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One-Year 3D Animation & Visual Effects Conservatory Program

An animated dragon created at NYFA's animation school An animated character eyes a bottle in his cupboard A janitor pushes a cart in this 3D animation still

Overview of our One-Year 3D & Visual Effects Program

Our One-Year 3-D Animation and Visual Effects Program is a comprehensive training in 3D using industry standard software such as Maya, Mudbox, ZBrush and Nuke.

Students in the Academy’s One-Year Program get the opportunity to learn the technical and artistic tools they need to master 3D animation and visual effects for film, video and content creation. After the program, they may choose to become independent animators or to pursue a career in the film, gaming, interactivity or commercial industries.


No previous 3D or animation or visual effects experience is required. However, studio art or computer experience is helpful. Basic familiarity with a computer graphic program such as Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop is recommended. Free student copies of Maya and Mudbox are available for download here. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with this software.

Program Breakdown

Over the course of the year, students learn the essential aspects of animation, from storyboard to final movie. While maintaining a focus on the central importance of telling a story, students also get the opportunity to delve into the realm of visual effects (VFX) and go deeper into advanced modeling techniques.

Students will learn the essentials of preparing a template for an animated movie or sequence. Preparation is tantamount to making a successful animation. Before even commencing the modeling process, a good animator has already invested hours of labor and attention to detail. In order create their own original productions, students are required to learn and master the software programs Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects. In addition, they study subjects including Screenwriting, Storyboard, and Character Design.

Upon completing the foundations for the creation of their movie, students will focus on the next stage of the process, using industry standard software that includes Maya, Mudbox, and ZBrush. (Please note that our software may change as new methods and software for animation and visual effects evolve). In addition, students will study subjects that include Drawing and Anatomy, Acting for Animation that inform and support their 3D work, as well as, Lighting, Materials, Textures, Animation, Rendering, Editing, and 3D Modeling and Sculpture.

As the year progresses students begin developing a final project that showcases a primary area of interest, be it modeling, animation, visual effects, or a combination thereof. Students are introduced to motion capture as part of the animation pipeline while also refining concepts learned in the Compositing class. Visual effects are an essential part of the movie industry and are used for integrating computer-generated characters and particle systems, such as fluids and explosions into live action shots. All of the major aspects of VFX are included in our one-year conservatory program, including the software programs Nuke, Maya, and Motion Builder. In addition, students will cover such subjects as Motion Capture, Green Screen, Compositing, Dynamics, Advanced CG Lighting, Scripting, Compositing, and Motion Tracking. Adequate time is made available for students to finish final projects and demonstrate a mastery of their particular area of interest.

Course Description (*Optional)

  • Graphics Essentials This course is comprised of Photoshop, Sound and Editing, and After Effects. The Graphics Essentials course will introduce animation students to the basic skills necessary for specific requirements of the animation pipeline.
  • Story Essentials This course is comprised of Character Design, Storyboard, Animatics, Screenwriting and Directors craft. Students are presented with an integrated approach to story, how to layout ideas economically and clearly from the initial written idea to a fully fleshed out pre-visualization of their animation.
  • Modeling I This course focuses on creating hard surface and organic models, using a variety of industry standard software. Students learn to create professional, realistic 3D characters and props from scratch. The course focuses on creating complex models using simple step-by-step techniques.
  • Lighting and Shading I Students learn lighting, rendering, and textures using the mental ray plugin for Maya in conjunction with Maya materials.
  • Rigging Students learn rigging theory and how to create skeletons using inverse Kinematics and create dynamic controllers for animated characters.
  • Animation In this course students learn the importance of creating reference material for the movement of their animated characters. This material is created in tandem with our comprehensive acting for animators’ classes. The major foundations of animation are taught in this series of classes with an emphasis on blocking the weight and poses of the character and polishing the final animation.
  • Drawing and Anatomy The purpose of this course is to explore and become familiar with the human form. Students will gain a deep and intimate knowledge of the human form on a perceptual and anatomical level. The classes will be focused on direct observation from a live model, focusing on gesture and accurate proportions. This course will also instruct the student on the observation and recognition of light to describe form. There will be homework assignments over the course of the semester, and a comprehensive anatomy exam at the end of the semester. Students are expected to attend and participate in every class and take home assignments.
  • Lighting and Shading II This course is an introduction to mental ray shaders, batch render commands, scripts, and user variables. Students will learn mental ray sampling and filtering, sampling algorithms, filtering techniques, rasterizer sampling, and BSDF to name but a few techniques in the rendering and lighting arena, enabling participants to create realistic lighting for animation and the integration of CG elements into live action environments.
  • Scripting This course is an introduction to Python and MEL to create well-designed scripts and maintain existing projects for efficiency in all areas of the animation pipeline. Areas of study will include Python-Variables and Objects/open environment, Python-Loops, Conditionals, Scopes and Operators, and Python for NUKE.
  • Compositing I The goal of this class is to give students a fundamental understanding of compositing using real world examples. The student should come away not just knowing what buttons to press, but why they are pressing them. There will be an emphasis on keying, color correction, tracking, and rotoscoping in the Foundry’s industry standard Nuke software.
  • Dynamics This course uses example projects, which are executed in class from start to finish (mostly using props and scenes from a proposed final thesis) explaining the thought process and all other technical aspects of creating an effect. The session will start with a demo of a finished effect and then explaining how to achieve it, just like a cooking show. This way it ensures all the intricate aspects of dynamics are covered. Subjects taught include introductions to expressions, animating particles with expressions, nCloth, and Particle-Fluid Integration and advection-driven effects.
  • Modeling II This course focuses on both organic and hard surface modeling. Students learn to reintegrate high polygon models into low polygon environments for animation and rendering using cutting edge methods of retopolization, and employing the discipline of displacement and normal mapping models.
  • Project Supervision I The goal of student project supervision sessions is for our instructors to work with individual or small groups of students in areas specific to their final project needs. This individualized attention will allow students to create the high level of work for inclusion their reels necessary for entry into the animation VFX job market.
  • Compositing II This course is a continuation of Compositing I and will build on the knowledge accrued during the previous semester.
  • Motion Capture Students have the option of using motion capture data for their projects. Using the industry standard Motion Builder software from Autodesk, students learn to refine the mo-cap information for animating characters in their projects. This course also builds upon and refines animation principals accrued in the first semester.
  • Project Supervision II The goal of student project supervision sessions is for our instructors to work with individual or small groups of students in areas specific to their final project. This individualized attention greatly enhances a student’s ability to create high-level work. Instructors will work with participants on finalizing their reels including VFX breakdowns of effects; demonstrating how their amazing final shots were created.
  • Sculpting Creating physical models is a time-honored method of refining a characters design. In this class student learn how to use both traditional and modern sculpting methods for character design.

Dates & Tuition

Fees Per Year

Tuition: $30,000(USD) +
Lab Fee: $2,000(USD)

For New York City Location:
Number of Semesters: 3

For Los Angeles Location:
Number of Semesters: 2

Location & Available Dates

For New York City:
May 2015 - May 2016
September 2015 - September 2016
January 2016 - September 2016
May 2016 - January 2017
September 2016 - May 2017

For Los Angeles:
May 2015 - January 2016
September 2015 - May 2016
January 2016 - September 2016
May 2016 - January 2017
September 2016 - May 2017

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