We all love special effects. No matter how old we get or how far technology advances, it seems that we want more and more visual fulfillment from our TV, film, entertainment and advertising stimulation. And that’s what a degree course in special effects is all about. So if you love those ‘how do they create that?’ kind of TV documentary and long to be involved in an industry that makes fantasy a reality, then working in special effects might well be the ideal career for you. With technology bounding forward at lightning speed, the world of special effects is becoming more sophisticated by the day. Because of this, a career in this face paced industry means there’s never a dull moment to be had.

What’s it all about?
The term ‘special effects’ is a broad banner term to describe the industries of both animatronics and visual effects. Taking a special effects degree means you will study the basics of both, and more than likely to have the opportunity in the latter part of the degree course to continue with both or to specialize in one or the other. Special effects is a multi-discipline industry, using generic tools and various industry standard principles during production. You’ll be encouraged to explore the boundaries of the art and use the most up to date tools available. Teamwork is a key skill in creating special effects, so expect to work closely with other students and your tutors. The applications used in special effects are implemented in a wide range of industries, not just that of TV and movies. Theatre, live performances, museums and music productions also rely heavily on the talents of their special effects team.

What will I learn?
While all institutions have their individual ways of presenting the special effects course content, all will cover the same basic curriculum. This is likely to include the following:

  • History of special effects and animatronics
  • Character design, life drawing and animation narrative
  • Stop motion and animation
  • Digital character
  • Prosthetics and make up effects
  • Computer aided design
  • Control and signal writing
  • Screen writing techniques and visual effects cinematography
  • Video technologies

How will I learn?
Your education will take place with a mixture of theoretical and practical work. Expect to undertake many different types of projects and work closely in teams to discover all the multi-facets of the industry. The course will be geared towards teaching you the most cutting edge of techniques and industry standards, and you’ll gain plenty of experience with all the studio tools you’ll use in the working environment. You’ll be continually assessed throughout the course, especially in the practical based elements. Creative thinking, planning and research all make up a big part of successfully creating special effects, and you’ll be encouraged to push your talents to the maximum.

After gaining my degree, what options are open to me for employment?
Once you graduate from your special effects degree course there are a variety of industry sectors you can look towards for employment. These include television production companies, video and film post-production companies, advertising, animatronics companies, prosthetics and model making, animation studios and robotic signal writing to name a few. Because a special effects degree is such a multi-faceted learning opportunity, you’ll also be well placed to move into related industries at some point in the future if you so choose.

Of course, working in special effects is a highly competitive industry. Not only does it require a great deal of skill and attention to detail, but the ability to work effectively and seamlessly in a team, all working towards one particular goal. Completing a degree in special effects shows potential employers that you have the right mindset and talents to work in this fast paced world. In fact, many companies won’t even consider a candidate who doesn’t hold a degree in the subject, so you owe it to yourself to make sure you gain the very best advantage over your competitors as possible. A good degree is the best foundation you can get in this respect as it not only shows that you have ability, but how seriously you take your profession as well.