Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Digital Visual Effects - MSc

2018

The Digital Visual Effects MSc equips you with advanced skills, knowledge and understanding of high definition digital effects to help you become a highly skilled technical director (TD) in the visual effects industry.

2018

Overview

This programme is entirely oriented towards current industrial needs, technology and practice and provides a direct route into the highly desirable creative industry. Our successful former students are working in London and for international companies in areas ranging from television graphics to architectural visualisation.

It covers 3D model building, texturing, lighting, rendering, procedural animation (cloth, hair, fur, dynamics), advanced compositing and high-definition digital effects. Although the thrust of the programme is towards high end film special effects and animation, the standards and techniques you learn will allow you to work in numerous other areas of digital effects.

About the School of Engineering and Digital Arts

The School successfully combines modern engineering and technology with the exciting field of digital media. Established over 40 years ago, the School has developed a top-quality teaching and research base, receiving excellent ratings in both research and teaching assessments.

We undertake high-quality research that has had significant national and international impact, and our spread of expertise allows us to respond rapidly to new developments. Our 30 academic staff and over 130 postgraduate students and research staff provide an ideal focus to effectively support a high level of research activity. There is a thriving student population studying for postgraduate degrees in a friendly and supportive teaching and research environment.

We have research funding from the Research Councils UK, European research programmes, a number of industrial and commercial companies and government agencies including the Ministry of Defence. Our Electronic Systems Design Centre and Digital Media Hub provide training and consultancy for a wide range of companies. Many of our research projects are collaborative, and we have well-developed links with institutions worldwide.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Engineering and Digital Arts was ranked 21st in the UK for research intensity.

An impressive 98% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of research of international excellence.

Course structure

The course is designed to train digital effects artists to work in industry. Our successful former  students are working in London and for international companies in areas ranging from television graphics to architectural visualisation. Although the thrust of the course is towards high end film special effects and animation, the standards and techniques you learn allow you to work in numerous other areas of digital effects.

The primary industry jobs the course is oriented towards include: technical directors in assistant, creature development, lighting effects, look development roles, compositors in compositing, digital paint and roto roles, modellers and trackers/matchmovers. For a smaller project or company roles would include that of a 3D generalist, 3D artist, effects artist or compositor. These are not easy to achieve, as global competition is fierce and success depends on much better than average concentration and constant practise to grasp the essence and modern techniques of digital visual effects.

Student profiles

See what our students have to say.

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Modules may include Credits

Animation Setup is an intensive 4-week, 15 credit module at the start of the Programme which has been designed to get all students up to speed regarding the complicated technical processes that surround current animation practice. This module is concerned with the skills and procedures employed professionally including modelling, rigging, skinning, muscle dynamics, texturing and lighting and is undertaken as a set of practical exercises where the student creates a scene with four organic characters and a machine, to be composited in a DV shot.

Delivery is by means of Lectures, Demonstrations, Workshops and Assessed Practical Assignments.

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15

This module is a group project which allows the student to work on a model of an actual animation job provided by our industrial partner. Each group produces an animation from established plates and models to a 4 week deadline. The student works with a model of a production pipeline, becoming familiar with the production process, chains of approval and departmental divisions.

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15

Particle dynamics

Particle tool and particle emitters, cycle emission, volume emitters, force fields, lifespan, constraints, adding springs, soft-body dynamics, active and passive rigid bodies, setting static and dynamic friction, damping, mass, bounciness, caching, rendering in software hardware and Mentalray.

Fluid Effects

2d and 3d fluid containers, emitting fluids from objects and curves, colliding

fluids with objects, explosions, creating atmospheric systems, realistic fire, explosion and smoke effects, interacting fluids with particles, combustible fluids.

nCloth

nParticle, nConstraint, nSolver, cloth collision, collision layer, wind and gravity, nCache.

Coursework

Students are required to assemble a portfolio contains various dynamic instances created, simulated and rendered using Maya tools.

Assessed.

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15

Coursework

1. Production of a character design portfolio illustrating adaptation to various professional briefs, backed up by life drawing sessions.

2. Intensive research into surface anatomy and detail for the modelling project.

3. Production of a clean, animateable, basic 3D model with an even structure of vertices, quadratic face surfaces and form reflecting edge loops.

4. Production of image displacement, bump and normal maps in a sculpting programme using paint and sculpt tools and upon the previous model.

5. Application, rendering and final compositing of all maps upon the model resulting in a professional turntable render to create a final high resolution film.

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15

Texturing & Lighting:

The physics of lighting,

Computer lighting models,

Surface shading fundamentals,

Texture,

UV mapping,

Photo realistic texture painting.

Advanced lighting techniques: light shaders, shadow generation, global illumination.

Rendering:

Software, hardware and mental ray rendering,

Rendering with Render Man.

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15

Mattes:

difference keys, luma keys, chroma keys, garbage mattes.

2D and 3D Tracking:

techniques to track elements from a live action background plate

Video compositing:

blending modes, motion attributes, rotoscoping, using alpha channels.

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15

SCREENWRITING

The fundamentals of screenwriting: managing information and structuring narrative

FILM STYLE AND TECHNNIQUES

The fundamentals of film style: composition, camera movement, lighting/colour, sound, and editing

PRACTICAL WORKSHOPS

Camerawork, sound recording, lighting, and editing

FEEDBACK

Regular meetings for discussion of projects and video production exercises

Coursework

SCREENPLAY WRITING

Students will individually write a 3-5 minute scene for possible production in class. This will not be assessed.

VIDEO PRODUCTION EXERCISES

Students will work together in small teams on two short video production exercises. The first exercise will not be assessed. The second exercise will be assessed.

REFLECTIVE DIARY

A brief reflective analysis (max. 1000 words + illustrations) on students' learning experience across the module. Assessed.

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15

Each student uses all the experience gained on the course to produce a video short in high definition which showcases his or her professional visual effects skills and forms a suitable entree to a professional career.

The subject, script, models and soundtrack of the piece are agreed with the academic staff, or is a project from an Industrial collaborator.

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60

Teaching and Assessment

Each module is assessed by practical assignments. The project work is assessed
on the outcome of the project itself.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • enable you  to develop your knowledge and understanding within the field of digital visual effects, which will equip you to become a professional in the animation and visual effects Industry
  • train you in the requirements and skills needed for work in high definition
  • produce professionally-trained technical directors who are highly skilled in using state of the art 3D modelling and visual effects software
  • provide you with proper academic guidance and welfare support
  • create an atmosphere of co-operation and partnership between staff and students, and offer you an environment where you can develop your potential.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the computer animation production process and pipeline roles
  • the principles and practices of animated film development
  • the technical terms and methods used in film editing
  • the fundamental concepts of digital video technology
  • current developments in the visual effects industry and related market sectors
  • the relevance of visual effects within the contemporary television and film industries

contemporary business practice in the visual effects industry

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • the analysis and interpretation of animation issues
  • the ability to work within an animation process and to contribute to this
  • the ability to identify and solve complex problems and issues in the generation of a complex visual effect
  • the ability to identify ideas for enhancing a production’s aesthetic quality by the use of complex video effect
  • the ability to demonstrate independence and creative and critical thinking
  • the ability to evaluate creatively evidence to support conclusions.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the use of appropriate software tools, techniques and packages to produce and develop complex visual effects
  • the ability to use drawing as a way of planning, visualising and explaining work in a time-based medium
  • the ability to read and make storyboards and animatics at a professional level
  • the ability to apply management techniques to the planning, resource allocation and execution of a visual effects project
  • the ability to prepare reports and presentations relevant to the design and production of visual effects.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • the ability to generate, analyse, present and interpret data
  • use of information and communications technology
  • personal and interpersonal skills, the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility as an individual and as a member of a team
  • an ability to communicate effectively in writing, verbally and through drawings
  • the ability for critical thinking, reasoning and reflection
  • the ability to manage time and resources within an individual and group project
  • the ability to learn effectively for the purpose of continuing professional development.

Careers

We have developed the programme with a number of industrial organisations, which means that successful students will be in a strong position to build long-term careers in this important discipline.

The School of Engineering and Digital Arts has an excellent record of student employability. We are committed to enhancing the employability of all our students, to equip you with the skills and knowledge to succeed in a competitive, fast-moving, knowledge-based economy.

Graduates who can show that they have developed transferable skills and valuable experience are better prepared to start their careers and are more attractive to potential employers. Within the School of Engineering and Digital Arts, you can develop the skills and capabilities that employers seek. These include problem solving, independent thought, report-writing, time management, leadership skills, team-working and good communication.

Building on Kent’s success as the region’s leading institution for student employability, we offer many opportunities for you to gain worthwhile experience and develop the specific skills and aptitudes that employers value.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

Students on the programmes in Architectural Visualisation, Computer Animation and Digital Visual Effects work in a dedicated, state-of-the-art suite, equipped with leading-edge PC workstations running Alias™ Maya and Foundry Nuke. There is also a photographic studio and a production studio with green screen and motion capture facilities. The School is also equipped with a 3D body scanner – one of only two in the UK.

Support

As a postgraduate student, you are part of a thriving research community and receive support through a wide-ranging programme of individual supervision, specialised research seminars, general skills training programmes, and general departmental colloquia, usually with external speakers. We encourage you to attend and present your work at major conferences, as well as taking part in our internal conference and seminar programmes.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Recent contributions include: IEEE Transactions; IET Journals; Electronics Letters; Applied Physics; Computers in Human Behaviour.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A 2.2 or higher honours degree in animation, digital effects, fine art, architecture, multimedia, illustration, digital arts, computing and film making.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Intelligent Interactions

The Intelligent Interactions group has interests in all aspects of information engineering and human-machine interactions. It was formed in 2014 by the merger of the Image and Information Research Group and the Digital Media Research Group.

The group has an international reputation for its work in a number of key application areas. These include: image processing and vision, pattern recognition, interaction design, social, ubiquitous and mobile computing with a range of applications in security and biometrics, healthcare, e-learning, computer games, digital film and animation.

  • Social and Affective Computing
  • Assistive Robotics and Human-Robot Interaction
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces
  • Mobile, Ubiquitous and Pervasive Computing
  • Sensor Networks and Data Analytics
  • Biometric and Forensic Technologies
    Behaviour Models for Security
  • Distributed Systems Security (Cloud Computing, Internet of Things)
  • Advanced Pattern Recognition (medical imaging, document and handwriting recognition, animal biometrics)
  • Computer Animation, Game Design and Game Technologies
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • Digital Arts, Virtual Narratives

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Jim Ang: Senior Lecturer in Multimedia/Digital Systems

Human computer interaction; usability and playability design; computer game studies and interactive narrative; social computing and sociability design; virtual worlds; online communities and computer-mediated communication.

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Ania Bobrowicz: Senior Lecturer in Digital Arts

Human-computer interaction; computer-mediated communication; feminism and art history.

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Mr David Byers Brown: Senior Lecturer

Animation; digital visual effects; directing.

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Professor Marc Cavazza: Professor of Intelligent Interactions

Intelligent interfaces, virtual characters, multimodal interfaces, affective and physiological computing, Brain-Computer Interfaces.

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Dr Christos Efstratiou: Lecturer in Ubiquitous Computing

Ubiquitous computing, mobile computing, social computing, Internet of Things, wireless sensor networks.

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Dr Rocio von Jungenfeld: Lecturer in Digital Media

The use of media in the production of creative outputs with focus on contemporary media art, portability, interactive and mediated environments, participation in public space, perception and media projections.

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Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Digital Visual Effects - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7750 £18400

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: