Visual Effects, Digital Arts & Animation BA (Hons) / HE Certificate

Master the tools of the trade and be at the forefront of the rapidly evolving visual effects industry.

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Overview

Gain a powerful insight into the world of visual effects production, digital arts and animation with all the tools, techniques and practical experience required to succeed as one of tomorrow's industry professionals. Subject areas include 2D and 3D animation, filmmaking, post-production, motion design, matte painting, digital compositing, visual effects supervising, creative coding, audiovisual installations and interactive art.

Through practical workshops, collaborative projects and critical feedback, you’ll build a foundation in the fundamentals while keeping an eye set on the future of visual effects and technological arts. Our holistic and cross-disciplinary approach covers all the bases. You’ll master the latest time-based and 3D technologies, the project management skills that will bring your ideas to life and the principles of image composition and storytelling that remain timeless.

Our project-based curriculum puts you at the centre of your learning experience, and you’ll be surrounded by an international community of multidisciplinary creatives to collaborate with. Whether you're interested in gaming, animation, immersive installations or on-set visual effects, this programme provides you with the knowledge, gear, facilities and guidance to realise your creative, professional and personal goals. 

You can study this programme either as a full three-year BA degree or the first year only as a one-year HE Certificate.

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Render yourself into greatness

We are focused on your growth as a whole person. Not just as a savvy VFX artist with a wide-ranging skill set, but also as a great collaborator, team member and someone with goals, aspirations and clear purpose. On our programme, you will build technical skills quickly but we will also help you to push your abilities further. The result is a huge stride towards authentic self-expression, as well as a portfolio and know-how ready for a career in a blossoming industry.

Our expert tutors will encourage you to investigate your personal interests during your studies. Whatever your creative background or approach, our programme provides you with the framework and the skills to realise your unique vision and forge your own path. You’ll learn how to problem-solve, tell stories visually and discover the work that feeds your curiosity and keeps you riding the wave of technological progress.

“Our tutors have really pushed us to advance our skills and techniques, as well as encouraged us to forge the pathway we think best suits our desires as artists.”

– Marlee Weinberg, Visual Effects alumna

Course structure

Year 1 (HE Certificate)

Get ready for a fast-paced, collaborative and production-focused first year. You will complete more than 15 concept shots/installations, one short film as a visual effects artist and countless collaborations both on set and in post-production. Through these projects, you’ll train your eye and explore a variety of techniques and approaches to visual effects and digital arts.

The course content in your first year will focus on: 

  • Creating and mixing elements in a final image by shooting practical effects and live action footage.
  • Rapid production, tackling weekly and fortnightly briefs. 
  • Taking photos and references.
  • Recording action on set and in a green screen studio
  • Creating and animating 2D graphic elements. 
  • Composing matte paintings, sketching, and bringing 3D assets to life.

The digital portfolio from the first year will not only contain your original work and projects. It’ll also serve as proof of the technical skills you’ve developed. You can also include sketches and concepts, case analyses and project-based learning descriptions and outcomes.

If you choose to enrol for our HE Certificate, you will take just the first year of this programme as a standalone qualification. The one-year HE Certificate course is the same as the first year of the BA programme and you'll be learning alongside the BA students throughout the year. You have the option of progressing into the second year of our BA programme after successfully completing the HE Certificate, subject to results and availability of places.

Workshops

Live Action, Post Production, Practical & Special Effects, 2D Assets and 3D Assets

Get up to speed on the fundamentals of visual effects in practical, tools-and-techniques-based workshops. You will be trained on any equipment, software and techniques needed to complete your projects. Once the door is open, you’ll be able to see how deep each rabbit hole goes. Exploring those rabbit holes forms the main content of the first-year workshops.

Image Composition, Workflows and Academic Research

Discover work from all kinds of visual artists and artistic practices through the fundamentals of image composition. While growing your analytical skills, these theoretical workshops will integrate essentials such as the science of colour, light, movement, storytelling and more. These workshops 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 

Your “home room” with your Advisor, guiding you through the modules, projects and assessments which make up the accredited degree. Here, you will discuss your projects, challenges, tasks and filmmaking teams, as well as give and receive feedback on your collaboration, communication, organisation, preparation and professional skills.

Year 2 (BA)

In the second year, the focus shifts from quantity to quality, as we go deeper into the art of visual creations with workshops in mechanics and dynamics, visual effects supervising and digital compositing. Your approach will become much more reflective, deliberate and self-focused. Learn new tools and interfaces, and also take the time to explore other formats, spaces and realities whilst developing your own creative voice.

Tackle monthly creative briefs to both meet industry standards and to find and reframe your own creative boundaries. In each semester, you will work alongside your peers to ideate, produce and deliver three complete projects, with support from tutors in specialist workshops.

The course content in your second year will focus on: 

  • Understanding how to manage a whole project as a visual effects supervisor, including creative and technical planning.
  • Gaining an understanding of the world of motion; digital rendering tasks such as fluids, particles and smoke FX, as well as motion capture and camera projection.
  • Exploring roles and specialisations within a team.
  • Augmented reality, virtual reality and live painting.
  • Industry-standard formatting and rendering practices.
  • Set-ups, tools and techniques for physical environments such as live cinema, real time rendering, live visuals, performance, multi-camera, projection mapping and live streaming.
  • Set-ups, tools and techniques for digital environments such as 2D, real time, generative visuals, coding languages and shaders.
  • Deeper investigation into storytelling and visual narrative.
  • Digital art languages and formats.
  • How to keep up with technological evolution and future perspectives.

Workshops

VFX Supervision

Learn various approaches and skills needed for preparation and overview of visual effects during live action shooting and in post-production. You’ll practise more traditional workflows and also ones that account for the constantly evolving landscape of visual effects in production, like previz and on-set virtual filmmaking. Over a semester, you’ll cover topics like visual effects creative and technical planning, DIT and set visual effects supervising in different professional setups.

Mechanics & Dynamics and Real Time 

Building on the first year’s 2D and 3D Assets workshops, you’ll dive deeper into asset creation and their physics. You’ll be introduced to Substance Painter, Zbrush and more specialised tools such as FumeFx and learn advanced workflows and techniques for creating dynamic effects in production. As well as studying advanced compositing, particles, fluids and materials, you’ll explore cross-platform workflows and the notion of dynamic environments.

Creative Coding 

Tackle node programming within the context of the visual arts. You’ll primarily be using TouchDesigner, a node-based programming language (based on Python), that allows the creation of real-time audiovisual content and interactive multimedia environments. You’ll also learn how to make a generative artwork and acquire the skills necessary to write code correctly.

Art History / VFX Analysis 

Understand and retro engineer the fundamentals used in visual art, backed up by art history and techniques. By analysing the works of other VFX artists, you’ll expand your knowledge of dynamic storytelling and behind the scenes thinking within a project. The evolution of software and companies will also be covered.

Creative Digital Arts

While addressing the evolution of visual arts and its formats, you’ll tackle the ongoing revolution happening within visualisation, virtuality and machine learning in the domains of art and entertainment. Investigate how visual effects extend into physical spaces, extended realities, interactive installations and the growing area of immersive and sensory experiences. Both you and your tutors will configure around new creative techniques, such as Kinect, motion detection and leap motion and experiment with them. 

Creative Practitioner 

Investigate yourself, your work and how it relates to the visual effects industry. You’ll ask industry-specific questions like how to get a job and how the market functions, as well as more introspective questions like how to be a practitioner while respecting your personal space, creativity and values.

Development II

These workshops with your Advisor are a continuation of the work you do in Year 1. They help you understand the course content, your practice and its place in the wider world. 

Year 3 (BA)

Merge your skills and creative voice, then present them to the world. Your final year integrates what you have learnt so far and looks outward, paving your routes into your chosen industry. 

You begin the year by conceptualising and proposing a self-initiated product, then work with your peers to develop those ideas, whether that’s creating animated universes, setting briefs to finessing your on-set skills or investigating the world of motion design. Once your projects are rendered, you’ll bring them together into a portfolio that demonstrates your best qualities and abilities.

The third year will also focus on your potential in the visual effects industry and you’ll develop the soft skills needed to navigate your chosen part of it. Whatever your ambitions, our tutors, advisors and industry guests will push you to reach even further in deep one-on-one consultations.

The course content in your third year will focus on: 

  • Defining, revising, researching and planning your major artistic work of the year.
  • Bringing a highly-finessed major piece of work that showcases your skills to life.
  • Practising the pitching and proposal of concepts as well as the distribution process within the visual effects industry.
  • Actively investigating and working towards your chosen specialisation.
  • Multi-disciplinary collaboration with peers.
  • Continuous refinement of production skills through workshops.
  • In-depth study of narrative and more intricate aspects of how effective storytelling is formulated and the place of stories in visual culture.

Major Project

PUSH1 Frame

Define, revise, research, critique and plan your major artistic work for the year. Solidify your ideas and create action plans for how the project will be executed, managed and distributed during the year. You will also pitch, propose and present your ideas to your peers and to a panel of experts. Working with your supervisor and peers, give and receive critical feedback and share ideas to troubleshoot and problem-solve. 

PUSH2 Invent 

Lead the production of your project. Develop, execute, adjust, integrate, rework, collaborate, fine-tune and finalise your major artistic project. Sessions during this time will largely be consultation-based, in groups and in one-on-one meetings. 

PUSH3 Launch 

Present, perform, distribute, show and launch your completed major project into the public sphere. Similar to PUSH2, these sessions will be mostly consultation-based to ensure that you are provided with the right mentorship, guidance and support.

Minor Project

Alongside your major project, you’ll have to make a choice between two minor projects (PUSH4 or PUSH5) which will complete your honours year. 

PUSH4 Process (Option A)

Gain skills to guide you in your professional endeavours in the visual effects industry. While you go out into the industry to get an in-depth insight and experience of working in a specific visual effects field, these workshops provide you with the opportunity to build the essential soft skills to become a professional. Learn how to network, market yourself to potential employers/clients, build websites and showcase your portfolio effectively.

PUSH5: Dissertation (Option B)

A large-scale research and investigation project, culminating in a 10,000-word (+/-10%) written thesis. Define a topic or area that you’re passionate about and explore it in as much depth as possible, demonstrating an ability to understand the ideas of others, form your own ideas and opinions and present them coherently.  

Workshops

Narrative and Production 

Workshops in the third year further enhance and advance the skills specific to your major project. Narrative sessions focus on visual effects and new digital media in storytelling, looking at the theoretical know-how behind stories, spaces, formats and characters. These sessions cover social impacts, art identity and contemporary discourse surrounding visual effects and new media, and how this might be applied in your own work. Production sessions will push your visual effects skills even further to help you produce your Major Project.

Your technological playground

Get hands-on access to industry-standard facilities and tons of bookable gear

“As a VFX student, I was expecting to spend most of my time behind computers but the diversity of the VFX programme is beyond what I expected.”
– Savina Janssen, special effects prop maker and Visual Effects alumna

Is this programme for you?

You should be interested in some or all of the following:

  • The potential of storytelling within digital media.
  • Collaborative practice that reaches across disciplines.
  • Refining your creative skills and artistic voice.
  • Working within the visual effects or film industries.
  • Developing initiative and a problem-solving mentality.
  • Visual art in digital environments.
  • Making work that contains your creative fingerprint.

Progression

Career opportunities

The Visual Effects, Digital Arts & Animation courses will open up many potential career paths for you. If you complete the first year of study, you will have the skills needed to work as a technician. This includes roles as an assistant editor, special effects technician or production assistant in a freelance context. A deeper dive into the full three years opens up many more routes.

You can step into roles such as visual effects artist, crafting digitally-generated visual elements imagery. You might take on the role of a visual effects producer, overseeing the VFX work on various projects. The course prepares you for a wide array of technical roles, including special effects technician, colour grading artist, rotoscoping artist and digital compositor. You can venture into the realms of animation, becoming a 3D or 2D animator, or dive into motion design to create captivating visual sequences. Become the go-to post-production engineer or delve into the creative process as a production designer, working on visual design, set design and set construction. 

You can use your experience in game design to move into the games industry. You will also be in a position to become a media artist, working on audio-visual projects, installations and interactive experiences, or become a media creator, designing visual effects software and plugins. Lastly, you may choose to work in academia, sharing your knowledge and passion with the next generation. 

Self-development and creative leadership

However you measure it and whatever artistic realm you are working in, most creatives would like to achieve success with their creative endeavour. There are many types of success an individual may want to achieve, from successful completion of an artistic exploration all the way through to financial security and a global audience. 

There are many skills required to develop these dreams into real and practical futures. Our optional Self-Development & Creative Leadership course is the ‘rocket fuel’ which will provide you with the frameworks, the focus and the drive to help realise your future.

Gain an understanding of how to take decisive action and communicate powerfully with others, and take an honest look at how you limit yourself. Develop the leadership skills needed to complete your creative project, bring your work into the external world and attract an audience to share, appreciate and follow your work. 

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Our tutors are industry-acclaimed experts in their field, with a passion for passing on their knowledge to others. 

“I not only learned so much about efficiency, patience, software and of course working with people and their feedback... I also was able to professionally dive into a field that I, as an artist as well as a consumer, genuinely love and enjoy since I was a child.”

– Leander Blaschke, animator, game designer and Visual Effects alum

Admissions

Entry requirements

All applicants will be asked to provide: personal and educational information, documentation of their education experience, a portfolio and a personal introduction (which can be submitted as a written statement of motivation or a video/audio clip). Visit our How To Apply page for more detail.

MINIMUM ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

- Standard entry: graduation from high school at a level which would normally permit entry to university in the country where it was gained. This would be A-Levels in the UK and the Abitur in Germany, for example.

- Non-standard entry: We recognise that not all education happens in the classroom and it may be possible to admit you through a non-standard access route. If you do not possess the required formal qualification, but have acquired relevant professional or life experience, please contact our Admissions team.

If neither of the two categories above describe your situation, you'll most likely need to complete a short course to gain access to our 1 and 3-year HE degree courses.

LANGUAGE 

The language of instruction in all our courses is English and applicants must demonstrate a level equal to IELTS 6. We do not ask for official exam results, but we will assess the standard of English in your application and support materials.

For more information please contact our Admissions team and we’d be happy to discuss your opportunities to come study with us.

Admissions FAQ
Course dates and application deadlines

Course start: mid-September 2024

Applications for entry to our courses in 2024 will open on Friday 1 December 2023.

Our application deadlines for entry to our courses in 2024 are as follows:

  • Deadline for applicants requiring student visa: Friday 29 March 2024
  • Priority deadline: Friday 5 April 2024
  • Final deadline: Friday 31 May 2024
  • Late applications: From June 2024 onwards

All international students requiring a visa to study in Germany should apply by Friday 29 March 2024.

If you do not need a student visa, we strongly recommend that you apply by our priority deadline (5 April 2024) for your best chances of securing a spot on your chosen course. 

We only accept late applications from those who do not need a student visa. If the course is full, you will be added to a waiting list. 

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Tuition fees (2024 entry)

We offer 2 ways to pay:

  • Single Payment Option:
    Enrolment Fee* €895 + Tuition Fee €11,855 = €12,750 per year**
  • Instalment Payment Option:
    Enrolment Fee* €895 + Tuition Fee 10 instalments x €1,285.50 = €13,750 per year**

* Note- Enrolment fee is non-refundable. It is due every year as part of the total annual fee.
** BA degree = 3 years x total annual fee.

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Open days, Q&As and taster workshops

Get a feel for Catalyst and our courses at a range of both online and in-person events. Join us at a Virtual Open Day or an Open House session at our campus in Berlin, chat to our programme leads at Meet The Tutor, or try a taster workshop. 

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Student work

In the end, it's our students’ work that counts. Take a look at a selection of recent examples below.

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Behind the scenes

Stories from our creative community

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