Master the latest, cutting-edge digital technologies whilst producing digital images and visual effects solutions for film, game, AR/VR, live performance, installation and interactive art. Our degree course immerses you in the world of visual fx design with a vast range of ‘hands on’ projects, real world briefs, professional workflows and experimental hands-on workshops that will broaden your outlook and focus your creative output.
Create & collaborate
Collaborate with film directors, producers, actors, musicians and creatives on multiple film productions and digital arts projects. Get ongoing support, guidance and mentorship from our industry professional tutors to sharpen your technical skills, grow your creative muscle and build an industry relevant portfolio.
Carve a unique identity
Explore emergent creative arts and new forms of storytelling, whilst developing visual narrative, digital interfacing and project management expertise. Develop a unique creative vision and discover your artistic voice. Build a professional network and cultivate the human attributes required to pursue a rewarding and successful career in the visual fx and technological arts industry.
Degree course structure
Train your eye, explore a variety of techniques and approaches to visual effects, create and mix elements in a final image by shooting practical effects and live action footage with real actors (in collaboration with our Acting, Film & Music Production Schools!), take photos and references, supervise on set and in a green screen studio, create and animate 2D graphic elements, compose matte paintings, sketch, and bring 3D assets to life.
During this first year of you will complete:
- 15+ concept shots/installations
- 1 short film as a VFX artist/supervisor
- Countless collaborations on set and postproduction with our Film Production students
The digital portfolio you walk away with will not only contain your original work and projects. It’ll also serve as a certification of the software and technical skills you’ve developed. You can also include sketches and concepts, case analyses, and project-based learning descriptions and outcomes.
Live Action & Practical FX
These workshops are your entrance ticket for working on films, covering everything related to live action filming, film narrative, the film set and special effects. With Live Action you will get familiar with the film team and workflow, and the image department, with operating cameras and designing light setup for professional studio and exterior filming. Later on, Practical FX you will focus on special effects, with topics such as in-camera FX, dynamic lighting, stop motion, VFX make up, animatronics and miniatures.
To support this practical learning you will have access to industry equipment, a modern film studio with a green screen, professional gear, countless lights, flags, stands, sound equipment, and everything you could think of when it comes to a professional filmmaking set.
Post Production & Color Grading
What happens after the filming? Postproduction 1 and 2 are opening the doors to media handling and image finishing. With learning editing basics, colour grading, sound design, keying, titles, video effects, formats and exports, you will explore and practice the technical standards involved in delivering finalised media for cinema, TV and web.
Thanks to multiple collaborations with the film production students, you will be tasked with providing visual effects for a range of film scenes. These experiences in projects making environments will benefit from weekly feedback sessions and roundtable discussions around the post production and finishing of the collaborations.
For this workshop you will be practicing with the Adobe suite, and DaVinci Resolve with a control panel in our Colour suite.
2D and 3D Assets
This workshop is covering the use of digital techniques for designing and creating 2D Assets using programmes such as Photoshop and After Effects, and a graphic tablet! Here you will be learning how to create graphic assets and environments, explore and produce motion design, 2d animation, character design, video advanced effects, image retouching, and matte painting.
In the second semester it will be time to add Z to X and Y! 3D Assets cover modeling, materials and texturing, lighting, the scene and the camera, rendering, and of course animation in 3d space fundamentals.
What would be the use of producing high end assets if not integrated correctly? The cornerstone of VFX, Digital Compositing will introduce node based software and the art of finishing images, mixing 3D and 2D assets, camera tracking and relighting, matte painting and live action material, with providing the right visual atmosphere in a seamless composition.
Image Composition, Visual Storytelling and Workflows
These workshops are analysis workshops. It is the space for discovering works from a range of artistic practices over time through the fundamentals of image composition. While growing analysis skills, you will integrate essential fundamentals such as science of colour, light, movement, and visual storytelling. Training the eye goes in pair with training the hand, as every week you will exercise composition, perspective and sketching, and analysing art in real world situations during field trips.
In a second time this module will hold the keys to technical and creative workflows, focusing on industry standards as well as future perspectives and the evolution of tools, techniques and technologies.
Development is a meta-stream.
Here is where the project briefs, challenges, tasks and filmmaking teams are set. We will also use these workshops to examine your visual effects skills from a top-down perspective, including your collaboration, communication, organisation, preparation and professional skills. And finally, Development is where your Advisor will guide you through the modules, projects and assessments which make up the accredited degree.
Study areas to look forward to:
- Shoot live action, including fundamentals of cinematography and lighting
- On-set visual effects supervision
- Practical effects including in camera effects, vfx make up, animatronics etc…
- Stop motion and miniatures
- Green screen and 3d tracking
- 2D assets creation and animation
- 3D assets, including modeling, texturing and lighting
- Digital Compositing and camera projection
- Matte painting and image retouching
- Post production and colour grading
- Character Design
- Image composition and visual narrative
- Physics, light and the science of visuals
- Fundamentals of fine art and storytelling
- Training your eye
- The visual effects pipeline
- Filmmaking, camerawork and working on sets
- Collaboration, giving and receiving critical feedback, and introspection
In the second year, the focus shifts from quantity to quality, as we go deeper into the art of visual effects and visual creation with workshops in mechanics and dynamics, VFX supervising and digital compositing. Learn new tools and interfaces, but also take time to explore other formats, spaces and realities and to work on the development of the self and one’s own creative voice.
Mechanics & Dynamics and Real Time
Following the first year workshops for “2D and 3D assets”, Mechanics & Dynamics is the space to dive deeper into 3D element creation and animation. With the introduction of ZBrush, Substance Painter, Marvelous designer and other specialised tools, this workshop addresses the advanced workflows and techniques underlying the creation of dynamic effects in production.
In addition, this module is highlighting the detailed work and the techniques required for high standard finishing of digital compositing. In Live Assets, budding practitioners are supported in the design of workflows and assets for real time rendering engines such as Unreal, Unity and AR/VR.
In Real Time, budding practitioners are supported in the design of workflows and assets for real time engines such as Unreal for game design, Live interactive setups and Extended realities.
This module is about creatively interfacing with the machine through programming, task automation and script & interface customisation. Introducing libraries for various functionalities, tools for motion detection such as kinect and leap motion, “Creative coding” is also the space for exploring interactive design and live installations from the back room perspective.
This module introduces and explores the versatile software Touchdesigner with its multimedia integrations and the implementation of shaders with GLSL.
This module is focuses on the extension of Visual Effects to physical spaces, interactive installations and extended realities. By introducing new domains such as projection mapping, live installations, augmented/virtual reality, and interactive tools, like Arduino, Processing and Resolume, this module tackles the growing area of immersive and sensory experiences. A new technology is introduced weekly in the form a workshop, inviting practitioners to collaborate on practical installations and experience building by delivering a finalised live project with each session.
VFX Supervising and Live Cinema
This module also addresses the preparation and overviewing of VFX during live action shooting and in post-production. Considering the constantly evolving landscape of Visual effects in production, in addition to traditional workflows the workshop integrates areas such as previz, motion capture and real time generated environments. VFX supervising is designed around the making of a short film involving being on set and producing a variety of visual effects in collaboration to film teams and actors, while developing project management skills and tackling industry technical pipelines.
Art history & practices, Visual Effects analysis and Visual Storytelling
In the second year it is the time to reach the next level in terms of concept and level up the accuracy of your technical approach. Art history & practices provides background knowledge about art practices across various cultures and eras, and therefore allow you to enrich your perspectives and visions.
Through watching films and image sequences VFX analysis and Visual storytelling is the space for understanding and retro engineering the making of Visual effects and dynamic visual storytelling in multiple pieces of work. In support of this analysis we will address the evolution of software and technologies throughout the history of visual effects.
Technological Arts Formats & Spaces
Formats and spaces are dramatically expanding and so is the panorama of visual effects applications. This module addresses the revolution happening in visualisation and virtuality in the domains of art and entertainment with, for instance, the new areas of XR, the fast growing support of artificial intelligence, and the evolution of machine interfacing.
Some topics will include for instance “Performative visual arts”, “light and space”, “Digital avatars” and “Body movement in interactive art”. We will also address important thematics such as “Ethics & Technology sustainability”, “designing a desirable future” and “participative and social design”.
Creative Practitioner and “Entrepreneurship
This workshop is built on the idea of further developing the students' understanding of themselves as an artist or producer and their position within the ever-changing social and economic environment. Students will explore current niche markets in order to distill outlooks and opportunities for themselves and derive an understanding of what it takes to be an audio professional in contemporary times. Additionally this module will be the space for curated guests sessions with speakers and professionals coming from art, media and industry worlds.
Study areas to look forward to:
- Visual Effects supervising
- Fluids, particles and smoke FX
- 3D Modelling and Rigid bodies
- Materials, Texturing and UVs
- Match moving and camera projection
- Industry Formats and Rendering Farms
- Dynamic environments & Digital compositing
- 2d Realtime and Generative visuals
- Coding languages and shaders (python, GLSL)
- Midi Controllers and user interfaces
- Motion Capture
- Live cinema & Real time rendering
- Live Visuals & Performance
- Augmented reality, Virtual Reality and Live Painting
- Projection Mapping
- Multi camera and Live streaming
- Technology Evolution and Future Perspectives
- Digital Art languages and Formats
- Creative and technical planning
- Storytelling and visual narrative
- Collaborative projects and self management
- Industry panorama and Entrepreneurship
- Guest sessions
During this final year you will craft the final project that makes it all real. You may be in the final stretch, but you’ll still have to drill those skills
Train up in your chosen specialised field to get ready for the big one. Work in short creative bursts focusing on improving specific skills in the context of the larger whole.
Whatever your ambitions, our tutors supported by guests and specially chosen mentors will push you to reach even further in deep one-on-one consultations. However outrageous your goals, we will support you with our facilities, equipment and network as much as we can - and give you a friendly nudge out the door as well, to make your own connections in the industry.
This final year focusses on:
- Individual specialisation
- Development and production of a major project over the whole year
- Collaboration with peers
- Working with autonomy and self-management
- Enriching perspectives through key guests and chosen mentors
- Bridging the gap to entrepreneurship
- Making their first professional steps outside the school
Projects & Modules
Your major project is covered by the following modules. The module descriptions provide a starting place for how this project will look and feel however the full picture is entirely reliant on the individual choices you will make as a result of your time with us.
- PUSH1: Frame
Produce and refine a proposal for your major project. Utilising skills and knowledge you’ve already acquired, set new challenges you don't yet know how to overcome. Be bold, be ambitious and take risks. Become a specialist in the area you are working, whilst producing a tangible outcome in a medium you can share with the world.
- PUSH2: Invent
An intensive production period working on practical research, exploration, production, refinement and completion of your project. Overcome inevitable roadblocks and issues along the way in order to complete a finished artifact and receive weekly critique and feedback sessions to support your journey.
- PUSH3: Launch
Develop and employ an appropriate strategy for getting your work out into the world. We want your project to connect with people in a way that is meaningful for you and that sets potential creative and practical foundations for your life after Catalyst.
Alongside your major project you’ll have a choice to make between two minor projects (PUSH4 or PUSH5) which will complete your honours year.
- PUSH4: Process (Option A)
Define, develop and provide a service/skill for an external client or collaborator. Document and reflect on the process in relation to professionality, communication, self-development, standards and expectations. Engage in real life collaboration, networking, client acquisition, communication & negotiation to further your own professional growth. Thought of in another way, imagine your work life starts now. What do you need to start out in a profession of your choice as a creative professional?
- PUSH5: Dissertation (Option B)
A large scale research and investigation project culminating in a 10,000 word (+/-10%) written thesis. Define a topic/area that you’re passionate about and explore it with as much depth as possible, demonstrating an ability to understand the ideas of others, form your own ideas and opinions and present them coherently in a long form essay.
Some of the software you’ll use includes:
- Adobe After Effects, Mocha
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe Premiere
- DaVinci Resolve
- Cinema 4D
- autodesk 3DS
- autodesk Maya
- Substance painter
- Fume FX
- Touch Designer
- Spark AR
Some of the hardware you’ll use includes*:
- High powered PC’s with 10 bit displays (x2)
- High powered gaming laptop for offsite work
- Wacom drawing tablets
- 4k projector and a range of mapping projectors
- VR headset HTC Vive Cosmo
- Kinect Azure
- A full range of midi controllers
- Arduino kits
- Fully packed filmmaking kits including Panasonic GH5, lights, stands, grip and accessories
- Panasonic AU-EVA1 and Canon C100
- VFX kits (chrome and grey ball, laser meter, trackers etc…
- 1400 bookable items : other cameras on top of the ones mentioned above, lights and accessories for use onsite, fog machine, gimbals, dollies, gels, flags, stands, grip gear, cabling and expendables, props and costumes.
* Our tech team aim to upgrade our hardware repertoire throughout the year, allowing us to keep up with latest technology trends.
During the Visual Effects course you will also have full access to a curated selection of 50+ online classes around every topic approached in our workshops, including membership access to Skillshare’s extended catalogue of resources.
Your success depends entirely on you – what you bring to the course, your approach to learning, and the grit, passion and sheer determination with which you complete the course and start to build your future.
Your initial progression choice will be whether to make your first foray into the visual effects industry or to continue your self development and opt for further specialised study.
There are many progression routes into the industry and it often makes sense to develop a portfolio of roles.
After your time with us, you’ll be eligible for many positions in the industry, including:
- Visual effects artist
- Visual effects supervisor
- Visual effects producer
- Production designer
- Media artist
- SFX technician
- 3d Animator
- Matte painter
- Motion designer
- Rotoscoping artist
- Digital compositor
- Digital preparation artist
- 2d Animator
- DIT (digital imaging technician)
- Color grading artist
- Post-production engineer / supervisor
- VFX education
* Warning! This list of positions is not exhaustive! There is an endless catalogue of positions in the various industries concerned with visual effects and animation, and more new positions are created every day. From there, the only limit is your own determination and grit.
Our tutors are industry experienced with a passion for passing on their knowledge to others. Here are a few of the experienced and friendly tutors that will be supporting you throughout your learning process.
Engage and adapt to the industry of today and the future by collaborating on projects with film production, screen acting and music production students. By learning how to apply these tools and methods used you will define your own artistic approach and style as you gain first-hand experience and start to build a unique portfolio of your own work and from other collaborations and real-life projects.
Showreel by Matthieu Schmit - VFX Programme Lead & Tutor
Academic qualifications equivalent to ‘A’ level, Baccalaureate or Abitur are normally required to enter our degree programme. These may be waived if students are able to provide proof of capability via a portfolio of work. More details can be found here.
For those students who have the capability but no proof of appropriate qualifications or portfolio we have also designed a new accelerated access course (primer workshops) which runs as part of our short course programme.
The most important prerequisite for attending any course at Catalyst is that you must be passionate about building and developing your skills as a creative practitioner.
For more information please contact a member of the team. We love to chat!
Course dates and application deadline
Start - September 13, 2021
Term (year 1) - 13.09.2021 - 21.05.2022
Term (year 2) - 09.2022 - 05.2023
Term (year 3) - 09.2023 - 05.2024
Application deadline: Aug 1
From € 975 a month.
If you decide to enrol in both a short and long course with us, you will receive a discount of 500€ on the total tuition.
How to apply
Our admissions team has prepared a handy little map of your journey to studenthood with us. Take a look and be in touch if you have any questions.
Open days and taster workshops
Get a feel for our school from the comfort of your home with our Virtual Open Days and skill-focussed Taster Workshops.
Hosted by our team and students, these online events will give you a sense of what it's like to come and study with us in Berlin.
We look forward to meeting you online soon!
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