Undergraduate study
Technical Direction for Visual Effects

Technical Direction for Visual Effects
BSc (Hons)

I702 BSc/TDVE (I704 BSc/TDVEFY for Year 0 entry)


Course overview

Throughout this course, you develop the creative and technical skills required by senior and supervising technical directors and artists. You become accustomed to the software used for scripting and tool development. You also learn technical theory and gain practical experience in all areas of animation and visual effects.

You use top industry software such as Autodesk Maya, SideFX Houdini and Nuke, and improve your programming knowledge in Python, Vex and C++. You are also exposed to the Linux operating system and scripting.

You have the opportunity to work on live briefs from studios producing big budget movies - this enables you to really understand what is required to work in the industry.

When you graduate you will have the skills required for a successful career in live action and/or animated feature films, or television and games.


Course details

Course structure

Year 0 (foundation year) core modules

Critical and Contextual Studies

You gain an historical and contextual overview of the history of art, animation, film and games. Aimed at technical, arts, games and animation students, this module equips you with an introductory level of understanding in the context of your chosen field of study.

Through a series of lectures and seminars, you engage in research and discussion based on your chosen areas of art, animation and game history. You learn how to effectively seek out appropriate academic sources on which to base and construct these discussions in seminars and in writing.

Foundation Project

You are guided through the production of a small-scale individual project, defined in part by you with guidance from your tutor. The foundation project guides you to a more autonomous working approach developing your project management skills and consolidating other skills already learnt in other modules.

You develop original ideas and concepts for the pre-production of an appropriate project in your chosen field of study. This may take the form of a game design document, modest game prototype, animation or game pre-production, concept art or another appropriate form related to the games, animation and film industries.

Modelling Principles

You learn some of the basic principles of 3D computer modelling, lighting and texturing. You use 3D software to produce a simple 3D model that will be textured and rendered with basic lighting. Through guided tutorial tasks, you learn some of the first principles of 3D modelling with the view to creating a small collection of elementary assets for computer games and animation. You create simple textures in appropriate software, such as Photoshop, and consider basic CG lighting.

Narrative Principles

You are introduced to the theory and practice of narrative construction within animation and games. You focus heavily on narrative structure and plot through the group production of a story overview, script and animatic or other appropriate form.

You study the basics of story writing for animation and games including character, story arcs, point of view, creating and formatting scripts, storyboards and animatic, and non-linear stories which may be implemented in software such as Twine.

Problem Solving Principles

You are introduced to problem solving, using simple tools and techniques. You develop your logical thinking and problem solving abilities. From recognising and defining problems to selecting an approach to problem solving or decision making, to evaluating the difference between the current and the desired state.

You may use recreational problems, like games and puzzles, to convey the important concepts and provide a more limited context to work within.

Visual Scripting Principles

You are introduced to the principles of visual scripting, including variables, functions and operators. You use these concepts to implement functionality and interaction using a contemporary game engine.


Year 1 core modules

3D Animation

You learn how the basic laws of physics are described through the 12 principles of animation and how they are applied to create convincing movement in 3D.

You are introduced to industry standard 3D software tools and techniques and use supplied character rigs to create a number of short animated sequences.
You complete a series of exercises that are assessed in order to demonstrate your understanding of the principles of animation as applied in 3D.

Asset Design and Modelling

You develop your abilities to design and create 3D Models, focusing on hard-surface modelling. You consider creative design and development processes for complex objects before evaluating the practicality and deployability of your designs within appropriate 3D scenarios.

You develop the skills to create your designs effectively and efficiently, considering their fitness for purpose as props, animated objects, or supports for other activities such as matte painting. This consideration includes topology, polygon resolution and the object’s general aesthetic.

Introduction to Physical Simulation

You are introduced to the principles of physical simulation. You establish the appropriate mathematical basis of physical simulation. You learn how these mathematical tools can be used to create simulation algorithms and apply this knowledge to practical physical simulation examples using appropriate programming tools.

Network Scripting

Network Scripting provides you with the must-have skills of computing professionals: knowledge of multiple open source computing environments, open source implementation basics for both the Linux operating systems and its applications.

You develop and expand your knowledge of Unix-like operating systems, through remote administration of a Linux virtual server, and develop skills in Linux file system manipulation, networking and shell scripting as well as competence with the Linux environment.

Python [Tool] Programming

You are introduced to the Python programming language and its application to solving problems in visual effects and animation. This involves the principles of programming, the syntax and structure of Python, its relevant libraries and modules and how it is incorporated in existing graphics packages.

VFX and Compositing

Visual effects and compositing pipeline in a range of contexts and the fundamental techniques are required to produce exciting visual imagery using industry standard software. You will develop skills in creating seamless composited motion sequences integrating live action, CG content and photographed elements.


Year 2 core modules

Effects Animation

The underlying theories underpinning common simulation techniques and apply them using industry standard software are introduced. Through the analysis of observed phenomena and visual effects used in both film and television productions, you will create professional quality simulations and critically analyse them.


You work in teams to produce an animated short film to a given brief. This module is designed to give you the experience of working within a production environment and provides an opportunity to target specific production skills within your chosen field of study.

Physical Simulation

You develop your ability to use physical simulation methods, tools, and techniques to solve real-world problem scenarios. You build on your understanding of linear algebra and mathematical analysis to apply numerical analysis/approximation methods to common visual effects scenarios such as fire, smoke, cloth and fluids.

Plug-in Development

Technical Directors often extend the functionality of 3D animation software by creating plug-ins.
You explore various Software Development Kits (SDKs), to extend the functionality of industry-standard software. You use your Python programming knowledge and are also introduced to C++ to build production-ready tools.

Shader Development

Industry-standard rendering engines come with libraries of common shading effects, but many productions require bespoke solutions. Renderers provide customisation of their output via shading languages and/or visual scripting shading graphs. You explore how to research, design, write and test custom shading effects – including surface materials, geometry shape, lighting and atmospheric volumes – for industry-standard renderers such as Pixar’s RenderMan, Houdini’s Mantra, and MentalRay.

You explore the subject and hands-on lab-based tutorial sessions and provide a practical learning-by-doing approach. You build on previous experience of using packages such as Maya and Houdini for rendering. You adopt an enquiry-based learning approach, carrying out research to solve shader-related problems.


Final-year core modules

Advanced VFX Technical Direction

You create a solution to a production problem or scenario set by a live client from the visual effects industry. This could include either a scripted pipeline toolset or a short film demonstrating all the visual effects skills appropriate to the visual effects industry.

You work within small production teams and assume individual roles based on your desired area of specialisation such as pipeline programmer, effects animator, visual effects artist or a combination of these where required.

Your completed product should be suitable for professional industry use within a television or film studio environment. It should also provide a high-end deliverable product for your final portfolio.

Renderer Programming

A variety of high-quality off-the-shelf renderers are available, servicing the needs of the industry and providing flexibility through their shader / designer interfaces. Constructing a renderer yourself makes you appreciate how these products operate, how to fully exploit them and how to avoid performance pitfalls. You explore the subject of rendering, from its early inception through to the current state-of-the-art.
You attend lectures and hands-on lab-based tutorial sessions - a practical learning-by-doing approach. You build on previous programming and shading experience to increase your understanding of both subjects whilst gaining new knowledge of rendering architectures.

Technical Direction for VFX Project

The final year project on the technical direction for VFX pathway is a large scale piece of individual coursework, completed under the supervision of a project supervisor and a second reader. You agree the project parameters with your supervisor. You produce a substantial artefact related to your chosen specialism and career aims. You complete a pre-production document, written reflective report and a viva where the artefact is presented and defended.

You develop an appropriate sense of work-discipline coupled with a professional outlook. You take responsibility for the planning and execution of an extended piece of work including the consideration of associated legal, social, ethical and professional issues. You explore a chosen subject area and analyse, synthesise, and creatively apply what you have already studied on the programme while demonstrating critical and evaluative skills and professional awareness.

VFX Industry Research

You look at the history and current state-of-the-art of visual effects. You contextualise, reflect and evaluate your work within the wider visual effects field.

You learn how visual effects for film and television have evolved and how technological advances have underpinned this progress. You look at seminal advancements in VFX from both film and academic sources, and what the current state of the art is. You also look at the evolution of VFX into a global business, emerging techniques and technologies, and how they may influence the next generation of VFX.


Modules offered may vary.


How you learn

Each module is delivered through a structured series of lectures and tutorials. Lectures provide you with specific theoretical information related to the subject, and accompanying tutorials focus on developing your practical skills and work on assessments. You also receive feedback and advice from your tutors during tutorial sessions. Further support is offered online in the form of extra learning material.

You have the opportunity to attend keynote lectures and portfolio reviews from industry professionals and recruiters.

How you are assessed

Throughout this course you learn through the experience of doing. This focus continues into your assessment – the majority of modules are assessed through practical projects which you work on throughout the academic year. You develop a portfolio of design, animation, modelling and visual effects work.

In Years 2 and 3 you collaborate with other students on a short film production project and a VFX production project. The final-year project allows you the freedom to create your own brief based on your skills and interests.

Our Disability Services team helps students with additional needs resulting from disabilities such as sensory impairment or learning difficulties such as dyslexia
Find out more about our disability services

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Entry requirements

Entry requirements

A typical offer is 96-112 tariff points from at least two A levels (or equivalent), or 64-80 for entry to Year 0 (Foundation Year). You're required to attend an interview.

If you’re applying for entry to Year 0 (Foundation Year) please use UCAS code I704 BSc/TDVEFY.

For additional information please see the entry requirements in our admissions section

International applicants can find out what qualifications they need by visiting Your Country

You can gain considerable knowledge from work, volunteering and life. Under recognition of prior learning (RPL) you may be awarded credit for this which can be credited towards the course you want to study.
Find out more about RPL



Career opportunities

As a graduate of this course, you are ideally suited to a career in the animation or visual effects industry. Previous graduates are now enjoying careers with companies including Double Negative, Moving Picture Company, Glassworks, Cinesite, Passion Pictures, DreamWorks, Pixar and Framestore.

Work placement

Being able to include work experience on your CV makes you a much more attractive applicant. You have a much higher chance of improving your degree classification and the boost in confidence will give you the edge in job interviews.

98% of our students who complete a work placement achieve a high level degree classification and are offered a graduate job within six months of graduating.

We have established excellent long-term relationships with businesses giving you the opportunity to apply for summer, year-long and graduate placements with key organisations such as: Microsoft, Lift Studios, BMW, MediaMonks, Hammerhead VR, Animmersion, Dojo Arcade and Moments 3D.

Employers select the students through competitive interviews and often skills tests. Placements are not compulsory but are assessed and contribute to your final degree award.

Our placements team gives you help and support throughout the placement process, including guidance on applications and interviews, to help you get a placement that suits you.


Information for international applicants


International applicants - find out what qualifications you need by selecting your country below.

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Useful information

Visit our international pages for useful information for non-UK students and applicants.

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Entry to 2019/20 academic year

Fee for UK/EU applicants
£9,250 a year

More details about our fees

Fee for international applicants
£11,825 a year

More details about our fees for international applicants

What is included in your tuition fee?

  • Length: 3, 4 or 5 years dependent on whether you undertake the foundation year, placement year or both; January intake
  • UCAS code: I702 BSc/TDVE
    I704 BSc/TDVEFY for Year 0 entry
  • Semester dates
  • Typical offer: 96-112 tariff points and interview


From Sept 2019 entry

Fee for UK/EU applicants:
£4,500 (120 credits)
More details about our fees

  • Length: Up to 6 years
  • Attendance: Daytime
  • Enrolment date: September
  • Admission enquiries: 01642 342639
  • Semester dates


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