, he has been interviewed by many news portals of different countries and recognised worldwide.

It was his outstanding performance and talent that landed him a career at his alma mater. Before Wētā FX, he was a Digital Animation lecturer at TOA Penang in charge of graphics development, where he shared his 3D techniques and knowledge with other aspiring students, as well as his inspiring stories. Throughout his time teaching, he would emphasise on the importance of building a good portfolio with his students. Lai’s ability to experiment with new art styles and create breath-taking artworks by going beyond what is expected is one of the reasons his portfolio grabbed the attention of recruiters from Wētā FX.

“I will continue to teach at The One Academy through online classes from New Zealand so that I can bring my experience working with one of the world’s biggest VFX companies to the students here,” said Lai. He aims to teach students with an in-depth knowledge of the industry so they too can have a future in working for huge renowned companies upon graduating by being more prepared and able to easily meet industry standards.

“Never give up, stay passionate, self-motivated and enjoy the process as it gets tougher in order to be a stronger, better version of yourself. This is exactly what The One Academy taught me - to be a better artist.” Brian Lai Zheng Chien is proof that a burning passion for art and creative thinking is more than enough to overcome obstacles, create jaw-dropping artworks, teach young minds and be an inspiration to many. It is an extremely proud moment for us all to have a fellow Malaysian thrive in the international visual effects industry. To all aspiring creatives, you have chance to make it on the world stage as long as you have a heart full of determination and the right guidance.

The One Academy is committed to providing the best art education programmes and continues to nurture its students passionately through its “Masters Train Masters” coaching philosophy, which has been practised for over 30 years, by providing diploma and degree courses in Advertising & Graphic Design, Digital Animation, Digital Media Design, Film Visual Effects, Interior Architecture & Design, Illustration, Fine Arts, Paris Fashion Design & Pattern Making, Computer Science and Game Design. For more information on The One Academy, visit or call +603-7875 5510 or e-mail your enquiries to [email protected].

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