New York Film Academy
1-800-611-FILM  |  1-212-674-4300
New York Film Academy Master of Fine Arts

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in 3D Animation & Visual Effects

Game Design Showcase Page

Overview of our MFA in 3D Animation & VFX Program

The New York Film Academy's Master of Fine Arts in 3D Animation & VFX is a four semester full time graduate program. The curriculum is designed to give prospective animators and storytellers the tools they need to become creative leaders in their chosen sector of the industry. The New York Film Academy MFA in 3D Animation & VFX challenges, inspires, and perfects the talents of its student body in a unique creative setting.

New York Film Academy's MFA in 3D Animation & VFX program is offered at our Los Angeles Campus.


The NYFA Master of Fine Arts in 3D Animation & VFX is a four-semester graduate degree program intended to prepare animation & visual effects artists for technical and creative leadership in the various fields of the cinematic and emerging arts while nurturing a deep sense of service toward storytelling.

Students will:

  • Develop a thorough technical understanding of the animation & VFX workflow & pipeline.
  • Analyze and identify the industry trends that affect Pre-Production/Preparation of Animation & VFX.
  • Hone their craft in intermediate and advanced Digital Element Creation, Motion Capture, Animation, Interactive Games, Stereoscopic 3D, Post-Production/Image Manipulation, Organization of Data Acquisition & Capture for use in the VFX pipeline.
In these MFA courses, students will learn from faculty that bring knowledge from the industry, many with experience from major brands including Disney, Dreamworks, Universal, Netflix and more. Students will master tools and techniques to create compelling 3D Animation & VFX shots that culminate in their final Thesis courses.

The integration of Animation & VFX curricula has been fine-tuned at the Los Angeles campus at the bachelor's level, to provide students with a specific technical and artistic education. The curriculum has been tailored to fit industry standard technical and artistic roles as laid out in the Visual Effects Societies Handbook.

At the master's level, NYFA does not just create artists or technicians; they effectively execute on a hybrid learning curriculum for students seeking to become leaders and innovators in 3D Animation, VFX, Computer Imaging, Feature Film, Television, New & Emerging Media, Research & Development, and the Interactive & Game Industries.


One of the best animation schools, New York Film Academy has an award-winning faculty of professional animators and visual artists who can share a wealth of industry secrets and practical knowledge for the aspiring practitioner. Their goal is to equip the next generation of animators and visual effects artists with the professional skills that will help them excel as they pursue a career in the competitive VFX industry. Our alumni credits include an array of commercial and blockbuster productions including Game of Thrones - Season 8, Aquaman, Justice League, Star Wars: The Force Awakens & Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Alien: Covenant, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

At NYFA animation school, we set ourselves apart with an emphasis on the practical, technical and artistic skills that are required to bring CG-enhanced stories to life, and actively prepare students for the rigors of a professional studio. As a one of the top animation schools, the New York Film Academy provides professional facilities and state-of-the-art equipment so that our students gain hands-on experience with industry standard software which may include Autodesk's 3D Maya, MotionBuilder, Pixologic's ZBrush digital sculptor, SideFX's Houdini FX, Chaos Group's V-Ray, and Foundry's Nuke compositing and editing program.


Overall, the first two semesters in the MFA Animation Program concentrate on developing the tools, techniques, and skills required to be a productive member of an animation or VFX pipeline. Students will be asked to identify and develop a mastery of a specialization within that pipeline, and command a competency in the rest of the pipeline. The final two semesters focus on making an artist into a supervisor, asking them to lead teams of artists using production management skills.

The course of study culminates in a production reel that demonstrates the students' mastery of their specialization while underscoring their ability to lead and innovate within this specialization.


During the first semester, students will develop animation and VFX skills and knowledge of the production pipeline. Students will bolster their command of asset creation supplemented by courses in traditional art as well as foundations of project management and production.


Students will focus on shot creation lessening the emphasis on the digital production specialization in semester one. Here they will learn from the principles of animation and rules of composition. Students begin to “learn how to learn” new and more varied software. Courses continue to develop some asset creation skills through continued emphasis on character set-up and texturing courses. By the end of the semester students will have had an intensive look at each of the specializations within the entirety of the 3D Animation & VFX pipeline and will be challenged to start to narrow down a specialization emphasis. Complementing their traditional 3D art course in the first semester, students will also take a traditional movement course teaching organic timing and spacing.


Students will begin to treat digital production of 3D Animation & VFX through a holistic lens rather than a series of sequential specializations. In addition, they will train in project management and coding, skills necessary to becoming innovators and leaders in their fields of study. They will round out the semester by achieving significant milestones of their thesis projects, where students complete a technical demo reel of their area of specialization.


Students will be expected to exhibit mastery within a chosen area of specialization, such as character animation, modeling, sculpting, simulation, or the like. The semester will culminate in the completion of their thesis project, carried over from semester three. The project will be subject to the approval of the Thesis Committee where the student will be asked to defend a completed technical demo reel. The successful completion of this thesis is mandatory for graduation.

Outside of thesis completion, students will tackle open-ended problems and challenges facing the industry as a whole with technical direction-heavy courses such as problems in simulation and motion-data.

The semester will end with a screening of thesis projects for members of the industry, which may include professionals from the production, executive, and talent representation spheres.

New York Film Academy believes that to be successful in the MFA 3D Animation & VFX degree program an applicant must have an intermediate skill level in 3D Animation and VFX. The creative portfolio submitted during the application process will be used to assess this skill level and determine if the applicant has the prerequisite knowledge to meet the demand of the courses. If the applicant is assessed as not meeting the necessary skill level, detailed feedback will be made available to the applicant, recommending areas of improvement if the student wishes to improve and apply again.

1-Year Certificate-to-MFA Path:
For those applicants who do not have the requisite experience to enter directly into the MFA program and want help improving their proficiency in 3D Animation & VFX, NYFA may recommend enrolling in the 1-Year certificate program and re-applying to the MFA program after successful completion. Students who successfully complete the 1-Year certificate and are accepted into the MFA will enter semester 2 of the MFA program.

Many of our programs are approved for GI bill benefits including the Post-9/11 GI bill but please contact our Veterans Services office for specific program approvals.

Course Description

Semester One
Digital Modeling
Character Design
Matte Painting & Digital Environments
Pre-Production & Prep
History of Animation
Semester Two
Rigging & Character Setup
Character Animation
Texturing & Shading
Stop Motion
Previs / Interactive Games / Virtual Reality
Acquisition / Shooting
Semester Three
Stereoscopic 3D
Visual Effects
Lighting & Rendering
Animation Practices & Pipelines
Production Thesis Project I
Semester Four
Dynamic Effects & Particle Systems
Post Production Techniques and Practices
Performance & Motion Capture
Topics in Animation & VFX
Production Thesis Project II


ANIM 500 Digital Modeling

In this course, students will build the foundations of 3D basics. They will apply knowledge of traditional sculpture to create organic models using digital sculpting techniques. This course will give students an understanding of anatomy and physiology as applied to real and fantastic creatures
back to top

ANIM 510 Sculpture

This course teaches the sculptural techniques in a variety of clays geared toward character-based and realism-based artworks. This course covers armature construction, neutral and dynamic posing, and production techniques.
back to top

ANIM 520 Compositing

Students will learn how to combine their 3D renders, matte paintings and digital video to create polished, professional-caliber VFX shots. Students will learn how to problem solve the types of 3D Animation & VFX elements typical of a production shoot including: Green Screen Composites, Tracking, and Color Correction.
back to top

ANIM 530 Character Design

This course will show various approaches to conceptualizing and designing believable and original creatures/characters for feature films and video games. Using a “Function/Form/Content" approach, students will take a creature/character from rough thumbnails to silhouette studies to final believable renders based on anatomically plausible construction and photo-realistic presentation. This class will explore various techniques and software such as Zbrush, Maya, and Photoshop.
back to top

ANIM 540 Matte Painting & Digital Environments

This course will take students through the process of creating the impossible landscapes, imaginary vistas and set extensions that are physically impossible to film or too expensive to create using other mediums. The class will guide students through the process from concept of a shot to final images including reference photography, Photoshop techniques, 3D projection, and integration.
back to top

ANIM 550 Pre-Production / Preparation

This course covers pre-production relative to visual effects. This includes the budgeting of the visual effects and the decisions about what company and visual effects team will work on the show. More importantly, it covers the designs and the techniques that will be used and that will ultimately determine much of the success of the visual effects.

Pre-production is also a good time to develop new techniques, test ideas, and start the building of models when possible. Each production is unique, so the issues covered in this course are meant as a starting point for a typical production. The course addresses varying budgeting requirements and resources in ever-evolving areas such as previs.
back to top

ANIM 600 Rigging & Character Set-Up

This class will focus on the deformations and skinning of characters, how skin folds, how muscles flex, and facial setup and deformation. Shot modeling/corrective pose modeling, soft skin bodies will be covered. Students can further refine their Character Setup I rig or one provided by the class. Software: Autodesk Maya.
back to top

ANIM 610 Character Animation

Students will focus on animation scenes that emphasize performance and emotional takes. Students will be asked to go beyond how a character moves and start asking how a character feels.

Students will also create animations for a variety of styles such as bipeds, quadrupeds, flying creatures, and also animate characters of vastly different scales to create the illusion of weight and size.
back to top

ANIM 620 Texturing & Shading

This class will introduce students to advanced techniques on Texturing and Shading models to achieve photorealistic results. Class will discuss the different approaches to both Organic and Hard Surface texturing inside of Mari as well as look development inside of Chaos Group’s V-ray photorealistic renderer.

Physically Based Render Material Creation will also be included.
back to top

ANIM 630 Stop Motion

To provide a fundamental understanding of the concepts of animation, students will be introduced to traditional straight-ahead frame-by-frame animation technique in a variety of mediums. Students will explore the relationship of frames, frame rates and time to animation scene presentations. Students will apply the animation principles of squash and stretch, anticipation, ease in and ease out, staging, follow through, arcs, secondary action, timing and exaggeration to their projects. Students will explore how to break down and design animation setups appropriate to animate people (pixilation), objects, voices, clay, puppets, and composite projects with live action. The class is designed to build a foundation of traditional animation work as a preparation for digital processes and procedures.
back to top

ANIM 640 Previs / Interactive Games / Virtual Reality

This course explores the fringe and sister industries that use the technical backbone of 3D Animation & VFX. Students will apply 3D in previsualtion and tech-visualization, a side industry to live action filmmaking where shots are animated, lensed, timed, and plotted prior to filming. Students will also explore 3D roles in interactive media and games. They will also dive into virtual reality and augmented reality and their role in both interactive media and linear media.
back to top

ANIM 650 Acquisition / Shooting

Students will learn how the visual effects team works on set during production to make sure that all of the shots that will require visual effects are shot correctly and to obtain the necessary data and references. Students will understand the different crew roles on set and their responsibilities including: VFX Supervisor, SFX Supervisor, Animation Supervisor, VFX Producer, Coordinators, & Data Collectors.
back to top

ANIM 700 Stereoscopic 3D

3D Stereoscopy creates the illusion of three-dimensional depth in films and games. Every year more films are being released in “3D” and it is important for students to have an understanding of the processes involved in order to take advantage of this format.

This course will take students through different processes of creating stereoscopic 3D, its tools and terminology, and different types of stereo pipelines.

This class will teach how to create stereoscopic imagery for film using Nuke 3D, Adobe Premiere, and Autodesk Maya for animation. Students will create all-CG stereoscopic shots for their reels using all available techniques.
back to top

ANIM 710 Python

In this course students will learn coding and scripting basics that allow for the creation of custom tools to be used in the 3D Animation & VFX pipeline. Students will improve existing software by writing their own scripts and code to give the programs new non-native abilities. This powerful course will help even the most non-technical artists speed up their workflow by making mundane and difficult tasks easier though custom tools creation.
back to top

ANIM 720 Visual Effects

In this course students will take existing live-action footage and integrate (or composite) it with computer (or digitally) generated elements to create the illusion of one single photo-realistic or stylized shot, sequence, environment, character, or prop. Students will learn the staples of the visual effects industry such as set-extension, green screen, pyro effects.
back to top

ANIM 730 Lighting & Rendering

This course will introduce students to approaches and philosophies in creating both photorealistic lighting for live action as well as stylized lighting for animated feature films. The course will focus on a strong understanding of techniques used in practical "real" lighting and cinematography and then applying those techniques to computer graphics to achieve better, more grounded and realistic results. Students will also learn how to acquire lighting data in a live action set via HDRI as well as traditional artistic lighting via V-ray rendering. Students will integrate their pre-existing models and textures into a fully lit, all-CG scene or a background live action plate.
back to top

ANIM 740 Animation Practices & Pipelines

The pipeline for digital production roughly encompasses Modeling, Texturing, Rigging, Animation, Rendering, Compositing- Students will learn how to manage and supervise the technological, human, and creative resources of a VFX house and/or animation studio. Student will learn how to foresee and overcome most pipeline-based problems.
back to top

ANIM 750 Production Thesis Project I

In this course, students begin to create a demo reel that will be the synthesis of all the techniques they’ve learned throughout the program within their chosen specialization. By this point in the program, students will have determined which discipline(s) within 3D Animation & Visual Effects best suits their abilities and creative goals, and will highlight that discipline in this capstone final project. Throughout the semester student will propose and pitch content to be added to their demo reel- and screen “work in progress” results (or dailies) for both peer and instructor review. Approval of thesis content by a committee made up of senior instructors and the department chair(s) is necessary for passing grade.
back to top

ANIM 810 Post Production Techniques and Practices

Students will learn the finishing and conform process of creating 3D Animation & VFX and how to integrate these pipelines back into traditional post-production pipelines. They will learn post and visual effects supervision practices such as: How to select proper codecs and understand how they have a large impact on the quality of the image as well as the storage requirements for the initial capture.
back to top

ANIM 820 Simulation (Hair, Fur, Cloth, Crowd)

This course will take students through the techniques of creating and controlling realistic natural phenomena such as fire, smoke, dust, particle effects, and volumetric fluid dynamics. Students will also learn how to integrate dynamics into live action plates as well as CG features.
back to top

ANIM 830 Performance & Motion Capture

The line between animator and actor becomes thinner and thinner with each technical generation. This course takes students through the basics of motion capture: How to use proprietary hardware to capture motion data. How to edit that motion data via keyframe manipulation software. How to improve upon motion data with traditional animation software.
back to top

ANIM 840 Topics in Animation & VFX

3D Animation as an industry is barely over 2 decades old- and as a young industry there are many problems to be solved and innovations to be made. In this course students will be exposed to technical, economic, artistic, and cultural problems that plague the industry. Students will be asked to identify as aspect of one of these problems and as a class or an individual explore the root of the problem and possible solutions to it.
back to top

ANIM 850 Production Thesis Project II

In this course, students finish creating an original demo reel that will be the synthesis of all the techniques they’ve learned throughout the program continued from “ANIM 750 Production Thesis Project I.” Throughout the semester student will continue to propose and pitch content to be added to their demo reel- and screen “work in progress” results (or dailies) for both peer and instructor review. Approval of thesis content by a committee made up of senior instructors and the department chair(s) is necessary for passing grade.
back to top
Apply Online Online Brochure
First Name*
Last Name*
Email Address*
Phone Type*
Country Code*
Phone Number*
Mailing Address*
Zip Code
Preferred Start Date*

Program Type*
Program of Interest*

How Did You Hear About Us?*
Please Specify:*
Highest Level of Education:*
Graduation Year:
Have You Served in the U.S. Military, or Are You a Dependent of a U.S. Military Service Member?* 
Yes      No

* Required Information
Your privacy is important to us.

By submitting this form, you give New York Film Academy your consent to contact you regarding our educational services using email, text or telephone. Msg. & data rates may apply. Please note, you are not required to provide this consent to learn more about NYFA or to enroll in our programs, we invite you to contact us directly at: +1-212-674-4300 and speak with a representative.

New York Film Academy Disclaimer
New York Film Academy Disclaimer