Digital Animation BA (Hons)
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Course code: W615
Digital animation is a growing field used in a range of industries with applications in everything from Hollywood movies to advertising and video games. This programme introduces you to the technology and skills needed for employment in these and other industries.
Why study this degree at University Centre South Essex?
- You will work with industry-standard equipment including software:- Toon Boom, Harmony, Storyboard Pro, Maya (standard across industry), FTrack (Project Management Software)
- The course Includes script writing not just drawing
- Excellent industry recognised speakers Fraser McLean, Andy Wyatt, Miles Low and more
- You will get the choice of trips to London, LA, Tokyo, New York, Stuttgart or New Zealand
Animation has continued to change dramatically. No longer is animation solely Hollywood's monopoly as smaller and more independent companies from a wider field (i.e. Europe, Africa and Mexico) are able to perform admirably due to the availability of animation software at affordable prices and the ease of sharing content digitally.
The industry requires quality content in the form of images and words, with directors such as Sylvain Chomet, Wes Anderson and Gore Verbinski showing that animation is just as viable as live-action. BA (Hons) Digital Animation is for students who are passionate about animation, who may not want to be just animators, but are interested in background design, character design and script writing. BA (Hons) Digital Animation will provide the skills to become an innovative communicator and observer – central to the industry's future.
BA (Hons) Digital Animation aims to provide you with the knowledge and skills required to be a Digital Animation professional. The programme helps you to develop skills in script writing, character design, background design, visual communication, digital design, animation processes and story writing.
The programme has a commitment to work-related learning in the form of work experience, live projects, competitions, vocational projects and placements within the specialist area of Digital Animation. There also exists the opportunity to collaborate with other programmes within the College, which will allow you to develop a range of generic skills ready for employment.
You will need a minimum of 64 UCAS points from one or more of the following:
- A Levels
- T Levels
- BTEC/UAL Extended Diploma
- Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (Level 3 or 4)
- Or equivalent EU/International qualifications, such as International Baccalaureate Diploma
- And English GCSE passes at grade 4 or above (grade A*-C)
This list is not exhaustive, other qualifications may be considered. Entry to this course will also be determined by the quality of your application, looking primarily at your portfolio/showreel of work,
personal statement and reference.
Year one units
Your first year provides an interdisciplinary approach to digital animation, with a broad, practical and theoretical grounding in digital media production techniques. The focus of the first year is to develop foundation skills in 2D and 3D animation. You will develop a number of short experimental animations which will develop your understanding of industry standard software packages, animation techniques and storytelling. You will also work on a complete animation production, applying the skills learnt and refining your technique. A number of modules will help you to develop an awareness of digital animation and its uses in the context of contemporary society as you acquire skills in communication, presentation, team work, problem-solving, leadership and project management.
Historical and Contextual studies
The unit explores the cultural and historical factors that have shaped two or more fields of the animation industries, including regulatory and legal frameworks that both liberate and constrain creative practice in areas such as film, popular art, and music. This encourages you to develop independent research skills and initiate your own inquiries into contextual and cultural factors that influence an area related to their course of study.
Ideas Factory will provide you with an opportunity to generate ideas from initial concept through the stages of script, screenplay construction and character development. These skills are intended to be integrated in the Priciples of Animation and Production modules at level 4. These creative techniques will be enhanced and applied in specialist pathways at levels 5 and 6.
Principles of Animation
This unit aims to introduce the elements of creative production processes, technology and materials through the studying of the 12 Principles of Animation. You will be encouraged to develop an appreciation of contemporary industry practices such as digital image manipulation software and hardware in the creation of moving or still images.
You will explore a range of creative approaches specific to animation media production, including 2D and 3D animation, filming on green screen and digital editing. You will be enabled to embrace a wide range of knowledge and skills in order to prepare them as multi-skilled practitioners, including the use of sound in animation, upholstered by the other units in Level 4. The unit will prepare and underpin the effective creation of digital production projects that will occur in Level 5.
Year two units
The second year focuses in on specialist modules to build upon the broad practical and theoretical knowledge gained in year one. The focus is on skills-based and professional practices, alongside working with external clients on live projects. Your skills will be expanded in a variety of contexts, for differing media and audiences in all genres of digital animation practice. Additionally you will be able to explore career development opportunities in digital animation and the creative industries.
Additional feature - business workshops (optional with no additional cost)
This is designed to encourage you to access the job market and to create and operate their own Production Companies. These workshops will include elements such as: how to create budgets for a project and liaise with financial institutions for funding, bookkeeping, cost analysis, promotion, business plans, employment law and health and safety.
The unit is designed to encourage synthesis between the first and second year units, further developing your design skills, allowing them to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the creative development process. You will develop a critical understanding of the nature of commercial product development from both Eastern, Western and other cultural influences and how this can specifically relate to their own creative practice.
This unit focuses primarily on specific contemporary 2D animation software (for example Toon Boom Harmony and Adobe Animate) and the development of your scriptwriting skills for a specific audience. You will then use their in-depth knowledge to create a short animation incorporating conceptual reasoning, a narrative, characters and a soundtrack using music and Foley. Audiences will be pre-defined by the tutor, this will enable you to apply creative strategies by working to given constraints further preparing them for industry working environments. You have the opportunity to work as a group during this unit.
Art Fundamentals for Animation
You will design, develop and create believable characters and worlds using fundamental art skills (painting, chalk drawing, pictorial composition) as the foundation of their design. The unit provides you with the opportunity to explore and analyse how traditional art principles underpin animation design and development from initial concepts to background and character design. You will research and discuss the work of both contemporary and historical designers whilst developing a portfolio of work that puts their fundamental principles into practice.
This unit looks at how you can develop empathy between subject and viewer, infusing their work with visual grammar to communicate emotion, portraying the ‘character’ within design principles as the central focus. You will use contemporary animation software, such as Toon Boom Harmony, Maya and the Adobe Creative Suite. You will develop the techniques of exaggeration and distillation of visual information, as well as conforming to script and storyboard designs.
Year three units
The third year of the programme will allow you to apply the skills and ideas you have developed in the previous two years to your own practice. The focus is on developing independent ventures, supporting a Final Major Project and dissertation as the culmination of your practical and theoretical learning. You will complete a substantial piece of digital animation work culminating in an exhibition to help you gain employment or further academic study opportunities. You will produce a professional digital animation portfolio that is to be supported by advanced research into critical theory and the work of contemporary practitioners. The professional practice module supports your transfer into employment or higher study.
This unit will provide you with contextual reference for their Final Major Project and form the basis of their critical analysis within an independent area of research, drawing upon theoretical and practical material developed on the degree programme thus far, drawing on elements from – Historical and Contextual Studies. You have the opportunity to complete a Dissertation or alternatively an Action Research Project.
Final Major Project Development
You will be given time to reflect upon and plan their Final Major Project, consisting of a 3 – 4-minute film including sound. Through the creation of promotional material, an Electronic Press Pack, business cards and optional merchandising, you will have an opportunity to build a professional industry profile. Research (for inspiration and market research), proposal documents and pre-production work will furnish you with a fully-prepared plan for your Final Major Project.
Final Major Project
The aim for the Final Major Project is to provide a framework including support and resources for you to produce an extended body of work as defined in the Final Major Project Development. This body of work should show an advanced level of practice conceptually, aesthetically and technically. It should consolidate the learning delivered during the programme to good effect, synthesising elements of animation with practical elements to culminate in a sophisticated outcome reflective of the programme content.
This unit is designed to build on the skills and knowledge introduced in Year two's Concept Development unit. The purpose of this unit is to draw together the different strands of the degree and to put them into a format which prepares you to promote and present themselves in a way suitable for entry into the industry, or progression onto a Master’s programme of study. In addition, it is designed to give you suitable knowledge of industry structures in order to facilitate and promote entrepreneurial development and self-managed working practices. Through the creation of promotional material, an Electronic Press Pack, business cards and optional merchandising, you will have an opportunity to build a professional industry profile.
A series of guest speakers are included as part of the programme. Previous guests have included:
- Lindsey Watson from Toon Boom
- Bobby Chiu, Founder and Creative Director of Imaginism Studios
- Dane Winn, Alec Smith, Andy Wyatt and Frazer MacClean from Blue-Zoo Animation Studios who have worked on CBeebies and CBBC
Students benefit from several field trips including:
- Residential trip to Los Angeles
- VFX Festival in London
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Colchester Zoo
- Stuttgart Animation Festival
- Tokyo-Anime and Manga Tour (includes Studio Ghibli Tour)
You will have the opportunity to build your portfolio through live briefs. Recent projects have included:
- Short animation for YMCA Volunteer of the Year awards
- Music video shoot for Josh James of Eurovision fame
- The Royal Society of Arts competition brief (Michaela Freeman)
- 13 hours per week, over three days
- The great majority of contact hours are spent in the studios, with the rest in lectures
Teaching & Learning
You are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and workshops, which enable you to discuss and develop your understanding of the discipline of Digital Animation. You will use industry-standard PCs and the Creative Suite programs and have access to various facilities including the 3D, Printmaking & Photography studio. You will also have access to hardware such as the laser & vinyl cutters, 3D Printer and scanners. At Level 4 you typically have around 13 hours contact time per week, typically consisting of:
- Four hours of lectures/seminars
- Six hours of workshops (including dedicated one-to-one tutorials when necessary)
- Two hours of Contextual Studies (either lecture or one-to-one tutorial)
- One hour group tutorials
Units are delivered through a variety of methods of teaching and learning. These will include:
- Technical demonstrations - designed to provide essential inductions to print and graphics resources and to support the acquisition of essential skills
- Small group teaching - studio based group sessions which are led by a tutor
- Group critiques - will usually occur towards the end of a unit before assessment
- Individual tutorials - The tutor will ask key questions regarding your project and offer advice and suggestions regarding future development
- Independent research and studio practice - during the unit students are expected to follow up on suggested directions regarding project direction
When not attending lectures, seminars and workshops or other timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, undertaking research in the library, preparing coursework assignments and presentations. A range of excellent facilities, including the library, the Learning Resource Centre and the Forum, supports your independent learning.
Assessment & Feedback
Coursework is assessed in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including:
- Portfolio and sketchbook submissions
- Group presentations
- Written essays
- Research folders
There are no examinations.
You will receive formative feedback as part of your one-to-one sessions with your unit teachers. You will also receive summative feedback on all formal assessments undertaken by coursework. Feedback is intended to help you learn and you are encouraged to discuss it with your unit leader tutor. Feedback can be given in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including group critiques, recorded verbal feedback and written feedback.
We aim to provide you with feedback within 20 working days of hand-in (for all formal studio based coursework assessment). For the third year Dissertation Unit you will receive feedback and grades at the same time as your Final Creative Output Unit.
£8000 per year
Fees are per academic year for Home/UK students.
The following course-related costs are included in the fees:
- Guest speakers, visiting lecturers and industry focussed workshops will be included in your course over the three years.
- Third Year students will have the opportunity to showcase their final year work at the end of their studies. This may be a local, national or online platform. Event/exhibition costs will be covered by the Faculty of HE. In the past this has included Vertex. Students will be responsible for any additional costs associated with the production of their personal project (ie: printing, materials).
- Annual £20 of printing credit per year.
Additional course costs can be found here
You can progress to postgraduate study including:
- MA Animation
- MA Character Animation
- MA Illustration and Visual Media
- MA Interaction Design Communication
- Rigging artist
- 2D animator
- 3D animator
- Video editor
- 2D illustrator
- Production assistant
- Character animator
The majority of our graduates find employment in film and TV production studios, advertising companies, publishing houses and web design firms. Studio start-ups also occur among our graduates as a direct result of the positive collaborative atmosphere on the programme.
Graduates have progressed to animation studios including:
- Fox International Channels
- Blue-Zoo Studios
- Nerve Studios
- Six Red Squares