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BA (Hons) Visual Effects

£10,000 scholarships available
  • Late
  • UCAS Code:
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  • Delivery:
    Sandwich (Thick) out of college.

Taught within our National Centre for Computer Animation Art (NCCA), this course covers the main aspects of the visual effects post production pipeline and focuses on the theory, principles and production of visual effects assets and shots. The course is tailored towards students who have a strong interest and desire to work in the feature film visual effects industry and other associated areas.

Key disciplines covered include visual storytelling and pre-visualisation, post visualisation, shot development, asset creation and integration, and compositing to name but a few. It also includes supporting elements such as the theoretical underpinnings of moving image, the history of visual effects, personal research units, an industry led project, and visual effects photography and acquisition.

What’s more, there are a number of optional components that will allow you to tailor your pathway to either a more technical or artistic flavour. This approach will then lead you to produce a high quality demonstrative portfolio and showreel of visual effects work, specifically related to the knowledge and production of professional quality feature film visual effects. 

Find out more by watching a webinar about the course.  

Key information

Next start date:

September 2018, September 2019


Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus


3 years full-time (or 4 years full-time including a minimum 30-week placement).

Required subjects:

One creative subject such as: Fine Art, Photography, Media Design or Product Design or one technical subject such as: Maths, Computing or Physics

Entry requirements:

120-128 tariff points including a minimum of 2 A-levels or equivalent, including 40 points in 1 required subject. BTEC Extended Diploma: DDM in a required subject. For more information check out our 2018 entry requirements page

International entry requirements:

If English is not your first language you'll need IELTS (Academic) 6.5 with minimum 6.0 in each component or equivalent. For more information check out our international entry requirements page.

Course details

This course will use tools and design work created by students on our Computer Animation courses in Art & Design and Technical Arts to create visual effects work, just like it happens in the feature film visual effects industry. As such, the course doesn’t cover the technical aspects of mathematics and programming or the more creative aspects of character design and story generation.

Year 1

Core units

Introduction to Production Tools: Employing the principles and practices of software tools, you will complete an effective, realistic, visual effects project.

History of Visual Effects: This unit will cover the development of SFX, including glass painting, model sets, rear projection, stop frame animation and motion control cameras, and will seek to describe its evolution into VFX following the transition from film/analogue into Digital.

Visual Storytelling & Pre-Visualisation: You will be provided with a good understanding of visual structure, form and design in order to effectively communicate the visual narrative. This knowledge and understanding of key concepts, principles and tools will enable you to pre-visualise and communicate ideas effectively for every visual production assignment you do as part of the degree, and, later in your career.

Asset Integration 1: This unit aims to further develop your understanding of the visual effects asset creation and integration pipeline. You will be exposed to more advanced asset creation techniques for modelling, UVing, texturing, lighting, shading, rendering, simulation, and compositing. You will also develop abilities to work to specific shot requirements and limitations, specifically with regards to the photo-real integration of assets.

Post Visualisation & Shot Development: You will gain the practice and experience of working with and handling large data files, keeping track of changes/versioning, adapting and responding to frequent changes requested by the client, and, generating a post-vis video sequence. You will learn best practices for backing up and keeping track of data, naming conventions, and, production pipeline organisation and workflow. This knowledge, practice and experience will be instrumental in enabling you to respond to the challenges of subsequent production-based projects that you encounter within the course and in your careers.

Visual Effects Photography & Acquisition: On completion of this unit you will have a thorough understanding of how to acquire high quality live actions elements for visual effects projects. You will have a sound understanding of the core principles and technical image requirements for visual effects and will have acquired a range of practical skills, including camera operation, lighting, tracking and set survey. You will also be familiar with the procedures and protocols for safely setting up and executing live action studio or location shoots.

Year 2

Core units

Image Processing for Visual Effects Production: This unit covers two main areas: Rotoscoping and prep work, which allows a visual effects artist to prepare acquisition footage and elements for digital compositing. Green screen matte extraction and compositing, which allows a visual effects artist to extract elements which are shot in front of a green screen for digital compositing in background plates. 

Modelling & Texturing: You will learn more advanced creation techniques for hard surface and deformation modelling, UV unwrapping for multiple tile workflow and texturing. You will further develop abilities to work to specific asset requirements and limitations, specifically with regards to the creation of photo-real assets for use in the visual effects live action integration pipeline. 

Group Project: You will work as part of a team to develop your creative and production skills through the completion of either a short visual sequence or an interactive project, demonstrating advanced CG techniques.

Asset Integration 2: You will continue to work towards more advanced asset creation techniques for modelling, UVing, texturing, lighting, shading, rendering, simulation, matchmove, 2D and 3D tracking and compositing. You will work to specific shot requirements and limitations, specifically with regards to the photo-real integration of assets.

Option units (choose 2)

Digital Matte Painting: You will develop your 2D digital painting techniques and ability with regards to creating high quality photo-realistic digitally painted images.

Lighting & Rendering: This unit will further your knowledge of lighting and rendering for visual effects. Focusing on three main bodies of knowledge: The look development of the computer generated assets for material creation. The preparation of live action images for the purpose of relighting the computer generated assets and matching the lighting between the assets and the live action background. The rendering of the computer generated assets in preparation for compositing on the live action background plate. 

Rigging & Animation for Visual Effects: You will learn techniques for rigging various different types of character and non-character assets as well as various different techniques and workflow practices for the animation of character based and non-character based assets.

Technical Effects: You will develop an understanding of technical effects such as rigid body dynamics, particle systems, fluid dynamic systems, fire and smoke simulation, and character effects systems like fur and cloth.

Year 3: optional placement

You may choose to complete an optional a 30-week minimum work placement which can be carried out anywhere in the world. The placement year offers a chance to gain experience and make contacts for the future.

Year 3/4 (Final year)

Core units

Final Major Project & Dissertation: This unit is the culmination of your studies. Working as either an individual or in a group, you must produce a significant body of work (typically a short animation or film, game or software artefact). This must be accompanied by a dissertation demonstrating your ability to communicate evidence of problem solving.

Master Class: You will be introduced to the professional world of a digital media production house through undertaking an industry set and supervised brief, in which you demonstrate your chosen area of specialism.

Asset Integration 3: Asset integration is a major part of the professional practice of any visual effects artist, and it is therefore essential that you constantly develop your knowledge and ability in the creation and integration of assets, and in working with live action plates. It will expand on the knowledge gained, and techniques covered, in the Asset Integration 1 and 2 units.

Programme specification

Programme specifications provide definitive records of the University's taught degrees in line with Quality Assurance Agency requirements. Every taught course leading to a BU Award has a programme specification which describes its aims, structure, content and learning outcomes, plus the teaching, learning and assessment methods used.

View the programme specification for BA (Hons) Visual Effects.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the programme specification, the information is liable to change to take advantage of exciting new approaches to teaching and learning as well as developments in industry. If you have been unable to locate the programme specification for the course you are interested in, it will be available as soon as the latest version is ready. Alternatively please contact us for assistance.

Placement opportunities

At BU, we recognise that placements are extremely valuable and can give you a head start when it comes to your future career; therefore we now offer every new student the opportunity to undertake a work placement as part of their course.

We will provide a great deal of support to help you find the most appropriate work placement for the subject you’re studying and the career you’re interested in, which means you could be based anywhere in the UK, or even overseas.

A placement should be a highly rewarding experience for you and the employing company and we do our best to ensure that everyone involved feels that they have got the most that they can from the experience.
The benefits to you as a placement student are many. You will have the chance to:

  • Put the theory learnt throughout the course into professional practice
  • Enhance your study and help you decide on subject options (where appropriate)
  • Learn a wide range of skills such as time management, problem solving and team work (all of these are important to succeed in any career)
  • Make contacts, as it is not uncommon for our students to be offered permanent positions to return to after graduating
  • Gain a real insight into how the industry operates in roles that would be almost impossible to achieve for an outsider
  • Many of our students, during their placement, are given responsibilities normally associated with graduate trainees.

Our students have previously worked for:

• Framestore
• Moving Picture Company
• Double Negative
• Cinesite

How long is my placement?

Should you choose to undertake a work placement, you will begin your placement after completion of your second year of study and you must complete a minimum of 30-weeks.

However, your work placement doesn't have to be with the same employer and, in the computer animation and visual effects industry, it's often more common that you'll find a placement for around three months at a time, allowing you to gain experience with several organisations during the year. This is largely due to the timeframes many production studios work to.

Software and production tools

Our aim is to prepare you for work in the computer animation and visual effects industry, which is why we regularly update our software to give you access to the production tools used by the professionals.  Some of the software packages used include: 

  • Maya
  • Mudbox
  • ZBrush
  • Mari
  • Nuke
  • Houdini
  • Photoshop
  • Premier

Your application

Background and experience

We are looking for applicants who can:

  • Demonstrate both intellectual and creative abilities

  • Have a passion for the discipline of visual effects

  • Show an understanding of the animation, visual effects or games industry

  • Have a strong creative or technical background 

  • Demonstrate good written and oral communication skills.

  • Product a strong portfolio of art work.

You must possess both a good mathematical and artistic ability, and show a keen interest in the world of animation, visual effects and/or computer games production. You should have an understanding of how the industry works and the job roles within it. Most of all you must be a passionate, creative innovator with a strong imagination. You should also have an understanding of computers; some students may already have basic programming skills, however this is not an essential requirement.

IT Skills

The entire process of visual effects production is underpinned by technology. The visual and technological aspects of the field are inseparable. To produce visual work in the field does not necessarily require a deep-rooted understanding of technological issues.

However, the ethos of the course, and one of the aspects that commands respect from employers of its graduates, is that a greater understanding of the technologies underpinning the visuals contributes to the practitioner's ability to produce work more effectively.

A desire to understand and develop a command of technology is of great benefit to any candidate for the course. While the majority of graduates tend to enter the computer animation, visual effects and games industries as visual artists, some specialise as software producers during the course, but in all cases a strong grasp of technological issues affecting computer animation and digital media production is a hallmark of the course's graduates.

Selection methods

We’ll use the UCAS applications to create a shortlist of candidates that we would like to find out more about. You can find some handy hints about filling in your UCAS form on our how to apply webpages. 

Our offer making process

Our offer making will typically be based on your three main graded qualifications, including any required subjects. Additional study may be valuable for breadth of study, and we will look at a range of qualifications and subjects, including the Extended Project Qualification and General Studies, although these may not be part of our offer.

If you do not meet the criteria of your original offer, we may still offer you a place. We will review your whole application and consider all academic qualifications (including those not in the offer) and the rest of the application to see if you have the academic potential to succeed on the course. If we feel the answer is yes, we will still confirm your place.

How we'll assess your application

We look at individual applications and make a tailored offer based on your potential to succeed on the course considering a range of factors, including your academic achievements, work and other experience, predicted grades, reference and personal statement, and in some cases, your performance at an interview/selection test.

If you meet one or more of our contextual data indicators for educational disadvantage (such as being in care, living in a low participation neighbourhood or in an area with less advantaged socio-economic characteristics), your offer could be between 6-20 points below the published tariff.


We invite applicants who present the academic qualifications we require in their UCAS form to attend an interview day in order to demonstrate the practical skills required to excel in this discipline. 

You will also be interviewed by a member of the teaching team to discuss our courses, and also to give you an opportunity to present and discuss your portfolio. Portfolios could include, but are not limited to:

  • Observational studies in any medium - Still life, environments (interior, exterior, architectural studies, perspective studies), lighting studies, colour studies, anatomy studies

  • Sketchbook and works demonstrating self-motivated study and research. We need to see work that the applicant has done outside of their studies and courses, and can discuss with keen interest and enthusiasm

  • Life drawing

  • An appropriate application of detail. Adding detail to artwork should not be at the expense of strong form and structure

  • Work that demonstrates creativity and proficiency in composition, form, structure, colour and design, in both 2D or 3D.  For example - character design, environment design, illustration, graphic design, product design, media design, photography, sculpture

  • A showreel of moving image work (but this is not essential)

Applicants should demonstrate a keen interest in areas of moving image/animation/visual effects. You should be prepared to talk through your portfolio and creative ideas. Find out more information about what to expect during your interview.

Overseas applicants who meet the academic criteria but who are unable to attend an interview day, will be asked to submit a portfolio online for review and will also be asked to undertake an online interview with the teaching team and online tests if required.

Unconditional offer scheme

Exceptional applicants who are predicted to achieve top academic results may receive an unconditional offer from us. We believe that unconditional offers will reduce pressure on applicants who will continue to strive to achieve the best grades possible. Further information for students applying in 2018 will be available in September.

2018 entry requirements

We use the UCAS Tariff to show our entry requirements and will accept a combination of grades from your qualifications. You can use the UCAS calculator to see how your qualifications equate to tariff points.

The entry requirements for this course are 120 - 128 tariff points including a minimum of 2 A levels or equivalent including 40 points in a required subject. BTEC Extended Diploma: DDM in a required subject.

Required subjects: One creative subject such as: Fine Art, Photography, Media Design or Product Design or one technical subject such as: Maths, Computing or Physics. 40 points is required in either one of the creative or technical required subjects.

Excluded subjects: This course does not accept General Studies

GCSEs: This course requires GCSE English and Mathematics grade C (or grade 4 in the reformed GCSE grading) or equivalent qualifications.

Numeracy and literacy: We need to be sure that you can express yourself in written English and have basic numeracy skills. We look at Level 2 of the National Qualifications Framework, which includes, but is not limited to, GCSEs, iGCSEs, Key Skills and Functional Skills Level 2. If you do not have formal qualifications to this level or have alternatives, we may still be able to consider your application – please contact the Future Students Enquiries Team to find out more.

Other qualifications

We have outlined below other qualifications that we consider for this course. If you are studying a qualification that is not listed, please contact the Future Students Enquiries Team – it may be that we can still consider it.

Access courses: 118 - 128 tariff points in a required subject with any combination of Distinction, Merit, Pass grades

BTEC qualifications:

  • Extended Diploma: This course requires Distinction, Distinction, Merit (128 tariff points).
  • Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff. 
  • 90-credit Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by an A-level or equivalent. 
  • Subsidiary Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by an A-level or equivalent. 

Cambridge Pre-U Diploma: 120 - 128 tariff points including a minimum of 2 Principal Subjects in required subjects (52 points in 1 required subject).

Cambridge Technical qualifications:

  • Extended Diploma: This course requires Distinction, Distinction, Merit (128 tariff points).
  • Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff.
  • Subsidiary Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by an A-level or equivalent. 
  • Introductory Diploma: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by an A-level or equivalent. 

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 31 - 32 overall including grade H5 from 2 Higher Level subjects including grade H6 in a required subject

Scottish Advanced Highers: 120 - 128 tariff points including a minimum of 2 Advanced Highers in required subjects (48 points in 1 required subject).

Welsh Baccalaureate: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by an A-level or equivalent. 

Extended Project Qualification: Accepted as part of the overall tariff but it must be accompanied by 2 A-levels or equivalent. 

Deferred entry: We are happy to consider applicants for deferred entry.

International entry requirements

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally:

IELTS (Academic) 6.5 with minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

View further information about our English language requirements.

If you do not meet the English language requirement for your degree then why not join our Pre-Sessional English course. Successful completion of our Pre-Sessional English course will meet your English language requirement, without the need to re-take IELTS.

Academic entry requirements

You can find details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our entry requirements for non-UK students’ page.

We offer a number of preparatory programmes through the Bournemouth University International College. These courses offer you progression from High School in your home country to a Bachelor’s degree at BU.


Our computer animation courses are exceptionally well regarded within the industry and as a result, our graduates rarely struggle to find work once they finish their course. In fact, 70% of our students are working or studying within six months of finishing their course*.

During your degree you will have the opportunity to work with some of the UK's leading computer animation organisations, through the National Centre for Computer Animation (NCCA), and can make valuable contacts before you graduate.

Our NCCA graduates have gone on to work on some of the most successful films of the past decade, including Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Interstellar, Gravity and Alice in Wonderland to name just a few. Among the roles you can apply for once you graduate are:

Visual Effects artist in the following areas:

  • Modelling
  • Texturing
  • Lighting
  • FX Technical Direction
  • Look DevTechnical Direction
  • Digital Matte Painting
  • Compositing

Our graduates work all over the world, and many are employed by the industry's leading animation and production houses, software houses, and computer game and digital media companies.

Industries worked in

  • Visual Effects for film or television
  • Computer game design
  • Animation production
  • Scientific visualisation
  • Historical Visualisation
  • Architectural Visualisation
  • Graphics software implementation.

Further study

Once you have completed an undergraduate Honours degree, you can further develop your education by studying for a postgraduate degree. Please visit our Postgraduate section for further details about our range of Master's degrees.

*All statistics shown are taken from Unistats, Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE), BU institutional data and Ipsos MORI (National Student Survey) unless otherwise stated.

Your lecturers

Our staff are actively engaged in research and professional practice in the visual effects sector which is integrated into the teaching of this course. Find out more about some of the staff and their research activities who will be teaching on this course below.

Adam Redford, Programme Leader

Adam graduated from the NCCA in 2006 with a Master of Arts degree in Digital Effects.  He then went on to work in the feature film visual effects industry in London for six years, during which time he worked on a number of successful films including Gravity, Harry Potter, Narnia, Prince of Persia, John Carter, Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans, and Sweeney Todd.

Other academics teaching on the BA (Hons) Visual Effects course include:

Melania Fodritto, an experienced compositor in the feature film visual effects industry.

Peter Truckel, an experience special digital effects artist and director who previously worked on the original Blade Runner.

Ingrid Morrison, an experience modeller, rigger, and animator in the computer animation industry.

Rehan Zia, an experience academic currently researching towards a PhD in photography.

Susan Sloan, an experienced academic with a background in fine art and sculpture

Richard Southern, an experienced academic with a PhD in Computer Science from Cambridge university.

No hidden extras

Course specific material(s) included in your tuition fee:

As a student at BU we will provide many things to support you and there will also be additional costs you may encounter whilst studying at BU. The information below will help you understand our provision and what you need to budget for.

As a student at BU we will provide many things to support you and there will also be additional costs you may encounter whilst studying at BU. The information below will help you understand our provision and what you need to budget for.

What you can expect from us

All of your teaching and assessments are included in your tuition fees, including, lectures/guest lectures and tutorials, seminars, laboratory sessions and specialist teaching facilities. You will also have access to a wide range of support and services, many of these are included on the Next Steps insert enclosed with your offer letter.

  • One set of study-related consumables such as a memory stick/ DVD
  • Materials for laboratory and field-based teaching activity
  • Support for placements (UK or abroad) and fieldwork, and non-financial support whilst on placement
  • A range of student services – advisors, help desks, counsellors, placement support and careers service
  • The Library – access to a wide range of electronic resources (databases, e-journals and e-books), print and multimedia collections, subject librarians and study spaces
  • IT labs (some open 24/7), wireless network, AV equipment to borrow
  • Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme
  • Disability and additional learning support
  • The BU Language Centre to help you develop/improve foreign or English language skills
  • 24 hours a day, 365 days a year security team.

Costs of living and other expenses you need to consider

  • Accommodation and living costs: view our price guide.
  • Text books: remember that our award-winning library is stocked with a large range of text books for all courses, as well as online resources such as industry journals, free of charge
  • General stationery and other supplies such as print and presentation materials: the Students’ Union shops stock a wide range of stationery supplies on both campuses
  • Travel to, from and between BU campuses: our bus service operates in the local areas offering a subsided travel rate; we also have a large number of secure bike storage compounds
  • SportBU membership: check out our student membership packages, sports events, varsity teams, information about our new facilities and more on the SportBU webpages
  • Optional fieldwork travel, outdoor wear and footwear (where applicable)
  • Telephone and travel costs incurred when undertaking interviews for coursework/securing placements.
  • A fee will be payable towards the cost of an Educational Psychology Assessment if this is required in connection with additional learning support. BU pays for approximately two-thirds of the cost of this assessment for UK students. For more details and current pricing please visit the students section of the website.

Repeat units

If you need to repeat one or more units during the course of your studies (with or without attendance), you may be required to pay an additional fee of £1,500 per 20 credit unit. 

Financial help available from BU

We offer a range of scholarships and bursaries to students who are beginning their studies at BU. Our website also provides details on living costs, budgeting and paying your tuition fees.

Course changes

The table below indicates the latest changes to this course.

Date Changes to this course Where the change was made Previous text
14/02/18 Entry requirements have changed to now require either a creative subject or a technical subject, previously we asked for both a creative and technical subject.  2018 entry requirements

Required subjects: One creative subject such as: Fine Art, Photography, Media Design or Product Design and one technical subject such as: Maths, Computing or Physics. 40 points is required in either one of the creative or technical required subjects.


Entry requirements have changed to now be 40 points in one required subject, whereas previsouly we asked for 48 points in one required subject. 

GCSE maths requirements have changed from a grade B to C. 

2018 entry requirements 

120-128 tariff points including a minimum of 2 A-levels or equivalent, including 48 points in 1 required subject.

GCSE English grade C (or grade 4 in the reformed GCSE grading) and GCSE Mathematics grade B (or grade 6 in the reformed GCSE grading) or equivalent qualifications.