Visual Effects with a Foundation Year - BSc (Hons)
September 2021 — UCAS code 1019
Our BSc (Hons) Visual Effects course will develop your technical, creative and production skills, related to visual effects production. The course will prepare you to pursue careers in a range of roles within visual effects and other innovative industries utilising computer graphics....
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Clearing hotline opens Tuesday 10 August
Studying with us in 2021/22
It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Information about the arrangements the University has put in place for the 2021/22 academic year in response to Covid-19 and the emerging variants can be found here.
Should the impact of Covid-19 continue in subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.
Please note: the entry requirements listed below are relevant for main cycle applications and may not be applicable during Clearing.
Our BSc (Hons) Visual Effects course will develop your technical, creative and production skills, related to visual effects production. The course will prepare you to pursue careers in a range of roles within visual effects and other innovative industries utilising computer graphics.
The Foundation Year course option enables you to study for our BSc (Hons) degree over an extended full-time duration of four years by including a Foundation Certificate (year one of four).
The Foundation Certificate provides a broad study programme that underpins the follow-on degree. In order to progress to the next year of your degree, it is necessary to achieve a pass in all of the modules of the Foundation Certificate.
You will have access to a variety of high quality facilities including: a range of industry standard software, high specification computers, cloud-based rendering facilities, a Vicon motion capture studio, one of the largest fixed green screen studios in the UK, a Milo motion control system, a variety of camera and lighting equipment and excellent learning facilities with access to substantial library open 24 hours and a variety on-line resources.
The course is delivered by a highly skilled and experienced course team, with a range of relevant industrial and academic experience, who constantly engage with industry and update their skills, to ensure the course remains up to date.
To ensure that you are equipped and ready to engage with industry our tutoring programme and Graduate+ scheme will provide support and guidance through-out your educational journey to equip you with professional skills and prepare you for industry. The course aims to produce versatile, adaptable graduates with the fusion of technical and creative skills that industry is looking for.
What's covered in this course?
You will learn all aspects of visual effects production including: shooting video, computer modelling, computer animation, matchmoving, and compositing. You will use these skills to produce digital elements such as creatures and environments, then combine them with live action video to produce convincing visual effects shots.
As a Bachelor of Science course there is an emphasis on technical director (TD) roles such as: Matchmoving, Rigging, Dynamic Simulations, Motion Capture and Python/Pipeline Development, which are in particular demand within the visual effects industry. The teaching of technical skills is underpinned with a knowledge of fundamental concepts and use of industry tools and practice.
To help you engage with industry, guest speakers are invited to come and share their expertise. The course also includes organised excursions such as trips to conferences or industrial visits. Previous examples include the London VFX Festival, Framestore, Double Negative, Cinesite, Industrial Light and Magic, and The Mill.
During the course you will do a mixture of ‘hands on’ productions and technical investigations which will teach you the practice, process, craft and technology of visual effects. These activities will help you become a proactive learner able to explore knowledge, implement best practice and critically evaluate the results of your work.
You will get the opportunity to work collaboratively with students from related disciplines such as games and film. This will allow you to broaden your horizons and help you understand how your visual effects and computer graphics skills can fit into other existing and emerging industries.
Why Choose Us?
- Brand new facilities at STEAMhouse - This state-of-the-art building, launching in January 2022, will become the new home for computing and digital technology students. Based at our expanding City Centre Campus, this unique centre will give you access to outstanding facilities and equipment, as well as opportunities to collaborate with people and businesses across multiple sectors and work on real industry-based projects.
- State-of-the-art facilities - You’ll have access to our cutting-edge facilities across Millennium Point and the £65 million Parkside campus, both located in City Centre. Parkside features four industry-standard TV studios featuring the latest Sony equipment and a ‘green screen’ MILO studio. Find out more about our campuses.
- Excellent equipment - Work with real light and sound as well as digital light, sound, video, geometry and dynamic simulations.
- Highly employable graduates - The unique combination of technical knowledge and practical production will enable you to move more quickly into key production roles within industry.
- Gain first-hand experience in industry - You will have the opportunity to network and make contacts with people in industry, gain work experience and to take a placement year between your second and final year.
- Preparation for employment - You will have the option to join our Curzon Software House and take part in industry projects to build up skills for your CV.
We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.
BB or 80 UCAS tariff points from A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels
|LEVEL 2 QUALIFICATIONS|
|Irish Leaving Certificate (Ordinary Level)||
|Scottish Intermediate 2||
|Scottish Credit Standard Grade||
|Scottish National 5||
|Plus one of the following Level 3 (and above) Qualifications|
|A level and Advanced VCE||
|Access to HE Diploma||
Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate - Skills Challenge Certificate (first teaching September 2015)
Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Diploma – Core (awarded until 2016) ESW/KS Combined component
International Baccalaureate Diploma
|If you have a qualification that is not listed in the table please refer to our full entry requirements on UCAS.
Further guidance on tariff points can be found on the UCAS website.
Additional information for EU/International students
Please see your country page for further details on the equivalent qualifications we accept.
In additional to the academic entry requirements listed above, international and EU students will also require the qualifications detailed in this table.
|EU/Non-EU (International) Qualifications|
6.0 overall with 5.5 minimum in all bands
If you do not meet the required IELTS score, you may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English courses. Please note that you must have a Secure English Language Test (SELT) to study on the pre-sessional English course. More information.
|International Baccalaureate Diploma (or equivalent, including internationally accredited Foundation courses).||
1. For students who complete the full IB Diploma: a total of 14 points or above from three Higher Level Subjects.
2. Students who do not complete the IB Diploma will be considered on the basis of their IB Certificates.
Students must have grade 5 in Maths (Standard Level)
International students who cannot meet the direct entry requirements can begin their degree studies at Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC).
As part of the application process you will be invited to attend an applicant visit day where you will undertake a short one-to-one interview with an academic member of staff. This is your chance to show us how passionate you are about the subject and it will help us make a decision on your application.
This will provide you with more information about the School and your course. In addition, it will give you a chance to meet and our staff and students to gain a better understanding of what it is like to be a student here.
Fees & How to Apply
- UK students
- International students
Award: BSc (Hons)
Starting: Sep 2021
- Full Time
- 4 years
- £9,250 per year
- Apply via Clearing
Award: BSc (Hons)
Starting: Sep 2021
- Full Time
- 4 years
- £13,200 per year
£150 free credit (home/EU students only)
For 2021 entry, all new home/EU undergraduate students will receive £150 worth of free credit to spend in a host of ways, on books and a range of learning materials.
Access to computer equipment
You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.
You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.
All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.
Access to Microsoft Office 365
Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.
You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.
Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.
Free access to Rosetta Stone
All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.
Free access to LinkedIn Learning, which offers over 5,000 in-depth and bite-sized courses. This course also provides free access to Pluralsight, which offers a wealth of courses, guides and tutorials aligned to the digital creative industry.
You will be able to access free licences for game development specific software such as Unity, Unreal Engine, Substance Suite, Maya, Mudbox, Motion Builder and Houdini.
Free Adobe Creative Cloud licence
Students studying on this course can request a free licence to install the entire suite of applications on up to two personal devices, including access to Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, XD, Premier Pro and After Effects.
Project materials (mandatory)
This course includes project work that requires you to develop and produce a portfolio or collection. You'll be expected to provide the materials for use in your individual major projects; costs will vary depending on the materials selected.
Excess printing (optional)
Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.
Some modules may suggest that you purchase a key textbook. All module key texts will be in the University library, but in limited numbers. Many students choose to purchase a copy.
Placement expenses (optional)
If you choose to undertake a placement, you'll need to budget for accommodation and any travel costs you may incur whilst living or working away from home.
Accommodation and living costs
The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.
Please note: the entry requirements listed below are relevant for main cycle applications and may not be applicable during Clearing.
- Memory Cards – £40
- Portable Hard Drive (1TB+) – £70
Course in Depth
Fundamental Mathematics 20 credits
Academic and Personal Study Skills 20 credits
Web Application Design 20 credits
Audio / Video Fundamentals 20 credits
Independent Practice 20 credits
Foundations of Programming 20 credits
This module provides students with the technical skills and experience to produce 3D models and turntable renders for use in visual effects.
The skills developed in this module will inform and underpin the use of 3D models throughout the rest of your course.
The module aims to develop your modelling skills to a highly competent standard, developing your knowledge of the fundamentals of 3D modelling as well as providing you with experience of using industry-standard modelling tools. By the end of the module you will be able to approach modelling productions by drawing on a suite of 3D modelling methods and tools. The module will also provide an overview of how 3D assets are used in a variety of industries.
This module will develop your key understanding of audio visual acquisition technologies for digital film production. The module addresses how images and audio are captured using sound and video recording equipment in a film production environment.
This module provides students with technical skills and experience to Texture, Shade, Light and Render models for use in visual effects shots.
The module aims to develop your skills to a high level allowing you to develop knowledge of balancing CGI texturing, lighting and rendering to match reference images. The module will provide you with experience of using industry-standard software and tools. It will also provide you with the unique mixture of art, science and maths skills needed to work in Technical Director roles such as Texture, Look Development or Lighting.
This module will provide an in-depth exploration of the Technical Director role; Matchmoving. Matchmoving also known as Camera Tracking is a key area within visual effects, it has become known for being a great entry point into the industry for those looking at the 3D route.
The module will use industry level software, to implement various tracking methods and techniques; explore lens distortion; develop onset visual effects skills. You will develop an understanding on how the Matchmoving role relates to other visual effects disciplines and wider production pipeline, as well as how to layout and deliver completed matchmoved shots.
3D computer animation is the cornerstone of modern visual media production, and is an essential requirement for working in film visual effects.
This module aims to develop your 3D animation and production skills, introducing you to core computer animation techniques. You will be expected to plan and produce high quality, 3D computer animations suitable for use in visual effects production pipelines.
As well as developing technical skills, the module aims to provide you with an authentic experience of planning and producing computer animation from storyboarding to managing assets and designing production pipelines.
This module provides knowledge and experience of designing and developing bespoke add-ons and extensions to industry standard software. You will learn to programme scripts to make visual effects and games production more efficient and extend the capabilities of existing software. The development and implementation of bespoke visual effects tools is a key part of the competitiveness of games and visual effects companies, allowing them to make themselves more efficient and capable than their competitors.
This module provides knowledge and experience of digital video compositing, exploring the fundamental principles and techniques of compositing using professional node based compositing skills and tools. The competent use and application of these techniques are core practical skills within the course programme and fundamentally important to a variety of careers within the visual effects industry.
This module will provide an in-depth look at Dynamics and Simulations. This module will consist of an exploration into creating and simulating physics such as setting fire to objects, breaking glass, adding dust to scenes and destroying various geometry.
The module will use industry level software and will cover various methods and techniques in order for the student to control and artistically direct simulations. The module will enable them to; fracture geometry; constrain elements of the simulation, and create a variety of realistic simulations.
For graduates wishing to pursue a technical career in digital media production, be it Film or visual effects production, then a comprehensive understanding of the low level capture, processing and distribution technology is essential. To complement this a fundamental understanding in the methods for conducting research into the technology, the design and the limitations of this technology is essential.
The module is an opportunity to learn and critically reflect on the skills of collaboration by enabling you to create an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines, or with academic staff. Collaboration is a vital employability skill within the Creative Industries and this module allows you to develop these skills, making use of University facilities and with the support of academic staff. Within this module framework, several kinds of collaborative opportunities are available.
For example, with the approval of your supervisor, you can determine a project based on your own interests; your supervisor may set you a predetermined project to enable you to work with other students in a way that is appropriate to your subject area; or there may be opportunities for you to collaborate with staff on research projects. In all cases, you must apply your subject skills to an interdisciplinary project which will be agreed in advance with your supervisor.
Working in the wider community of production, it is important to consider your part in the overall creation of an artefact. Being able to work independently; demonstrating problem solving skills; identifying and improving your own performance and; working other team members, are all traits that will be demanded of you in a typical work-place setting.
The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and research informed project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. In agreement with your supervisor, you will decide upon your topic which will take the form of a practical outcome (artefact) with accompanying contextual material. The main consideration when choosing your topic is that it must be aligned to the programme you are studying, and you should consider the relevance of this topic to your future academic or professional development.
At this level, you will be expected to work independently but you will receive additional one-to-one support from your supervisor, who will be familiar with your chosen topic area. As you progress on the module, extra support will be available and this may take the form of group seminars, workshops and online materials that will help to develop your project.
The aim of this module is to translate your existing skills to working in a Virtual Production workflow. Virtual Production is an approach that uses real-time tracking and game engines to perform post-production in real-time during the production phase and has been used in many production including: The Lion King, The Mandalorian, Avatar, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Guardians of the Galaxy, War of the Planet of the Apes and Game of Thrones, and is often referred to as the future of film making.
In order to become an effective professional practitioner, one needs to develop industrial awareness including current production and business practices, technologies and pipelines and trends and emergent technologies and how they are shaping industry. This module offers you the opportunity to research aspects of your sector, the impacts of technology and how they are driving change. You will analyse your profile as a professional practitioner and consider career opportunities and development. You will explore different approaches and theories as you develop a professional outlook to the industry, with the focus being the drive to find opportunities and routes and of attaining industry-specific work.
You will develop key skills through an assessment strategy that reflects industry needs. Assessments will be varied and predominantly focused on coursework. The practical application of technology and the craft of production are key features of the course, which are also emphasised in the style and focus of assessments.
The first year of the course focuses on developing your fundamental skills and knowledge in using digital video production to capture live action elements, using 3D modelling and software graphics tools to create virtual elements, and using compositing tools to combine live action and virtual elements.
Your skills will be developed further in your second year, with specialist subjects such as motion capture, shader development, dynamic simulations, programming visual effects tools in python, and research and development. You will also experience more demanding and collaborative production experiences.
Your final year is about refining your skills and realising your full potential. You will undertake a carefully planned, high-quality film and visual effects production, undertake an investigation (exploring a technical area of your choice), develop a well-defined career plan and examine how your skillset fits into a variety of industries.
For more information on attendance requirements, course contact time and suggested self-study hours, download the course specification.
There is currently a shortage of skilled creatives in the CGI and VFX industries, so once you gain your degree the chances of employment in the industry are good – though getting on the first rung of the ladder can still be challenging. Salaries can be high compared to production jobs like camera operators, producers and so on where supply outstrips demand.
Engaging with industry and gaining work experience during your studies is essential if you are going to be taken seriously in the job market. Getting work experience in film and visual effects production can be challenging, so we encourage you to be agile. We will also help you engage with a broad range of opportunities, as well as offering options for extra awards and recognition.
You have the option undertake an assessed sandwich year between your second and third year, which will provide you with valuable work experience and give you the real-life skills you need.
The second-year Collaborative Practice and final-year Production Project modules have been designed so that you can use your work in industry as a basis for the module’s assessment.
The University has a Graduate+ programme, an extracurricular awards framework that is designed to augment the subject-based skills that you’ve developed throughout the programme with broader employability attributes, which will enhance your employability options upon graduating.
There are a range of opportunities for you to gain industry experience during your studies. Examples of activities our student have done include:
- Working as a runner on one of our commercial productions
- Working for crewing agencies
- Working part-time for a production company
- Doing a placement year between the second and third year of the course
- Submitting work to crowdsourcing competitions and film festivals
- Collaborating with other students and local film makers on productions
- Setting up a YouTube channel
- Working directly for clients
- Organising and running events.
OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.
It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.
Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.
The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.
Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:
Facilities and Staff
The Visual Effects course is supported with the latest industry standard software such as Maya, Houdini, Nuke, Syntheyes and Arnold. There are cutting-edge facilities available to our students, our Vicon motion capture studio, the University’s Parkside Media Centre, which is equipped with over 1,200 sq m of dedicated equipment, including three film/television studios, dedicated green screen studio, post-production facilities, MILO motion control rig, multi-track recording studios, and several editing and grading stations.
Cameras, light and grip equipment can be hired for free from our hires and loans team. Equipment available includes 4K cameras, high-end HD cinema style cameras with follow focus and matte boxes, a range of DSLR cameras, a range of different lights, soft boxes, flags, reflectors, a range of different tripods, stands, dollies, steady cams and jib arms.
Within the Centre there is an internationally recognised research team, Digital Media Technology (DMT) labs, specialising in mixed reality, intelligent animation, automated grading and compositing and human perception. This research team is involved in the delivery of this course, providing opportunities to join them as a post-graduate researcher on completion of the course.
Senior Lecturer and Course Leader in Visual Effects
Lianne has 14 years of high-end VFX film industry experience. Her focus is on forging strong links between the University and industry. She plans to develop student awareness of industry practices and produce more opportunities for them to engage with industry professionals.
Her VFX career has spanned over 5 countries, working with award-winning companies such as Framestore, Animal Logic, Pixomondo, and Rising Sun Pictures.More about Lianne
Programme Leader, Film and Image
Mathew has been working with computer graphics since the mid-1990s and has been involved in moving image production for over 10 years. Coming from an academic background in multimedia, he has extensive experience in real-time computer graphics and rendering, designing and developing user interfaces, games, systems for visualising data and signals, video systems for concerts and festivals, interactive sonic and video installations and real-time generative art.More about Mathew
Programme Leader, Lecturer
Akira Summers has been working in software and technological development since the year 2000. Starting off in web development and interactive media, she has held many development roles and spent several years working as an embedded game programmer, multimedia developer and learning technologist.
She now works as a lecturer at BCU and is responsible for the BSc Digital Media Course at BIFCA, in Wuhan China, as Link tutor, a member of the Faculty Academic Ethics Committee (FAEC) and Faculty Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee.
Dr Carlo Harvey
Associate Professor, Director of Future Games and Graphics
Dr Carlo Harvey is an Associate Professor in Computer Games Technology at Birmingham City University, in the School of Computing and Digital Technology. He teaches C++ for Games, Computer Graphics and Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning. He is the course leader for BSc Computer Games Technology and the Director of Future Games and Graphics overseeing the research arm for Games and Graphics within the DMTLab at BCU.
He is a co-founder of Curzon Software House. Curzon Software House was started as a Birmingham City University initiative to aid students to develop their skills, work on industry projects and gain experience of working in a job in the field. The initiative has been recently funded and is a new micro-placement opportunity. Curzon Software House works with many top local and national companies to produce real-world projects, whilst planning out deliverables, and meeting targets. Curzon Software House benefits from the collaboration with the University, which provides the team with cutting-edge technology. Using Microsoft Hololens, VR equipment, and state-of-the-art PCs with high-end configurations, they produce high-quality content for their clients. This initiative was nominated by TIGA (The Independent Game Developers’ Association) for the Best Educational Initiative and Talent Development award.
Since arriving at BCU in late 2017, he has been shortlisted for best personal tutor and inspiring teacher of the year. He has also seen the course BSc Computer Games Technology nominated for the TIGA award: Best Educational Institution two years running.
He was previously the programme leader for the Games Programming course in the Creative Technologies department of the Faculty of Science and Technology at Bournemouth University. Whilst at Bournemouth University the course won the TIGA Award for the Best Educational Institution. He oversaw the development of the BSc Games Programming course into the redesigned BSc Games Software Engineering. This process was approved by both an internal and external panel, by the Academic Quality team and by the Faculty Academic Standard Committee. He also undertook the role of Unit of Assessment 11 Impact Champion, overseeing the development of case studies being prepared for the Research Excellence Framework 2021 submission process.
Prior to this, Carlo worked with Jaguar Land Rover on an EPSRC funded research proposal, Program for Simulation Innovation (Psi: Theme 7). This project aimed to drive digital prototyping forward for the next generation. His work on this project included visualisation and sound-field manipulation for virtual vehicles. This utilised and integrated a wide variety of technology into one holistic demonstrator.
He completed a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Warwick in 2012. This was entitled Modality Based Perception for Selective Rendering and considered user study evaluated techniques to speed up image synthesis, taking advantage of perceptual artefacts of cross-modal attention under different sensory systems. He has a BSc (Hons) Computer Science from Bristol University (2007) and a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic and Professional Practice from the University of Warwick (2016).
Carlo has published in the fields of perception-aware rendering, simulation, auditory perception, multi-sensory perceptual impact on vision and cultural heritage. He has a number of Q1 journal publications and has won numerous best technical/application and student paper awards at international conferences.More about Carlo
After graduating from Birmingham Polytechnic, Stephen worked as a freelance journalist and scriptwriter for corporate video production.
Since joining BCU in 2006, he has designed and delivered modules across a range of Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses, and currently teaches all but one of the practical production modules on the Digital Film Production degree.
As an additionally enthusiastic advocate for the analogue resurgence, he lists vinyl records, Super 8 film, and Polaroid photography among his enduring passions. He is also Chair of the West Midlands Freelance Branch of BECTU.More about Stephen
Jay is a Lecturer in the School of Digital Media Technology. Jay has been involved with the delivery of ERDF projects. Since the successful completion of these projects he has moved into teaching. He currently delivers a variety of modules such as Audio Visual Technology, Moving Image Technology and Mathematics for Media.More about Jay
Michael has been producing and teaching film for over twenty years. He has international production experience and has taught on prestige courses (such as the UK Film Council’s Introduction to Screenwriting).
He is a member of BECTU, GTC, and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.More about Michael