Skip to main content
Postgraduate study
  • January 2020: Apply now to start January 2020.

Course overview

Our MSc Technical Direction for Visual Effects focusses on the skills and knowledge required for the specialist role of technical director within the visual effects industry. It focuses in particular on the applied technical aspects of visual effects including the 3D animation pipeline, the effects pipeline, graphical simulation and the emerging application of VFX to virtual reality platforms using real time technologies.

You study content in the new areas of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) that are only now emerging in a VFX context.You benefit from expertise and state-of-the-art facilities in the School of Computing, Media & the Arts such as the green screen studio, and the latest technologies such as the new VR development studio.You also benefit from regular industry input from internationally renowned speakers through Animex and from staff and student contacts.

There are three routes you can choose from to gain an MSc Technical Direction for Visual Effects:

  • full-time - 2 years with advanced practice (September and January start)
  • full-time - 1 year (September start) or 16 months (January start)
  • part-time - 2 years.


Course details

Course structure

Core modules

Advanced Effects Animation

You explore the more advanced simulation tools and techniques used in effects animation. You study the underlying physics and computer graphics theory behind these simulation techniques and apply them using industry standard software.

You research state-of-the-art of effects animation and apply this to create convincing simulations of a variety of real-world phenomena.
Your assessment is a portfolio of effects sequences and a breakdown/contact sheet that illustrates how they are generated.

Master's Project: Technical Direction for VFX

You undertake a major, in-depth, individual study in an aspect of your programme. Your project explores an appropriate commercial, industrial, artistic or research-based problem area. You research and investigate relevant aspects of a specific area of study and produce a major portfolio of relevant practice based materials from the area of technical direction. You also produce a written report that contextualises and critically evaluates your final outputs.
Your assessment is 100% ICA, a viva and accompanying written report which contextualises and evaluates the creative output.

Programming for VFX

You analyse the fundamentals of programming for 3D animation and visual effects. You learn how to extend the functionality of industry-standard software using scripting and Software Development Kits (SDKs).
You explore various SDKs, such as the Maya API and Houdini HDK, to extend the functionality of industry-standard software. You also explore graphical maths and C++ to build production-ready tools.
Your assessment is 100% ICA to design and build animation/ VFX tools to satisfy a production scenario. You document the research, analysis and design of these tools.

Research Methods

You gain the knowledge and skills to understand the research process in computing and digital media, and the necessary skills to undertake your masters project. You learn how to use and critically evaluate previous academic research, and to generate good evidence material to justify their professional practice. This involves you learning about different research strategies and data generation methods and how they fit into the development lifecycle and the evaluation of the user experience, the use of the academic research literature, and research ethics.

Assessment involves you preparing a research proposal which can form the basis of your master's project.

Virtual Reality

You undertake a multidisciplinary group project where you apply your individual area of expertise to the platform of Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR). You focus on integrating and applying existing skills from multiple disciplines and applying them in a VR context. You research and develop a VR, AR or immersive experience. You research, analyse, and evaluate a broad range of VR and AR systems, as well as learning how to synthesise and reflect on your own contribution for immersive systems within your discipline.
Your assessment is 100% ICA, with a group project including product demonstration and actual immersive experience, an individual portfolio and individual written report.

Visual Effects Pipeline

You gain a deep understanding of 3D animation and visual effects pipelines that are crucial in any CG production pipeline, and how the work produced needs to integrate with other departments involved with the process. The module focusses on the theory and practice of 3D computer animation and VFX production and introduces you to industry-standard hardware and software. Emphasis will be given to the traditional technical director roles, for example rigging, lighting and shading.

Visual Simulation

You gain a comprehensive overview and analysis of the state of the art in visual simulation techniques and algorithms. You also gain in depth practical guidance in developing solutions to real world visual simulation problems using appropriate methods and techniques within the constraints of technological feasibility and commercial constraints along with promoting critical reflection.
Your assessment is 100% ICA, with a visual simulation problem and research, design and implement a solution to that problem.


Advanced practice


The internship options are:

Vocational: spend one semester working full-time in industry or on placement in the University. We have close links with a range of national and international companies who could offer you the chance to develop your knowledge and professional skills in the workplace through an internship. Although we cannot guarantee internships, we will provide you with practical support and advice on how to find and secure your own internship position. A vocational internship is a great way to gain work experience and give your CV a competitive edge.

Research: develop your research and academic skills by undertaking a research internship within the University. Experience working as part of a research team in an academic setting. Ideal for those who are interested in a career in research or academia.


Modules offered may vary.


How you learn

You learn about concepts and methods primarily through keynote lectures and tutorials using case studies and examples. Lectures include presentations from guest speakers from industry. Critical reflection is key to successful problem solving and essential to the creative process. You develop your own reflective practice at an advanced level, then test and assess your solutions against criteria that you develop in the light of your research.

How you are assessed

The programme assessment strategy has been designed to assess your subject specific knowledge, cognitive and intellectual skills and transferable skills applicable to the workplace. The strategy ensures that you are provided with formative assessment opportunities throughout the programme which support your summative assessments. There is a mix of practical work, usually in the form of portfolios, that are developed in a number of modules. The portfolios can include a short animation/VFX sequence, 3D assets, effects sequences, breakdown/contact sheet, etc., all of which are specified each assessment description. You will also produce a poster and deliver viva presentations, along with written reports. Formative feedback is typically given during lectures, tutorials and summative feedback using on-line methods. The assessments can include individual or group work. The assessment criteria, where appropriate, will include assessment of presentation skills and report writing.


Entry requirements

You will normally have a first degree in related discipline (2.2 minimum) or relevant experience or equivalent qualifications.

In addition, international students will require IELTS 6.0 or equivalent.

For additional information please see our entry requirements

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



Career opportunities

We prepare you for a career in industry. In addition to your taught classes, we create opportunities for you to meet and network with our industry partners through events such as our ExpoSeries, which showcases student work to industry. ExpoTees is the pinnacle of the ExpoSeries with over 100 businesses from across the UK coming to the campus to meet our exceptional students, with a view to recruitment.


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



2019 entry

Fee for UK/EU applicants
£6,500 a year

More details about our fees

Fee for international applicants
£12,045 a year

More details about our fees for international applicants

  • Length: within 1 year (September start), 16 months (January start) or 2 years with advanced practice (September or January start)
  • Enrolment date: September and January
  • Semester dates

Apply online (full-time)

Apply online (fast-track) for current students



2019 entry

Fee for UK/EU applicants
£722 for each 20 credits

More details about our fees

  • Length: 2 years
  • Enrolment date: September and January
  • Semester dates

Apply online (part-time)

Apply online (fast-track) for current students


Choose Teesside


Stand out from other job applicants with your higher level qualification, specialist knowledge and expanded networks.



Improve your project management, critical thinking, research skills, time management, presentation skills and teamwork.



The median salary for working-age (16-64) postgraduates in 2018 was £6,000 more than graduates
(DoE Graduate Labour Market Statistics 2018,



Study in our friendly town-centre campus with over £270m recently invested and another £300m over the next 10 years.


Get in touch


Open days

16 November 2019
Postgraduate open day

Book now