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Students working in an animation class

Art: Animation + Visual Effects

Total Credit Hours
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Why study Art: Concentration Animation and Visual Effects?

Animation and Visual Effects is a versatile and highly in-demand skill set for today’s digital artist. The ever evolving digital world demands artists that have the ability to critically generate content that is both technical and creative. The generalist approach to the discipline presents graduating students with a widerange of career opportunities in the entertainment industry.

To major in Art + Design is to become a visual problem solver. To major in Art + Design is to join an exciting community. Activities are ongoing in the department as students are in the classrooms from 8am to midnight. We have worked hard to keep one of our computer labs open for student use so that students do not need to purchase their own laptops and software. We have an enviable exhibition and speaker series, and all Art + Design majors are required to attend two talks per semester, but most students attend several once they discover how inspiring the speakers are.

In the first year, students are introduced to the methods and materials of artistic thinking through a series of Foundations courses in two, three, and four-dimensions. In these courses, students explore the visual world through drawing, computer software, and other hands-on experiences. This beginning sequence of classes are designed to provide all incoming students with a strong footing for conceptual and technical skills that combine old and new technologies. Even in the digital age, drawing will train the eye of the artist more than the hands. When students complete the foundations classes, they will need to successfully complete a portfolio review to progress to the capstone classes at the end of their study.

In the second year, students begin their core classes in Animation + Visual Effects. Course areas include Animation, Digital 3D, Visual Effects, and Digital Photography. In addition, students take several introductory level Studio Art classes in areas such as drawing, painting, illustration, and graphic design. Students also begin their Art History courses in order to build a mental database of global artworks from which to draw inspiration.

In the third year, students will take advanced Animation + Visual Effects courses, building upon the concepts and techniques established in previous courses. They also have the opportunity to take advanced Studio Art classes in their interest areas. Students will also select more specific interests in Art History such as contemporary art and history of photography. In the third year, students are bringing together their shared knowledge from across the department to create projects of higher conceptual and technical complexity.

In the fourth year, Animation + Visual Effects students take two capstone classes in the BFA. In “Animation Production Studio” students will create projects in a simulated studio environment and pipeline, with a focus on professional best practices and preparing students for communication, collaboration, and creative workflows. In “Animation VFX Portfolio” students will create a senior project that allows them to research, design, and execute a high quality portfolio-ready project. The student will leave with in-depth knowledge in a specific area of interest within Animation and Visual Effects. 


What Will I Learn?

  • You will gain the skills necessary to implement a concept through technique, material, or a discipline specific strategy.
  • You will develop a personal style or vision and execute it across a variety of media, ideas, and creative activities through critical making and critical analysis.
  • You will gain the writing and communication skills necessary to effectively translate your personal style into a focused relevant conversation about your own work and the work of others.
  • You will gain a knowledge of significant works and movements in the canon of world art and design, which includes both formal and iconographic styles.
  • You will develop advanced comprehension of focused topics in art and design history as a context for your professional creative practice.
  • You will learn how to be a participant in the creative economy.

State of the Art Facilities

In Fall of 2017 the department moved into a new $21.3 million dollar, 46,000 square feet Art + Design Building, featuring custom studio space for all the concentrations. Animation + Visual Effects has a dedicated Mac computer lab with access to Autodesk Maya, Adobe Creative Cloud, Toon Boom Harmony, Dragonframe, and The Foundry’s Nuke, Mari, and Modo. The lab is a versatile space that also includes a green screen wall and several Cintiq Pro workstations. Additional lab equipment includes five Rokoko motion capture suits, a DJI drone, Lightform projection mapping, Oculus Rift VR headsets, Dragonframe keypads, and filming/ lighting equipment. The department also manages The Vault, where students can check out equipment for personal use such as Wacom Intuos Pro tablets, Cintiq Companion tablets, portable green screen and lighting equipment, smartphone Stedicams, projectors, DSLRs, and audio recording equipment. The department MakerSpace features additional equipment such as a CNC router, laser etcher, and MakerBot 3D printers.

Visual Effects Class Overview

The Freshmen Seminar degree requirement completed by most students is APSU 1000. The course is delivered in a small-class setting with like-minded students led by a faculty member and a peer leader. The interdisciplinary course is intended to support first-semester students and provide them with a foundation for university success. Emphasis is placed on student engagement, university learning success strategies, support services, library literacy, financial literacy, and academic and career planning. The first class meeting of APSU 1000 during fall semesters is on Freshmen Convocation Day.

The general education core is designed to develop critical competencies in written communication, oral communication, mathematical analysis, and critical thinking skills. Students at APSU select coursework in the general education core in the areas of Communication, Humanities and Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, History, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics. While the general education core requirements for graduation can be met by choosing courses from each of these areas, some programs of study require lower division courses that serve as prerequisites for upper division courses. Students should consult the sample 4-year plans and confer with their academic advisors as they choose their general education core courses.

What engagement opportunities are available to APSU students?

Jackson Alley Film Festival: Animation + Visual Effects students regularly contribute to APSU’s own film festival, which seeks to bring together students from various discplines across the College of Arts & Letters 24 Hour Animation Contest for Students: Student teams participate in this international contest each October, where teams of 5 compete to create a 30 second animation on a given theme within the 24 hour deadline.

Students have the opportunity to get class credit for Internships. The Art+Design department has a designated Internship Coordinator who helps the student navigate this option. The surrounding Nashville area provides opportunities for on-site internships while virtual and remote internships are
also a possibility..

What Do Art: Animation + Visual Effects concentration Majors Do After Graduation?


  • Animator (2D/3D)
  • CG Modeler/Texture Artist
  • Effects Animator
  • Compositor
  • Motion Graphics
  • Rigging
  • CG Lighter
  • Matte Painter/Environments
  • Technical Director
  • Motion Capture
  • Storyboard Artist
  • Character Designer
  • Concept Artist
  • Motion Capture
  • AR/VR Media