Dark and eery, Gabriele Calvi animates a music video to the hum of the common sleep cycle

The animator and motion designer has always longed to pair his two main interests: music and design. Here, he tells us what it’s like to have achieved that dream.

30 November 2020
Reading Time
3 minutes


It’s widely known that music and design are well affixed. Two somewhat different yet harmonious industries, it’s often that you’ll hear of a designer channelling the rhythmic notes of a song into the creative flow of a poster, artwork or video.

This is very much the case for motion designer Gabriele Calvi. Right now, he’s based in his hometown of Voghera – a small town in northern Italy based between Milan and Genova. When he’s not taking on freelance jobs during the day, you’ll find him playing the drums in his noise-band Mooth. An avid musician who’s played in several bands, Gabriele cites his musical talents as a key influence on his design work. “I’ve always found a strong connection between my approach to music and graphic design,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I have pretty much the same mental approach to these two fields: to compose or arrange a song doesn’t feel much different from designing something from scratch or in response to a brief.”

In practice, this can be seen in his most recent music video for Danish rock-metal band Town Portal, and its new track Vanitas. Fuelled by a passion for always wanting to combine his two interests – music and design – Gabriele was excited about the opportunity. What’s more is that he’s been a fan of the band for quite some time, and once he’d found out that they were releasing a new album he couldn’t resist getting in touch with a proposal to create a music video. “The guys were immediately thrilled and gave me carte blanche on that,” says Gabriele, citing his only requests as a flexible deadline and that he could choose the song.

The song, Vanitas, is six minutes long, which is a daunting amount of time to fill for any animator, but despite that Gabriele was up for the challenge. It took him a mammoth year and a half to create, building the entirety of the video “little by little”. With no strict deadline, Gabriele would flit between other freelance projects on the side, working on Vanitas mostly at night: “I think somehow this influenced the whole mood of it.”

GalleryGabriele Calvi: Vanitas, Town Portal (Copyright © Gabriele Calvi, 2020)


REM door



Themed on sleep, the song gravitates around the nocturnal motifs of the common sleep cycle – an apt use of visuals considering the song’s eerie and dark sounds, as well as its lack of lyrics. The video follows a protagonist as he undergoes his nightlight sleep journey; at first he falls asleep to the REM phase, before interrupted by sleep paralysis, followed by a sudden awakening that brings the character back to reality. “I’ve always been intrigued by sleep,” he says. “If you think about it, we spend almost a third of our lives sleeping and in that huge amount of time we have absolutely no control over what happens – although it’s a fundamental activity for our body and our mind to function properly. It seemed like a good theme to explore for such a dark and mysterious piece.”

In terms of the process, Gabriele admits that it was a bit of a non-linear mess. Working on it for such great lengths meant that he’d experience month-long breaks away from the project, followed by a change in mind and various back-and-forth’s with the animation details. Despite the longwinded method of things, Gabriele very much enjoyed the process of it all – including the research, structure drawings, creating the chapters and narratives, as well as choosing the colour palette. Then there’s the illustration part, where Gabriele built on the atmosphere and emotion of the piece, before moving on to the animation process – “without a real storyboard (bad, BAD!).”

Characteristically, eyeballs and body parts take centre stage in this transient animation. It’s a fine-tuned piece that reflects the atmosphere of the song in great lengths, even if there’s no really profound message behind the narrative – besides it being visually intriguing and filled with subtle references. “The hope was to evoke that slightly alienating feeling that you get when watching something by David Lynch,” he concludes, “in which everything is never completely clear but you still feel enriched and satisfied by the vision.” Pleased with the results, Gabriele is set to continue making work that involves music, and we can't wait to see what he does next – “I’m a bit scared but also super excited to start a new adventure in this field!”

GalleryGabriele Calvi: Vanitas, Town Portal (Copyright © Gabriele Calvi, 2020)


Room 4, Hand (Copyright © Gabriele Calvi, 2020)


Room 3, Entrance (Copyright © Gabriele Calvi, 2020)


Elevator to Room (Copyright © Gabriele Calvi, 2020)


Muscles (Copyright © Gabriele Calvi, 2020)


Room 1, Morpheus door (Copyright © Gabriele Calvi, 2020)


Eye (Copyright © Gabriele Calvi, 2020)


Room 3, Memory Lane (Copyright © Gabriele Calvi, 2020)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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