Visual Effects

Art and Design
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    Thousands of grads working in art and design.
  • Experienced Instructors

    Learn from instructors who work in the industry.
  • Endless Opportunity

    Use your skills anywhere in the world.
  • Program Credential


  • Program Duration

    72 Weeks

  • Program Location

    calgary Campus

Program Overview

This program focuses on providing graduates with a solid foundation in the technical and artistic skills needed to be successful in the visual effects, animation, and CGI industries. Key to this is a genuine understanding of storytelling, animation, modeling, compositing, and a solid foundation in artistic techniques.


Students will learn colour theory, design fundamentals, life drawing, and industry standard software, and will apply this knowledge to the production and animation of 3D characters with appropriate lighting and texturing and visual effects. Graduates will be able to apply industry standard software tools and techniques to visual effects production processes.


This program prepares graduates for careers in a variety of CGI-based industries. Graduates will find employment in computer animation studios, game development companies, and post-production and special effects studios. Graduates may also work for industrial design firms and software producers, or for companies that require the production of 3D graphics and animation.


  • Computer Animation Studios Computer Animation Studios generate digital imagery and media products for various forms of entertainment.
  • Game Development Companies Game Development Companies produce 3D digital imagery and media products for game design and development.
  • Post-Production Studios Post-Production Studios involves editing content for final production through colour grading, building and improving upon animation and visual effects for optimal visuals. 
  • Special Effects Studios Special Effects Studios or SFX / FX are visual illusions for various entertainment industries, including gaming, film, animation, and other applications.
  • Industrial Design Firms Industrial Design Firms or Product Design Agencies use 3D software and designers to produce mockups, instructions, or builds in product design.
  • Software Producers Software Producers create internal software for professional usage.


  • Work with major trends in visual, digital, and special effects arts
  • Apply critical thinking and creative expression techniques
  • Analyze and critique a production
  • Produce a concept sketch
  • Shape a model
  • Stage a scene
  • Develop a storyboard
  • Produce computer-generated images
  • Produce highly realistic 3D models of props
  • Prepare highly realistic 3D models of characters
  • Represent movements in three dimensions
  • Animate characters
  • Create highly realistic digital visual special effects
  • Apply digital visual special effects in a variety of character and environmental contexts
  • Present a professional portfolio
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Courses Timeline

Your program begins with teaching you the fundamental skills necessary for your future as an artist. These traditional, digital and informational skills give you a strong foundation — all are focused on building your skills and knowledge to succeed in the media industry.

You expand your skills and understanding of the production pipeline by focusing on the foundations of storytelling, character development and planning.

Get hands-on digital techniques and training to understand the next steps in development and how to bring your visions into reality utilizing current software and methodologies.

Expand your previous skillset and learn to visualize and conceptualize digital concepts. Through a series of projects and assignments, learn to synthesize your creativity with industry standards and subject matter experts.

Delving into more advanced techniques and bringing ideas to life, you learn various critical workflows and focus on developmental aspects which showcase your accumulated skills.

In preparation for graduation, you will hone your skills and continue to advance as you focus on your portfolio pieces and projects. These pieces and projects will showcase and demonstrate all your acquired knowledge and skills, ensuring industry success.

  • Colour & Design

    Understanding colour and design principles through exploration and application across media, visual, and applied design genres. This course will introduce students to the fundamental principles of colour theory through design, such as layout, composition, balance, colour science as well as a diverse range of colour theories, and how to employ them creatively. These concepts will be reinforced through specific practical exercises, and activities that will serve to d...

  • Life Drawing I

    This course will lay the foundation for a robust understanding of anatomy for applied illustration purposes. Topics emphasize a variety of figure drawing techniques applicable to both human, and animal morphology, helping to tie the subject matter into later 3D, and illustration expectations.

  • Photoshop I

    Through this 'hands-on' course, the student will learn the fundamentals of design, advanced features and tips to prepare images for digital output and print. By the end of this course, the student will be able to create, modify, and enhance sophisticated images using raster editing tools and features; craft special effects; work in 3D space; and prepare files for export to various applications in web, mobile, print, and manufacturing.

  • 2D Animation Foundations

    In this course, students learn the basic principles of animation by participating in several practical projects designed to illustrate the fundamental processes. The course will explore the traditional techniques and how they apply in the modern world of computer generation by exploring stop-motion, visual effects, traditional animation and CG.

  • History of Visual Effects

    This course introduces students to the history of film, focusing on the role of visual effects, its impact on the image and the story, and the impact of digital technologies on film production and VFX production. Additionally, students are introduced to production workflows, pipelines and production roles and responsibilities.

  • Maya I

    This course is an intensive introduction to the complexities of the 3D application. The first portion of the class focuses on the tools in Maya. Students will learn how to work in 3D through projects that introduce modelling in both NURBS and polygons. Students will then cover simple unwrapping procedures while learning about the complexities of UVs and lighting tools.

  • Cinematography

    This course introduces students to digital photography and video practices, emphasizing the relationship between video and CG cameras and the video-editing suite to ensure that footage is managed and catalogued. Technical aspects of content and process will be explored from ‘behind the camera’ to produce ‘usable footage.’ In the latter portion of the course, green screening is introduced.

  • Compositing I

    This course explores the fundamental theory and practice of compositing for film, television and animation. Students will learn digital imaging theory and vocabulary to identify and communicate the use of compositing in production. Using a node-based, non-destructive workflow, students will learn to layer imagery, create masks, manipulate AOVs, and create mattes using various keying techniques.

  • Storyboarding & Project Planning

    Students will learn how to plan for and create clear, concise industry-standard storyboards by exploring the elements of a final production storyboard, including a 30-second commercial, a television show, a cinematic for computer games, and a feature film. Topics will include conceptual development, pitches, concept and production boards, thumbnail sketches, design, character staging, model sheets, art direction, background (layout) design, and camera positioning.

  • Digital Sculpting

    In this advanced course, students will develop detailed designs working between Maya and ZBrush. Digital sculpting, texturing and painting will be the fundamental focus of this class. Students will learn the interface and tools in ZBrush while designing and modeling their complex characters. By the end of this course, students will understand the industry approach to creating models through advanced techniques.

  • Pre Production

    This conceptualizing and planning course is for the development of the final student demo reel and portfolio. Students will discuss, create a plan and consider their options while developing designs and storyboards. Students will create various preproduction elements, consider the timing of the final video presentation and the overall aesthetic of their reel.

  • Matchmoving

    In this course, students develop tracking and matchmoving skills with the industry standard software. Students learn the basics of cinematography and photography to deeply understand how and why tracking/matchmoving works with VFX. By the end of the course, students will gain a solid understanding and performance of tracking and matchmoving for their future demo reels and film/VFX careers.

  • Animation II

    Building on skills and techniques learned in Maya I, this course will introduce students to intermediate 3D animation techniques. Students will create movement in a 3D character they will have previously developed. Topical coverage will include keyframing, modifiers, basic morphing techniques and linear and non-linear animation.

  • Technical Artistry

    The course will take the students through the initial steps of character modeling and animation with a focus on the rigging of the characters by exploring the process of preparing the setup of character models. Students learn to create and set up character rigs, bind structures to geometry, work with meshes and armature, learn to rig facial expressions and lip movement, and animate armature.

  • Rigging

    This course explores the process of setting up a character model for animation by character modeling and animating with a focus on the rigging of the characters. Students will learn how to prepare and set up character rigs, bind structures to geometry and work with meshes and armature, facial expressions and lip movement, joint orientation and skeletons, inverse kinematics, facial rigging, armature, and binding structures to geometry and meshes.

  • Compositing II

    In this intermediate to advanced level compositing course, students will build from their previous knowledge of compositing, and apply it in more elaborate compositing scenarios. Students will explore the 3D aspects of compositing, such as: camera projection, 3D set extension, 3D camera tracking, and CG integration.

  • Matte Painting

    This course continues the development of digital skills with an emphasis on advancing masking, maps, channels, and compositing techniques. Students will explore composition, colour, organic and hard surface elements with tools to add depth to matte paintings to ensure that images meet technical requirements in compositing and video projects.

  • Dynamic Effects I

    In this course, students will explore basic to intermediate digital effects animation by learning particles, fluids, rigid body dynamics, and shatter effect tools in Houdini. Students will cover elementals such as fire and water and discuss lighting, mood and atmosphere created by these effects. Timing physics and design will ensure the believability of the developed effects.

  • Lighting & Texture

    This course addresses the creation of multilayer and high-resolution textures for environments, environmental and character models. It also seeks to provide students with various production contexts, such as texturing characters' faces for film and games, developing environment textures for next-gen game environments, and an in-depth look at various direct lighting tools and controls available when lighting 3D assets.

  • Motion Capture

    This course provides a general understanding of motion capture processes and applications. Students will learn to process and manipulate motion capture data within various production pipelines, giving them the skills needed for an entry level position in this field.

  • Advanced Compositing

    In this advanced compositing course students will explore advanced image manipulation techniques, whilst producing a high quality VFX shot for inclusion in their portfolio demo-reels. This course also explores advanced 3D rendered AOV outputs, such as deep data and positional information, and how to utilize this data in a node-based compositing environment.

  • Production & Rendering

    This course explores production and rendering techniques for showcasing models, textures, and scenes professionally. This course will examine challenges and practical solutions to nighttime lighting, indoor lighting, outdoor lighting, and advanced rendering features available in Mental Ray. Students will make informed choices about which light rigs and rendering features make the most sense for their scenes.

  • Dynamic Effects II

    In this course, students will explore intermediate to advance digital effects animation. They will learn and apply HDAs to their workflow, enriching their knowledge of fluids, study grains, cloth, hair, and crowd workflows and tools using Houdini. Students will work with digital tools to develop dynamic animations while considering effects elements to add to their reels. Timing, physics and design will be critical to ensure the believability of the developed effect...

  • Portfolio I

    This course prepares students for the professional world by preparing them for job interviews and helping them compile and defend a first draft of their portfolio— which contains pieces produced to demonstrate their skills in conceptualization, design, modeling and animation. Students are encouraged to identify a preferred skill set and style to polish and develop. Feedback will come in the form of industry, instructor and peer critique.

  • Editing

    This course explores the technical, conceptual and aesthetic principles associated with film editing by analysis of an example from animation, film and short-form media and techniques and approaches used to shape sequences into compelling and communicative narratives. Students develop a series of scenes designed to expand the types of editing experiences. The accumulation of this editing experience will provide a complete overview of the process and help develop th...

  • Advanced Lighting & Texture

    This course takes the students beyond light sources and shadows and explores lighting and texturing as an art. Students will learn to select the appropriate light type for a particular situation, Raytracing, 3D textures and projections, 2D and 3D material textures, lighting colour and composition, Maya light types, high-quality shadows and effects, advanced lighting/texturing skills and techniques, and how to apply them to their final modeling and animation project...

  • Industry Mentorship

    Industry Mentorship consists of classes and workshops designed to help students develop career-related awareness and accelerate their professional development skills by understanding key job search strategies, tools, and skills required in today’s marketplace. Students will prepare for the professional world by utilizing their portfolio for job interviews, emphasizing short- and long-term professional employment goals and related strategies and resources.

  • Portfolio II

    This course will prepare students for graduation and their final portfolio presentation with a demo reel to showcase their strengths and talents in a visually appealing branded presentation focused on showcasing the student’s primary and secondary skills— increasing potential employment opportunities. Students will utilize and follow planning and production pipelines to meet deadlines.

Costs & Requirements

  • Grade 12 or mature student status (19 years or older).
  • Pass the college's admission test where an applicant's first language is other than English, and has not completed secondary (or higher) education in English

For tuition prices and costs, fill out the request info form to speak with an admissions representative.

VCAD's Refund Policy abides by the Private Training Regulation of the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) Private Training Act.
For more information, click here.

Check out and connect with some Alumni on LinkedIn.

  • Alumni 1 Noel Gabriel Ambrosio 2020
  • Alumni 2 Nikki Katouzian 2022
  • Alumni 4 Dryden Sereda 2022
  • Alumni 4 Madison Prangnell 2020
  • Alumni 5 Tuong Kim Thuy Nguyen 2020

Student Testimonials

  • If it wasn't for VCAD I don't think I would be where I am today. I've had some amazing opportunities, I've met some wonderful people - amazing connections, and I'll be forever grateful.

    - Sabrina Laprise
  • The most important thing that I learned at VCAD was how to use software - graphic design software.

    - Ewa Wawryszuk
  • What drew me to the interior design program was that it was a creative industry and also that it's business oriented.

    - Luc Kwan
  • I chose VCAD because of all the options and programs that they offered, and I wanted to succeed and through not just my classes but also making like really cool things that I'm proud of.

    - Luke Johnston
  • The instructors are really helpful, even outside school projects. They gave me a lot of advice about improving my skills as a graphic designer.

    - Maricel Benjamin
  • The most valuable part of the program is the one on one time with the teachers. They are always willing to go out of their way to make sure you understand what you are doing.

    - Katrina Selkirk


Learn from VCAD graduates what it's like to study fashion.

  • Student Portfolio

    Nes H.
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  • Student Portfolio

    Kate E.
    Visual Effects Art and Design

  • Student Portfolio

    Claire A.
    Visual Effects Art and Design

  • Student Portfolio

    pei yu x.
    Visual Effects Art and Design

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