Special Effects Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Special effects can be created on a film set or or digitally on computers. A special effects instructional program helps students prepare for careers working in television, in film and in other visual media. Most schools offering special effects programs concentrate on the animation aspect of the process. Keep reading to learn about training in this field.

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How to Select a Special Effects School

Special visual effects are often part of an art major and can be listed as animation, computer arts, digital arts or media arts, among others. Programs are available at many 2- and 4-year colleges and at universities.

Considerations

  • Type of special effects
  • Training in software
  • Portfolio preparation

Type of Special Effects

Most visual effects seen today are created on computers, rather than optically. These incorporate 3D spatial relationships as well as 2D photographic content. Schools specifically dedicated to practical on-set special effects, such as gunshots, squibs, air cannons, explosions and car crashes, are few and are usually highly specialized as part of the film industry. Such content is usually taught at small private for-profit schools by veterans of the industry. Stuntmen can learn about explosives, being lit on fire, specialty driving, gunshot wounds and a variety of techniques in specialized programs that are generally short.

Training in Software

Schools should offer the latest software, such as Maya, After Effects, Nuke and 3D Studio Max. Students who are proficient on these platforms have easier times transitioning into a professional visual effects career.

Portfolio Preparation

Some schools offer students online galleries to show their works. An impressive portfolio can be valuable when applying for jobs after graduation and can attract job opportunities while still in school.

Program Overviews

Certificate Programs

A 1-2 year certificate program can be found at many community colleges. A certificate can be useful for an entry-level position as a video artist. Students are immersed in various aspects of the art, including:

  • Computer graphics
  • 2D and 3D digital imaging
  • Animation

Associate's Degree Programs

Also found at many 2-year community colleges are associate's degree programs in the visual arts. Classes are divided between the required general education classes and the selection of computer graphics course work. Students learn about:

  • Character development
  • Modeling
  • Writing
  • Storyboarding

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts programs with a focus on animation are widely offered as well. Visual art techniques can apply to print and Web design as well as to more complex live action video and animation. Bachelor's degree programs require a core liberal arts curriculum in addition to immersion in the major, and some also require a thesis. Students learn about:

  • Video editing
  • Graphic arts
  • Drawing
  • Storyboarding
  • Lighting
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Top Schools in Dallas for Animation & Special Effects Courses

Popular Schools

  • School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Associate
        • Associate in Web Design Technology

    What year did you graduate from high school?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must live within close proximity to school locations
    • Must be graduated from high school by 2011
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Florida (1 campus)
    • Minnesota (1)
    • Texas (1)
    • Washington (1)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    • Bachelor
        • Bachelor of Science - Visual Communications - Graphic Design
        • Bachelor of Science - Web Design and Development
    • Associate
    • Non-Degree
        • Certificate - Web Design and Development

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Distance Learning Programs

    • Non-Degree
        • Certificate - Undergraduate in Graphic Design

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • All degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree or higher
    • Post-Master's Certificate degree applicants must have a Masters degree or higher
    School locations:
    • Maryland (1 campus)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    • Master
        • MA in Communication

    What is your highest level of education?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Southwestern College include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • Digital, Radio, and Television Communication
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
      • Graphic Communications
        • Animation, Video Graphics, and Special Effects
      • Journalism
  • School locations:
    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Ferris State University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • Communication Technology
      • English Composition
      • English Language and Literature
      • Graphic Communications
        • Animation, Video Graphics, and Special Effects
        • Graphic and Printing Equipment Operations
        • Prepress, Publishing, and Image Design
        • Printing Management
      • Public Relations and Advertising
  • School locations:
    • New York (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Rochester Institute of Technology include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • American Sign Language - ASL
      • Communication Studies
      • Communication Technology
      • Foreign Language and Literature
      • Graphic Communications
        • Animation, Video Graphics, and Special Effects
        • Computer Typography and Composition
        • Graphic and Printing Equipment Operations
        • Prepress, Publishing, and Image Design
        • Printing Management
      • Public Relations and Advertising
      • Publishing
  • School locations:
    • Texas (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Sam Houston State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • Digital, Radio, and Television Communication
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
      • Graphic Communications
        • Animation, Video Graphics, and Special Effects
      • Journalism
      • Public Relations and Advertising
  • School locations:
    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at East Tennessee State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
      • Graphic Communications
        • Animation, Video Graphics, and Special Effects
  • School locations:
    • Georgia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Savannah College of Art and Design include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Technology
      • Digital, Radio, and Television Communication
      • Graphic Communications
        • Animation, Video Graphics, and Special Effects

Popular Schools

    • Associate in Web Design Technology

    What year did you graduate from high school?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Certificate - Undergraduate in Graphic Design

    What is your highest level of education?

    • MA in Communication

    What is your highest level of education?

  • 5Southwestern College
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