Digital Visual Effects

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This programme develops at an advanced level the skills, knowledge and understanding within the field of high definition digital effects, equipping you to become a highly skilled technical director (TD) in the visual effects industry.

It covers 3D model building, texturing, lighting, rendering, procedural animation (cloth, hair, fur, dynamics), advanced compositing and high-definition digital effects. Each module is delivered by means of lectures, demonstrations and workshops.

About the School of Engineering and Digital Arts

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

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

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

Course structure

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

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

Student profiles

See what our students have to say.


View examples of our students' work and showreels.

We want you to succeed and work constantly to make sure our course delivers everything you need to know.


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

DIGM8370 - Professional Group Work

This is a group project dealing with a professional situation provided by the Department's industrial partner(s) - a model of an actual animation and visual effects job.

Introduction to the Production Process

Guest speaker - Induction lecture - followed by other talks from industry experts. A designated client director from an outside company will introduce the project brief.

Animation Interaction

Each group will be engaged to produce a highly finished piece of rendered animation which includes many instances of dynamics and is fully textured and lit, to a four week deadline. There will be weekly critiques from the outside director on work in progress.


Each group will work with a model of a production pipeline, becoming familiar with production processes, chains of approval and departmental divisions through lectures and workshop experience.

Deadlines and Changes

Practical experience of coping with deadlines and changes. Lecture on strategies to cope with deadlines and changes.

Client Approval

Each group will have an in-house animation supervisor and an external client director

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DIGM8390 - Effects Animation

Particle dynamics

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

Fluid Effects

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

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


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


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


Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DIGM8630 - Advanced 3D Modelling

Character and concept art skills in drawing.

Researching character designs in depth.

Producing high quality animateable basic geometry in 3d space from character designs.

Advanced UV surface mapping.

Exportable file types for geometry and texture maps.

Sculpting fine surface detail using different levels of resolution of polygonal geometry.

Creation and application of sculpted detail as normal, bump and displacement maps.

Interactive image map painting directly on sculptured surfaces.

Efficient handling of large texture and image files in 3D programmes using bake functions, texture filtering and block order textures.


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

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

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

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

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

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DIGM8640 - Pre-Visualisation

Lecture Syllabus

The module will start with a week or more of intensive exposure to the animation and post-production industry in the form of a field trip to visit a number of London studios and interview/lecture sessions with a large number of industry professionals. Students work on a substantial essay concerning the animation/post production industry using information obtained from these sessions and from further seminars. Simultaneously, students develop a showreel compilation which industry professionals comment on. From this experience, students develop a direction and then a treatment and storyboard for their final project proposal which they will present to the cohort. After comments, tutorials and revisions, this will be developed into a pre-visualisation movie, a schedule and asset plan which will also be presented to the cohort.


Assessment 1 - A portfolio of pre-visualization and animatic movies.

Assessment 2 - Essay on the student's understanding of the animation/post-production industry.

Assessment 3 - Submission of planning documents for a major piece..

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DIGM8670 - Technical Direction

Texturing & Lighting:

The physics of lighting,

Computer lighting models,

Surface shading fundamentals,


UV mapping,

Photo realistic texture painting.

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

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DIGM8680 - High Definition Compositing

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

2D and 3D Tracking: techniques to track elements from a live action background plate

Video compositing: blending modes, motion attributes, rotoscoping, using alpha channels.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DIGM8690 - Film and Video Production

This module introduces students to the key elements of film form and film-making technique. It provides them with the opportunity to look at their MSc work within the broader context of film art, and to learn basic film-making skills including screenwriting, camerawork, sound recording, and editing. Classes will comprise a mixture of practical workshops and seminars focused on how film-makers uses specific cinematic techniques including narrative construction, visual composition, camera motion, colour, sound, and editing. Students will have a chance to experiment with these techniques by working in small groups to produce a short dramatic film work.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DIGM8310 - Digital Visual Art set-up

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

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

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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EENG8700 - Visual Effects Project

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

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

Credits: 60 credits (30 ECTS credits).

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

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

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

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

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

contemporary business practice in the visual effects industry

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

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

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

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

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

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

Study support

Postgraduate resources

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


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

Dynamic publishing culture

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


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

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

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

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

Entry requirements

A 2.2 or higher honours degree in animation, digital effects, fine art, architecture, multimedia, illustration, digital arts, computing and film making. All applicants are required to present a portfolio.

Research areas

Digital Media

The Digital Media group is a multidisciplinary group with interests in many areas including social computing (eg, social networking, computer mediated communication), mobile/ubiquitous computing, human-computer interaction and digital arts (eg, computer games, 3D animation, digital film). Our work is applied across a wide range of domains including e-health, cultural heritage and cyber influence/identity.

Current research themes include:

  • interface/interaction design and human-computer interaction
  • cyber behaviour/influence
  • social computing and sociability design
  • natural user interfaces
  • virtual worlds
  • online communities and computer-mediated communication
  • mobile applications
  • digital film-making and post-production.

Staff research

Dr Jim Ang: Lecturer in Multimedia/Digital Systems

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


Ania Bobrowicz: Senior Lecturer in Digital Arts

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


David Byers Brown: Senior Lecturer

Animation; digital visual effects; directing.


Stephen Kelly: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering

Medical electronics, including: electrocardiology; speech assessment; telemedicine and computerbased assessment of clinical conditions.


Dr Richard Misek: Lecturer in Digital Media

Screen technologies and aesthetics; postproduction; remix cinema; digital spacetime; urban space; video art.


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Last Updated: 13/04/2016