Film Special Effects Training Programs

Special effects pros have many specializations, such as computer graphics and animations, 3-D modeling, makeup and sound productions. Find out about programs in the field and common courses. Schools offering Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Are There Film Special Effects Training Programs?

Most film degree programs include some basic education in special effects, including elective courses if you're particularly interested in focusing on special effects training. Film schools offer special effects courses at certificate, associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Alternately, you can earn degrees in 3-D animation, computer graphics or other related subjects that teach you how to create digital models and lifelike scenes.

You can look for courses and programs in video effects, which is a common name for special effects. Other possible programs with film special effects training include cinema production, computer games, digital cinema and digital media.

Degree LevelsCertificate, associate's, bachelor's, and master's level
Course TopicsSpecial effects techniques, color matching, motion tracking, rotoscoping, sound design integration
Licensure & CertificationIndustry-specific certifications and memberships may be available through varying professional associations, like the Alliance of Special Effects & Pyrotechnic Operators and The Visual Effects Society

What Courses Will I Take?

In certificate and associate's degree film programs, you'll take special effects courses that teach you how to use special software, such as After Effects and Shake, to create digital images. You'll also learn how to integrate sound design. These courses prepare you to qualify for entry-level jobs in film or continue your studies to earn a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's degree film special effects courses cover both theory and application of special effects techniques. You'll discuss the history and future of visual effects in the movies. You'll also learn about using models, miniatures and mattes. Other topics covered include color matching, motion tracking and rotoscoping.

Some master's degree programs focus on the technological aspects of film production and special effects. You'll take special effects, animation and core film courses. Some programs include courses in portfolio-building and self-promotion, teaching you how to create a demo reel to submit to potential employers.

What Do I Need to Work in the Industry?

According to some professional organizations, including the Alliance of Special Effects & Pyrotechnic Operators, you might need pyrotechnical licensure through the state if you work with fire. State requirements for licensure vary, but you'll usually need to apply to the Fire Marshal's office, and you could be tested on your knowledge of safe explosive handling.

If you're not computer savvy, training in construction, mechanical engineering, sculpting or other hands-on trades might work for you. The Visual Effects Society, an organization for working special effects professionals, requires at least five years of industry experience for membership.

If you're not interested in academic training or want to supplement your schooling, a few cosmetics schools offer special effects makeup training. They teach you how to create scars, cuts, bruises, wrinkles and other character features using makeup. Unless you also style hair, you probably won't need any licensing to work in makeup special effects. You can qualify for membership of the Local 706, the makeup artists and hair stylists union, with sufficient experience working specifically in Los Angeles County in California.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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