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Visual Effects with a Foundation Year - BSc (Hons)

  • UCAS Code: US1019
  • Level: Foundation
  • Starting: September 2021
  • Study mode: Full Time (4 years)
  • Location: City Centre

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. Any arrangements put in place by the University for the 2021/22 academic year 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.

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.

Student Showreel

What's covered in the 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?

  • 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.

Where our students go

Our students have gone on to work with companies such as:

  • MPC
  • Cinesite
  • Yamination

And in jobs such as:

  • CFX/Tech Animator
  • Junior Animator
  • Compositing Artist

 

This course is open to International students

Entry Requirements

We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.

Essential Requirements

BB or 80 UCAS tariff points from A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels

LEVEL 2 QUALIFICATIONS
GCSE
  • GCSE English language and mathematics at grade C/4 or above/li>
  • Equivalent level 2 qualifications can be accepted.
  • Must have been achieved at the point of enrolment
Irish Leaving Certificate (Ordinary Level)
  • See level 3 entry under Irish Leaving Certificate for full details
Scottish Intermediate 2
  • English language and mathematics at grade C or above
  • Must have been achieved at the point of enrolment
Scottish Credit Standard Grade
  • English language and mathematics at grade 2 or above
  • Must have been achieved at the point of enrolment
Scottish National 5
  • English language and mathematics at grade C or above
  • Must have been achieved at the point of enrolment
LEVEL 3 (and above) QUALIFICATIONS
A level and Advanced VCE
  • 80 UCAS points
  • A maximum of 3 subjects are considered. These can be other A-levels or level 3 equivalents.
Access to HE Diploma
  • Pass with 60 credits overall. At least 45 credits at level 3.
  • Pearson BTEC National Extended Diploma
    (2016 – present)
  • Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma (QCF)
    (2010 - 2016)
  • BTEC Level 3 National Diploma
    (2002 – 2010)
  • MMP
  • Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Diploma
    (2016 – present)
  • Pearson BTEC Diploma (QCF)
    (2010 – 2016)
  • BTEC Level 3 National Certificate
    (2002 – 2010)
  • 80 UCAS points
  • Considered with one A-level or an equivalent level 3 qualification
  • Pearson BTEC National Foundation Diploma (2016 to present)

  • Pearson BTEC 90-Credit Diploma (QCF) (2010 - 2016)

  • 80 UCAS points
  • Considered with one A-level or an equivalent level 3 qualification
  • Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Certificate
    (2016 – present)

  • Pearson BTEC Subsidiary Diploma (QCF)
    (2010 - 2016)

  • BTEC Level 3 National Award
    (2002 - 2010)

  • 80 UCAS points
  • Considered with one A-level or an equivalent level 3 qualification

Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate - Skills Challenge Certificate (first teaching September 2015)

  • 80 UCAS points

Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Diploma – Core (awarded until 2016) ESW/KS Combined component

  • 80 UCAS points

International Baccalaureate Diploma

  • Obtain a minimum of 28 points overall and pass one of the following subjects from Group 4 at Higher Level (Computer Science, Chemistry, Design Technology, Physics)

  • For students who do not already hold a GCSE in Mathematics at Grade C/4 or above grade 5 in Maths (Standard Level) from the IB Diploma will be accepted

  • For students who do not already hold a GCSE in English Language at Grade C/4 or above Standard Level English Language (not literature) English A - Grade 4 or above or English B - Grade 5 from the IB will be accepted.

Other qualifications
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
Essential

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  
IELTS

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)
AND
English Group A - Grade 4 or above,
OR
English Group B and Ab Initio - Grade 5

Country-specific entry requirements and qualifications.

 

International students who cannot meet the direct entry requirements can begin their degree studies at Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC).

Additional Requirements

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.

International Students

Entry requirements here

  • UK students
  • International students

Award: BSc (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: BSc (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 4 years
  • £13,200 per year

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead. The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

Guidance for UK students

UCAS

UK students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.

Applying through UCAS
 Register with UCAS
 Login to UCAS
 Complete your details
 Select your course
 Write a personal statement
 Get a reference
 Pay your application fee
 Send UCAS your application

Additional costs

  • Memory Cards – £40
  • Portable Hard Drive (1TB+) – £70

Year One

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

Year Two

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.

20 credits

Within the module of Computer Programming you will learn the key skills of Programming and how this relates to technology and communications. Programming is an engineering tool that plays a vital role to drive most of the modern technologies surrounding us, including the technological devices for communication, transportation and entertainment. In other words, it can be said that our modern lifestyles are heavily dependent on programming. Moreover, businesses increasingly rely on computers and the software run on them. Programming skills and a broader and deeper understanding of programming are therefore becoming increasingly important to the jobs market.

20 credits

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.

20 credits

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.

20 credits

This module provides knowledge and experience of a key technical industry skill; Rigging. It aims to develop your technical skills and introduce you to core rigging techniques, such as FK, IK, skinning, weighting, and control rigs.

You will be expected to plan and produce a variety of high-quality rigs, along with demonstrating and critiquing on their capabilities. They should be suitable to produce high quality animation within a visual effects production.

20 credits

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.

Year Three

20 credits

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.

20 credits

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.

20 credits

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.

20 credits

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.

20 credits

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.

20 credits

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.

Year Four

40 credits

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.

40 credits

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.

20 credits

Within this module you will develop productions that span a number of platforms such as film, games, social media, web and VR. It provides you with an opportunity to work with students from a number of disciplines and develop an understanding of how your knowledge and skills can fit into the production workflow of different media industries.

20 credits

In order to set the skills gained across your degree programme in a wider context, you need an appreciation of business practice and current working environment, project management styles and the processes involved in gaining and completing high quality commissioned work.

Aimed specifically to the film, television, VFX, and video production industries the module will set in context these current career and work environments, building on the knowledge learnt from the first year to apply theory and use contextualised case studies to explore projects’ development, the processes involved in commissioning these projects and the financial implications behind them.

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.

Student Showreel 

Attendance requirements

For more information on attendance requirements, course contact time and suggested self-study hours, download the course specification.

Employment Opportunities

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.

Placements

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

OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

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:

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.

BCUIC

BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Visual Effects - BSc (Hons)

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.

Lianne Forbes

Lianne Forbes

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.

Read Lianne's full profile

Mathew Randall

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.

Jay Patel

Senior Lecturer

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.

Robert Mclaughlin

Lecturer

Robert is a lecturer whose emphasis is on student engagement with industry and external partnership development. He is a Prince2 Practitioner whose area of teaching is industry contextualisation, business, marketing and the work environment. 

He writes for media focused, genre and technology websites and a semi-regular basis as a freelance copywriter specifically about new media and technology and has been used to providing commentary on media industry by journalists and local and national radio (Free Radio and Radio 1). 

His work has led to student opportunities for mentoring and industry guidance from external clients such as Sky Academy, Spotify, YouTube and ITV. 

He has worked on multiple industry focused projects which have included documentaries for Canadian Broadcasters, student competition judged by Hollywood directors and student driven multi-media projects curated from the creators of 2000AD. 

He is also the project coordinator for Creative Networks a monthly event that is designed to increase student engagement within their subject matter and to learn from external partners and practitioners. He also runs the BCU-Comic Lab and co-hosts the weekly DMT Podcast show. 

Read Robert's full profile

Michael Bickerton

Lecturer

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.

Stephen Gordon

Senior Lecturer

Stephen is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Digital Media Technology.

After graduating from Birmingham Polytechnic, Stephen worked as a freelance journalist and scriptwriter for corporate video production. In the early Nineties he began working in the FE sector and discovered the incomparable satisfaction to be had from helping young people achieve their educational ambitions. He obtained a FAHE teaching qualification whilst working at Sandwell College as creator and Course Leader of their BTEC National Diploma in Media Production.