The Top 10 Visual Effects Schools

8:00 AM 8/6/2019

by Carolyn Giardina

Grads from the leading institutions — from San Francisco's Academy of Art University to the Vancouver Film School — are landing work, connecting with the pros and even winning Oscars.

Gnomon Sculpture Lab - Publicity - H 2019
Beth Rooney/Courtesy of Gnomon

Hollywood may be the center of the film business, but when the time came to canvass the industry for The Hollywood Reporter's annual roster of the best visual effects schools, six international selections made the cut, reflecting the increasingly global nature of the VFX business.

With Canada leading the way, foreign schools are producing such talent as How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World helmer Dean DeBlois, a graduate of Ontario's Sheridan College. France's ArtFX won this year's Visual Effects Society Award for a student work, and a VRproject from Germany's Filmakademie was honored at Siggraph Asia.

When it comes to making movie magic, the master illusionists hail from across the globe — with many coming from one of these 10 premier programs.

  • Academy of Art University

    The School of Animation & Visual Effects at Academy of Art University offers BFA, MFA and MA programs in animation and visual effects onsite and online. It also developed "StudioX," a series of advanced classes that emulate a production environment with faculty mentorship. In these classes, the students work on real shows with real deadlines. A recent project that came out of StudioX is Wishing Box, an animated short directed by alum Lizzie Zhang, which qualified for 2019 Oscar consideration.

  • ArtFX

    ArtFX students who want to focus on VFX can earn a master's degree in CGI & Visual Effects (a five-year program) or a professional certification in programming for video games and VFX (a two-year program), with classes offered in English and French. Students have gone on to work at VFX studios including DNEG, Framestore and Industrial Light & Magic. This year, the animated short Terra Nova — a graduation project from Thomas Battistetti, Mélanie Geley, Mickael Le Mezo and Guillaume Hoarau — won the Visual Effects Society Award for outstanding VFX in a student project.

  • Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg

    The publicly funded film school and its Animations institute encourage its students to take on their own projects, and there are several recent examples that earned industry recognition. Kinky Kitchen, a student animated short from director Bea Hoeller, was selected for the upcoming SIGGRAPH Electronic Theatre, and 2018 student VR project Rapture of the Deep was recognized as "best virtual and augmented reality content" at last fall's SIGGRAPH Asia. The Filmakademie also organizes the annual FMX Conference in Stuttgart, Germany, on animation, effects, games and immersive media, which gives students the opportunity to meet and connect with professionals.

  • Gnomon School of VFX, Animation & Games

    Gnomon taps working professionals as instructors and maintains classrooms in a production studio environment. This past year, it introduced foundation in art and design preparatory courses and a game art concentration for its bachelor of fine arts in digital production degree. Gnomon regularly takes advantage of its locale by hosting a steady stream of events to expose students to the professional community, which this year included programs on Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Fortnite.

  • Lost Boys School of Visual Effects

    With its roots as a VFX boutique, Lost Boys offers hands-on one-year certificate and diploma programs for feature film VFX production in areas including effects, lighting and compositing. Students work in a studio environment using such popular VFX software as Nuke and Houdini. Alums are working at facilities including DNEG, Industrial Light & Magic and MPC.

  • Savannah College of Art and Design

    Visual effects degrees are offered at SCAD's Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, and Hong Kong campuses, while the "SCADpro" program provides students with real-world experience from projects with the likes of NASA and Google. Students may also participate in and gain networking opportunities from such events as the SCAD Savannah Film Festival.

  • Sheridan College

    Located near Toronto, Sheridan College offers VFX as a 10-month graduate certificate program. Notable alums who have made news this year include Pixar's Domee Shi, who won the best animated short Oscar in February for Bao and is now developing a feature at the studio, and Dean DeBlois, director of DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon trilogy. Sheridan invites professionals to meet with students on a regular basis, and both Shi and DeBlois recently returned to the campus to do so.

  • Ringling College of Art & Design

    This four-year college has integrated VFX into various majors, including BFA degrees in motion design, computer animation, film, game art, VR development and entertainment design. Over the past year, Ringling student Eaza Shukla received a Student Academy Award for the short Re-Gifted, and Aviv Mano's short Game Changer earned a spot in SIGGRAPH's upcoming Electronic Theater. This summer, Ringling College students are working with Beau Bridges to film Acting: The First Six Lessons using the college's recently completed commercial and academic soundstage and postproduction facility.

  • Think Tank Training Centre

    Think Tank offers a one-year certificate program in 3D animation, VFX and game design. During the final term, each student is paired with a mentor working at a local VFX house such as MPC or Sony Pictures Imageworks. Additionally, Think Tank offers an online program.

  • Vancouver Film School - Top Visual Effects Schools

    Vancouver Film School offers a one-year 3D animation and VFX diploma program that includes access to facilities like the Beyond Capture motion-capture and performance-capture studio. The program also involves individual mentoring and support from industry professionals from such companies as Sony Pictures Imageworks, Industrial Light & Magic and Animal Logic. Alums include directors Kevin Smith (Clerks), Neill Blomkamp (District 9) and Lino DiSalvo (Playmobil: The Movie). Earlier this year, Vancouver Film School announced a new scholarship program in conjunction with Pixar animator Michal Makarewicz, who partnered with the school in choosing the recipients.

    This story first appeared in the July 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.