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  • Delivery:
    Full time according to Funding Council definitions

This is a truly international course, attracting students from all over the world with a diverse range of cultures and identities. It will provide you with a strong theoretical and technical underpinning for the principal areas of study thanks to lecture series on filmmaking techniques, green screen, MOCAP, computer graphic principles, the fusion of art and technology, personal research, and applied digital effects theory and practice.

We accept students from a broad range of art-based subject areas including fine art, photography, architecture, filmmaking, fashion design, and graphic design. We will also consider applications from non-art based subjects such as computer sciences or engineering, as long as good art skills can be demonstrated. Knowledge of digital effects and computer graphics are not a pre-requisite for entry, as everything is rapidly taught from basics. A strong set of traditional art and photography skills are however highly beneficial, and demonstration of all art-based skills should be done at application stage in the form of a digital portfolio.

MA Digital Effects and the National Centre for Computer Animation is the UK’s only officially recognised Houdini Certified School. This incredible software is now at the forefront of the VFX Industry, and knowledge of it is a must for anyone wanting to progress their careers in this field.

Digital Effects is one of three Master's degree pathways created by the National Centre for Computer Animation NCCA. All pathways share a great deal of core teaching, but also have specific pathway teaching. If your primary area of interest is mostly illustration or figurative character-based, then our 3D Computer Animation Programme may be a better choice for you. If your application portfolio is mostly technical or programming-based work without much in the way of original artwork, then our Computer Animation & Visual Effects Programme may be the better choice. Our assessment panels will automatically pass applications deemed better suited to another pathway onto them, so it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with all our Master's pathways to help ensure Digital Effects is the right programme for you.

Please watch the recorded BU Webinar 'MA Digital Effects'. Presented by Phil Spicer, Senior Lecturer In Computer Animation, this webinar will give you an excellent insight into this Master's programme.

Key information

Next start date:

September 2018, September 2019


Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus


1 year


Creative skillset

Relevant subjects:

Art, media, design, filmmaking or photography

Entry requirements:

A Bachelors Honours degree with 2:2 in any subject, or equivalent. For more information see our full entry requirements.

International entry requirements:

If English is not your first language you'll need IELTS 6.5 (Academic) or above. For more information see our full entry requirements.

Course details

On this course you will usually be taught by a range of staff with relevant expertise and knowledge appropriate to the content of the unit. This will include senior academic staff, qualified professional practitioners, demonstrators, technicians and research students. You will also benefit from regular guest lectures from industry.

Core units

  • Digital Effects Nucleus: An opportunity to experience a digital effects project based on a set brief. This covers 3D digital effects, 2D compositing effects and practical video acquisition effects.
  • Digital Effects Tools: Technical and theoretical teaching for the Digital Effects Nucleus unit. You'll be taught about the craft and tools of digital effects work, get an opportunity to judge your work so far and learn to record digital effects production.
  • Digital Effects Techniques: You'll produce a short piece of Digital Effects work showing your technical abilities to date. The unit offers a chance to merge your learnt skills, and to plan a specific technical direction to prepare you for your Masters Project.
  • Moving Image Theory: The image theory elements of the programme. It includes lectures on digital cinematography, supporting screenings of films and animations, lectures on art, science and technology and a series of presentations by visiting speakers from the digital effects, computer animation and computer games industries. You'll be assessed through a written report and a short written essay examining digital effects tool production in digital and analogue movies.
  • Group Project: Gain a deeper understanding of digital effects disciplines and contribute to a significant piece of group work in terms of scope, design and aesthetic. You can work with students from across the NCCA Master's programmes, such as 3D animators and MSc Computer Animation and Visual Effects students.
  • Personal Inquiry: A tutorial-supported research unit. You'll get an opportunity to research areas that interest you that may be outside of the normal boundaries of the programme. You'll be assessed at a Research Symposium, where you'll present your research to students and staff.
  • Master's Project: The Master's Project unit has no teaching and is dedicated to your final project. We'll expect your project to be ambitious, with a high level of finish. You'll show a bold and confident approach to production management and the design and execution of Digital Effects. This is normally an individual project, but students are increasingly realising the benefits of working in a group to achieve an impressive final result. The programme ends with a degree show in London, if you pass your Project. This show gives you an opportunity to show your Project to industry professionals and potential employers, alongside friends, family and past graduates.

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.

Download the programme specification for MA Digital 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.

Selection criteria

Background and experience

We are looking for grounded capable personable students who can be independent, focused, determined and precise during their time with us. A good MA Digital Effects student will enhance themselves, the reputation of MA Digital Effects, and the wider reputation of the NCCA as a result of their studies.

We are looking for successful well-rounded artists from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines, all keen to transfer their existing knowledge and experience into the subject area of Digital Effects. Applicants from non-art based backgrounds such as computer science, maths or engineering can also make great MA Digital Effects students if they are able to demonstrate clear artistic ability.

Full entry requirements

The normal requirements for embarking upon a postgraduate taught degree are:

  • A Bachelors Honours degree with 2:2 in any subject, or equivalent

  • Professional Qualifications or Diplomas deemed equivalent to a 2:2 or above Honours Degree.
  • Industrial Experience deemed equivalent to a 2:2 or above Honours Degree.
  • Exceptionally well-qualified applicants from other non-art related disciplines may also be considered at the discretion of the Assessment Panel.
  • A clear precise personal statement and a strong portfolio (including a digital self portrait and examples of photography)

Preferred subjects: Art, Media, Design, Filmmaking, Photography

As part of your application to MA Digital Effects you will need to complete the following:

  • The digital self-portrait - This should originate from a photograph based face portrait of the applicant. Using image manipulation software, this portrait should be digitally enhanced in a fun, creative, original, and inspiring way to reveal the inner power of the applicant.While you may determine the overall nature and theme of the digital enhancements, we want you to create an impressive, memorable and original portrait of yourself for us.
  • Portfolio - We expect to see a diverse and broad portfolio of artwork containing work such as examples of photography, drawing and paintings.
  • Personal statement - This is an opportunity for you to describe what you think a postgraduate student is; the aptitude necessary for Master's level working in the subject area of Digital Effects; and your own abilities, strengths and weaknesses and highlight your career aspirations.
  • Interview - If successful in the application, portfolio, personal statement and digital self-portrait, the candidates may be called for an interview.

International entry 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 a minimum of 6.0 in each component of writing, speaking, listening and reading, or equivalent.

View further information about our English language requirements.

A number of pre-sessional English and preparatory programmes are offered through our partner institution, Bournemouth University International College, and will get you ready for study at BU at the appropriate level.

You can also find further details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our postgraduate entry requirements page.

Non-academic requirements

IT Skills

All applicants are expected to have some basic knowledge and understanding of computer systems before starting the programme. All higher Digital Effects orientated software, pipelines and utilities will be taught from scratch whenever the course commences its next iteration.

Good working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop (or another image editing software) is also required, and is evidenced by the digital self portrait.


MA Digital Effects comprises of students from all across the globe. If this is your first experience of working within a multi-national community, you will be encouraged to celebrate and openly communicate with your international classmates.


MA Digital Effects is a Postgraduate Degree and not a training programme. It is important that applicants understand the nature of postgraduate study and the level of analytical critique they will need to bring. We expect our students to work in a very focused way from day one of the programme, and work consistently hard for its duration


Digital Effects graduates are highly sought after in the industry. This is partly due to our level of teaching in this subject area, and partly from students' desire to listen, learn and progress.

Graduates have gone on to work for a variety of International VFX Companies including Double Negative (Inception), Digital Domain (Transformers, X-Men) and Sony Picture Image Works (Smurfs)*.

As a Digital Effects graduate, you will be prepared to undertake roles such as: 

  • Animator
  • Motion editor
  • Film technician
  • Producer
  • Digital designer.
Dipesh Palan, BU alumni

“A BU degree comes with the assurance that the student has gone through the right kind of mentoring and proper guidance needed to leave their mark on the VFX industry. That’s why they are more employable than other graduates.”

Dipesh V. Palan, MA Digital Effects graduate and Houdini FX TD at Iloura – read Dipesh’s story

Industries worked in

  • Film
  • Computer animation
  • Digital
  • TV
  • Visual effects.

Further study

If you want to continue your studies after achieving your Master's, you can look into our range of doctoral programmes.

*All information shown has been taken from Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) or BU institutional data unless otherwise stated.

Your lecturers

Our staff are actively engaged in research and professional practice in the digital 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.

Philip Spicer

Philip is a Senior Lecturer in Animation specialising in digital effects for cinema. His primary area of expertise is Houdini, a 3D animation and effects software programme which he has been teaching for over 10 years. As a result, Bournemouth University is now formally recognised by Side Effects Software as a Houdini-Certified School.

As part of his personal research practice he has developed a custom user interface for Houdini, which forms the backbone of his teaching. Philip is also passionate about fine art and art history. He was recently interviewed for BBC Radio Solent about BU graduates and their success contributing to Oscar-nominated films.

Hear from our graduates

Vikram Chadha - 2013-14

"Studying at Bournemouth University on the MA Digital Effects course was tremendous experience. The best thing about the course is that when you are given projects you are the Producer, the Director, the Artist and everything else. At my first job people were amazed to see that coming straight from University I already knew all the professional knowledge of pipeline which they don’t often see. Bournemouth University has enlightened my career path and I exactly know where I have to reach in this industry now."

Phillip Tunnicliffe - 2012-13

"Being an artist is about more than just learning the software, it’s about understanding what exists in the real world, and at Bournemouth University this was always encouraged. My journey has only just begun in the visual effects industry working at Double Negative, but the time I spent with like-minded passionate individuals at Bournemouth will be something that I will carry with me for all my life. I encourage all to go if you have the opportunity and to cherish every second there."

Vedat Guntay - 2010-11

"I think MA Digital Effects is a unique art and science blended course which is not only just training software or learning the theory. It is about understanding visual effects world in real practice and the course serves the best industry standard knowledge to the students.”

TJ Singh - 2009-10

''Thanks to the MADE program I was able to pursue my interests with a swift entry into the Industry soon after I graduated. The experience, knowledge and peers I gained whilst in the program have been priceless and have helped me keep afloat and focused in my professional work environment. The MADE programme tested my strengths and helped build upon my weaknesses and thanks to that I feel confident as a VFX artist''

Arpita Venugopal – 2008-09

"A very well structured and interesting program. The frequent speakers from the industry give a lot of exposure, complementing what is taught in class. And studying with students from different backgrounds and knowledge levels provides a great learning environment. I am glad I got the chance to come here and study this program."

Martin Aufinger - 2006-07

"Before working at Framestore, I studied at Bournemouth University. Initially, when I started the course, I was more interested in compositing / 2d image manipulation. Thanks to Phil Spicer, MA Digital Effects course leader, I got hooked on Sidefx Houdini. Houdini was the main 3d tool used on our Skyfall sequence and helped us immensely in creating this technically and creatively challenging piece."


  • MA Digital Effects Studio: a 40-seat classroom based studio with a 1:1 student computer ratio. You'll have access to graphics tablets and multimedia computers. The studio is open 24/7 throughout the year apart from Christmas
  • Programme-specific Software: Houdini, Nuke, PF Track, Boujou, Sillhouette and Furnace Plugins, Photoshop, Mari
  • Departmental Software: RC++, OpenGL, Qt, Maya, Houdini, Renderman plus many more
  • Acquisition: Full Green Screen TV and MOCAP Studio, Portable Green and Blue Screens, Track & Jib, Location Survey Kits, 3D Scanner and Motion Capture Suite
  • Acquistion Cameras: Panasonic 101s and Canon 5Ds

MA Digital Effects currently produces work in high definition resolution.

No hidden extras

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 subsidised 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 additional fees equivalent to one ninth of the tuition fee 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

Interview - If successful in the application, portfolio, personal statement and digital self-portrait, the candidates may be called for an interview.

Full entry requirements.

Interview - If successful in the application, portfolio, personal statement and digital self-portrait, the candidates will be called for an interview.

What our staff say

Phil Spicer

Digital Effects is the integration of computer graphics into film footage. Students generate elements that blend seamlessly with the footage itself so you wouldn't believe it is computer generated.

What our graduates think

Adam Redhead

This course proved to be invaluable in my career. I gained the skills that enabled me to start working in an artist role in a month of completing the course.

What our staff say

Steve Hubbard

By the end of the course artists know the technical elements of computer animation systems and principals behind them to function to a high level in the visual effects industry.

Additional information

Simon Phelps

Career development

Read about career and development opportunities and discover how gaining industry experience could help you.

Purbeck House common room

International students

We have a strong international student community. Find all the practical advice and information you need here.