Master in Animation & Visual Effects

Academy of Art University

Program Description

Master in Animation & Visual Effects

Academy of Art University

The MFA in Animation & Visual Effects program focuses on developing skills in any one of the many areas of expertise within the animation and visual effects industry. The program educates students in all aspects of animation and visual effects, from ideation to post production. Communication, collaboration, and time management skills are emphasized throughout the program to ensure graduates are acclimated to the intense professional culture that awaits them.

MFA Animation & Visual Effects Unit Requirements

  • Major 27 units
  • Directed Study 18 units
  • Graduate Liberal Arts 12 units
  • Electives* 6 units

TOTAL 63 units

*Per director approval

MFA Animation & Visual Effects Degree Requirements

  • Successful completion of Final Thesis Project
  • Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA
  • Minimum grade of C in all required 63 units

MFA Program Learning Outcomes

Graduate students will meet the following student performance criteria:

MFA Thesis Project

  • Present an original thesis concept worthy of the MFA degree
  • Demonstrate the feasibility of the thesis project
  • Produce a professional-standard project, with topical content for the industry, showcasing technical and artistic ability.

Technical Skills

Demonstrate facility with animation technology and software.

Presentation Skills

  • Clearly discuss work and workflow process with a review committee, using industry terminology.
  • Effectively pitch ideas to the review committee
  • Create visually compelling, professional quality presentation materials

Preproduction Skills (Project Development)

Execute projects that demonstrate attention to: research, analytical thinking, detail, flexibility in problem solving, and revision.


Collaborate effectively to produce creative projects

Professional Readiness

  • Present a comprehensive demo reel / portfolio demonstrating professional-level achievement of specialty skills
  • Demonstrate accountability for planning complex projects, prioritizing tasks and meeting project milestones.
  • Document project workflow.

Specialty Skills: Traditional Animation

  • Demonstrate strong drawing skills and facility with anatomy, proportion, figure, animals, perspective, color and design, and composition
  • Develop visual stories that support comedic or dramatic situations
  • Stage stories through effective camera placement choices
  • Draw convincing characters, layouts, storyboards, and animatics
  • Apply the principles of animation to create animated movement and performances

Specialty Skills: Storyboarding

  • Demonstrate strong drawing skills and facility with composition, and color and design
  • Create value studies that set the mood for each scene, applying an understanding of light source.
  • Demonstrate continuity in visual storytelling through effective camera placement choices

Specialty Skills: 3D Animation

  • Apply the major principles of animation
  • Create pieces that showcase expression and emotion
  • Stage stories through effective camera placement choices

Specialty Skills: Modeling

  • Convincingly model forms in 3-dimensions that demonstrate a thorough understanding of anatomy and sculptural form.
  • Display a range of modeling skill sets including hard surfaces and organic.
  • Create textures that will be applied to the surface of models.
  • Produce industry-standard turnarounds and wireframes

Specialty Skills: Visual Effects

  • Design digital effects that meet the needs of the imagery.
  • Create believable images by combining elements from different sources
  • Compose shots for narrative power

Academy of Art University Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the Academy of Art University will demonstrate the ability to:

  • Produce a body of work suitable for seeking professional opportunities in their chosen field of art and design.
  • Solve creative problems within their field of art and design, including research and synthesis of technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge.
  • Communicate their ideas professionally and connect with their intended audience using visual, oral, and written presentation skills relevant to their field.
  • Execute technical, aesthetic, and conceptual decisions based on an understanding of art and design principles.
  • Evaluate work in their field, including their own work, using professional terminology.
  • Recognize the influence of major cultural and aesthetic trends, both historical and contemporary, on art and design products.
  • Learn the professional skills and behaviors necessary to compete in the global marketplace for art and design.

Visit to learn more about total costs, median student loan debt, potential occupations and other information. Accredited Member WSCUC, NASAD, CIDA (BFA-IAD, MFA-IAD), NAAB (B.ARCH*, M.ARCH), CTC (California Teacher Credential). Acting degree program is currently not offering online courses. **B.ARCH is currently in candidacy status.

All international students will require a VISA to enter the US and an OPT application to extend their stay after graduation. Selecting a STEM approved program allows for the benefit of being able to apply for an extended 24-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) stay to work in the country after graduation.

The following Academy majors qualify for the 24-month STEM Extension: Advanced Architectural Design; Advertising; Advertising & Branded Media Technology; Animation & Visual Effects; Architecture; Architectural Design; Art Education; Communications & Media Technologies; Game Development; Game Programming; Graphic Design; Graphic Design & Digital Media; Industrial Design; Interior Architecture & Design; New Media & Web Design. For more information on approved STEM programs, how to apply, and more common questions about studying as an international student at the Academy of Art University, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page here.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated February 21, 2017
Duration & Price
This course is Campus or Online
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2017
2 - 3 years
Full time
982 USD
Start date Sept. 2017
USA San Francisco, California
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Duration 2 - 3 years
Price 982 USD
per unit - 3 units per class.