Undergraduate study

Course overview

If you have a passion and aptitude for both the creative and technical side of the visual effects industry, this is the course for you.

This programme has the additional advantage of a master’s-level year with advanced and more deeply applied and deconstructed technical expertise in visual effects for 3D animation, film, television and physical simulation. The master’s year allows you to deepen your understanding of visual effects in more advanced technical ways, as well as providing a route to advanced degrees (for example, a PhD) and world-leading technical research in the visual effects area. For this reason you are expected to maintain a good grade average throughout your studies.

There is a clear focus on the technical simulation and systems side of the visual effects production pipeline. You will learn skills in 3D modelling and surface shader creation, but especially in the technical development of tool plug-ins and implementation of physical simulations in realistic film and TV productions such as particle effects and water.

You also gain experience of the wider pre-production and production pipelines in team modules shared with other animation and technical effects disciplines, where you can work as a generalist on effects look development, pre-production, surface shaders, or in more specialist effects direction roles in simulation or rendering pipelines. The course contains a programming strand, ensuring you are fully literate in the languages needed to develop and implement leading edge tools and systems for 3D effects animation and simulation, in small or large productions for believable photo-real effects, from the small and often unnoticed, for example water,to the large and spectacular, for example explosions.


Course details

Course structure

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.

Imaging Techniques for VFX

The fundamental techniques of 2D image acquisition, manipulation and digital compositing to produce manipulated but believable 2D imagery are introduced in this module. You will also work with specialist resources such as the soundstage, colour-grading suite and digital cameras.

Pre-vis and Cinematography

Pre-vis (short for pre-visualisation) including storyboarding and cinematography is essential when planning and visualising sequences for animation, live action or a combination of both.
In recent years pre-vis has become increasingly used for both animated and live action films. Some larger post-production companies now have dedicated pre-vis departments and a number of companies now exclusively specialise in pre-visualisation.

You are introduced to the context and art of cinematography and learn about basic film language. You learn the techniques for creating a static and moving storyboard (animatic) with sound, developing your drawing and visualisation skills and applying your knowledge of cinematography to your own work. You are also given an introduction to the 3D pre-vis process.

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.

VFX Scripting

You gain an introduction to scripting languages and their application in the visual effects and animation pipelines. You also gain an in-depth understanding of 3D fundamentals that will underpin your future learning. You will be taught the basic principles of procedural programming and case-studies will be used to illustrate how scripting can be used to streamline and ease the production process.


Year 2 core modules

Digital Compositing

Digital Compositing is an invaluable part of the tv, film and other commercial media industries. You work with layers of imagery from various sources to create seamless and believable shots, often a feature of visual effects films and music videos. These layers can include a combination of 3D computer graphics, live-action video footage, blue/greenscreen footage and additional still imagery.

The lecture series focuses on the theoretical concepts that underpin the practical processes. The teaching emphasis is on the practical lab-based work and visual problem solving needed to produce work of a highly detailed standard as required by this industry.

Throughout, you work on creating a portfolio of static composites as well as short video examples of compositing techniques. This culminates in you applying this knowledge in the production of a short visual effects shot of your own design for the final element of the ICA.

Digital Sculpting

This module extends your sculpting experience developed at Level four to include significant consideration of organic modelling. You explore the creation of anatomically aware characters and creatures. Consideration is made of the different scenarios, including the creation and sculpting of clothing and props, for which models are created from high end VFX through to matte painting visual aids. You also focus on techniques only deployable in non real-time development such as dynamic subdivision for displacement.

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.

Lighting and Look Development

You develop your skills in general CG lighting practice and art direction for VFX and Animation. The module outlines strategies for fast, flexible asset management that will allow models, lighting and camera rigs etc to be deployed efficiently in different lighting, visual style and environment scenarios. You are expected to use this good practice and asset management strategies throughout your university career and beyond. You develop work using a lighting and look development strategy recognisable to the industry.


Year 3 core modules

Advanced VFX Production

You deepen your skills in visual effects, working in a wider team on a short film production where you take on a specific role to cultivate expertise in specialist areas of VFX. You engage with a range of advanced topics in visual effects production, which are supported with specialist workshops and lectures, as well as directing your own learning in creative or more technical specialisms.

Contextual Research and Development

You develop your practice, innovation and professional skills through practice-based research in your area of computer character animation, computer animation or visual effects. You investigate a topic relevant to your chosen area to explore and expand your practical and theoretical knowledge.

Short Film Production

You build on your learning and team work to produce a short film. You work within small production teams in individual roles, based on their area of specialisation to create and produce a short film to an original concept. The completed film should be suitable for festival submission, television broadcast, or other industry events and competitions. It should also provide a high-end showpiece for your final portfolio.

Visual Effects Project

The final year project on the visual effects pathway is a large scale piece of individual coursework, completed under the supervision of a project supervisor and a second reader. The project parameters are agreed on an individual basis by you and your supervisor. The aim is to produce a substantial artefact related to your chosen specialism and career aims. The process begins with a pre-production document and culminates in a written reflective report, and a viva where the artefact is presented and defended.
You are guided to develop an appropriate sense of work-discipline coupled with a professional outlook. You are also expected to 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 in depth, and thereby demonstrate the ability to analyse, synthesise, and creatively apply what has already been studied on the programme whilst demonstrating critical and evaluative skills and professional awareness.


Final-year core modules

Advanced Compositing

Build upon your compositing knowledge and further develop specialist practical skills in footage acquisition, green screen studio setup, CG integration with live action, effective lighting, deep compositing, camera projections, set extensions, digital matte painting and look development including the colour pipeline.

Negotiate your personal learning goals and specialisms with your tutor(s) to develop your practice as a 2D/3D digital compositor. Practical sessions and seminars enable you to produce and manipulate 2D assets, including live action footage and incorporate elements from the Effects Animation module. You explore real-world complex compositing and VFX scenarios.

Advanced Effects Animation

This module focuses on dynamic simulation tools and techniques using SideFX Houdini. You focus on problem-solving and simulating natural phenomena. You also study particle and fluid simulation, rigid body dynamics and finite element method solvers.

Advanced Rigging

You develop your rigging knowledge and introduce advanced techniques, including Python scripting to create animation tools similar to those developed by Rigging Technical Directors in industry for items like fur and hair. You are guided through complex rigging tasks and identify current practise and how it is implemented.

You carry out an in class assessment where you research, design and implement a rig in your chosen area. You also present your work in a viva presentation.

VFX Group Project

You take an innovative approach to the analysis and solution of problems in visual effects production. In small production teams, you assume individual roles based on an area of specialism that demonstrates an understanding of the interrelation of creative and technical factors involved in the visual effects production pipeline.

VFX Individual Project

You undertake an in-depth individual study in an aspect of your course, usually drawn from film, games and television industry based problem areas. You engage in researching and investigating aspects of your area of study and produce a major deliverable, such as a rig, film, prototype or highly visual proof of concept. You also critically evaluate your major deliverable, including obtaining third party evaluation where appropriate.


Modules offered may vary.


How you learn

A variety of learning and teaching methods are employed throughout the programme. The methods adopted reflect active learning using authentic approaches, due to the vocational nature of the programme. You Students also gain experience of the wider production and post-production pipelines in team modules shared with other animation and visual effects disciplines, where they can work as generalists on effects look development, pre-production, surface shaders, or in more specialist effects direction roles in simulation or rendering pipelines.

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

Find out more about financial support
Find out more about our course related costs


Entry requirements

Entry requirements

Typical Offer: 96-112 tariff points and interview, plus a portfolio demonstrating basic skills in drawing and visual invention.

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

You are encouraged to think about your future career from the outset. We have a number of events that develop your employability: our ExpoSeries is integral to your course and is an opportunity for you to interact with employers via ExpoTential at the end of the first year, ExpoTalent at the end of the second year and ExpoTees at the end of the third year. Each event is open to the public and has invited industry guests, ensuring that you have the opportunity to showcase your work to peers, the public and potential future placements or employers at regular intervals throughout each level of your studies. The ExpoSeries underlines the School's commitment to employability by making this integral to your learning journey.


Information for international applicants


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

Select your country:


Useful information

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

Talk to us

Talk to an international student adviser



Entry to 2019/20 academic year

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

The final year is discounted from £9,250 to £6,500

More details about our fees

Fee for international applicants
£11,825 a year

The final year is £12,045

More details about our fees for international applicants

What is included in your tuition fee?

  • Length: 4 years (or 5 years including a work placement year)
  • UCAS code: I701 MComp/VE
  • Semester dates
  • Typical offer: 96-112 tariff points and interview

Apply online (full-time) through UCAS



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

Apply online (part-time)



ExpoTalent showcases the next generation of talent from second year students from our School of Computing, Media & the Arts.


Choose Teesside


Are you eligible for an iPad, keyboard and £300 credit for learning resources?



Live in affordable accommodation right on-campus



Study in our town-centre campus with over £270m of recent investment


Industry ready

Benefit from work placements, live projects, accredited courses


Get in touch


Open days