VFX - From Zero to Hero

To bring a visual effect from concept to film involves many different stages, including 3D modelling, texturing, compositing and lighting.

There’s room for specialisation in each of these areas, but wherever you find your interests lie, you’ll need to start with an understanding of the entire process.

The course is written and presented by James Miller, an Effects Generalist at Industrial Light and Magic, the company founded by Star Wars creator George Lucas.

It has been designed to introduce you to the workflow of professional VFX, and covers everything from creating a 3D model, to compositing the final video.

The course is aimed at anyone with an interest in how VFX make their way from imagination to the screen. You won’t need any previous special effects experience - if you have basic computer skills, then you’re ready to start.

As with all our courses, if you get stuck (or if you want to know how to take your projects to the next level), there’s help available via our Online Education portal.

Rather than staying within one application, we’ll be using industry standard software for each stage. These all have free non-commercial educational licences available, so you’ll be using the same tools as the professionals, without having to break the bank!

  • Modelling
  • UV mapping
  • Texturing
  • Look Development
  • Lighting and Rendering
  • Compositing

Course Content
Delivery will be through the online VLE. Teaching and learning will occur through:
  • Demonstration of each VFX stage though videos
  • Explanation of VFX concepts through additional videos
  • Learning consolidation through practical exercise
  • Self-directed research and learning to advance knowledge and skills acquired
  • VLE discussion boards to exchange and compare work with other students

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course, you should be able to:
Make use of industry standard software to apply visual effects to a film scene

Assessment Method
  • You are given a video “plate” and additional graphic assets.
  • You are to use a combination of these (and your own assets) to create and add a 3D model to the video.

Criteria for Achievement

Your submission shows a textured, lit 3D model, composited with the background plate.
Key Information
  • A Mac or PC capable of running the course software
  • Internet access
  • Autodesk Maya (3 year free educational licence is available)
  • Foundry NukeX (free non-commercial licence is available)
  • Foundry Mari (free non-commercial licence is available)
  • Isotropix Clarrise (free non-commercial licence is available)


Study is self-paced, but there are weekly assignments and coursework to be completed. The course creator & support lecturers will monitor the discussion boards and give feedback to submissions.

The course is run over an 8 week period. At the start of each week, lessons, assignments and resources are released in the form of a Session on the VLE.

A Session is made up of several Videos.
  • There are between 4 and 8 video lessons in each Section.
  • A video lesson can range from one to six minutes long.
  • Each video demonstrates a stage of the VFX process, that is to be followed & completed.


Autodesk Maya (3 year free educational licence is available)
Maya is the industry standard 3D effects application. It can be used for almost every stage in modelling, animation and lighting. On this course, we’ll use Maya for 3D modelling and for UVing (the process of creating 2D shapes that will be projected onto the model for texturing & shading).

Foundry Mari (free non-commercial licence is available)
It’s difficult to picture the effect of painting a 2D Texture Map on a 3D model, but it’s also difficult to work on a 3D model on a 2D computer screen. To this aim, we’ll be using Mari, by The Foundry. This allows us to paint on colours and textures, while switching between both 3D and 2D UV views.

Isotropix Clarrise (free non-commercial licence is available)
Clarisse is a 2D and 3D rendering, compositing and animation application. You can think of is it as a virtual 3D film set. We will be using this to set up our model in the scene, and to light and film the shot, before rendering out the different elements for compositing in Nuke.

Foundry NukeX (free non-commercial licence is available)
Nuke is a compositing and finishing tool. We will be using this to combine the different elements of the background plate, lit 3D model and rendered shadows, into our completed shot.
We’ll also be using Nuke for final colour correction, where you can ensure that your VFX shot matches the other elements of a film, and to export the final product.

Qualification – SSR Certificate
Duration – 8 weeks
Mode of Study – Part Time Online
Time of Study – Flexible
Hours of Study – A minimum of 1 to 2 hours per week
Start Date
Entry Requirements – No formal entry requirements
Tuition Fees – £199.00 (Introductory Price)
Apply Now

Course Information

Subject Area
Motion Graphics
Digital Animation
Film Production
Course Modules –