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To earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Computer Art at SVA, students must complete 120 credits as follows:

  • 72 credits in studio art courses
  • 30 credits in humanities & sciences courses
  • 15 credits in art history coursess
  • 3 elective credits from among the undergraduate courses offerings
First-Year Requirements

AHD-1210 / AHD-1215  Modern and Contemporary Art I and II
FID-1130 / FID-1035  Drawing I and II
SDD-1050  Narrative Workshop
SDD-1210  Bits, Bytes, Megabytes: Foundations of Computer-Generated Imaging
SMD-1200  Introduction to Imaging Tools and Techniques
SMD-1230  Introduction to Computer Animation
SMD-1250  Introduction to Digital Video Tools and Techniques
HCD-1020 / HCD-1025 Writing and Literature I and II

Second-Year Requirements

Requirement A
One semester of:

SDD-2090  Professional Practices
SMD-2110  Python Scripting for Maya Artists
SMD-2146  Computer Animation: 3D Modeling and Animation I
SMD-2147  Computer Animation: 3D Modeling and Animation II
SMD-2157  VFX and Motion Graphics I
SMD-2158  VFX and Motion Graphics II

One of the following groups:

AHD-2180 History of Film I
AHD-2185 History of Film II


AHD-2190 History of Animation I
AHD-2195 History of Animation II

Requirement B
One 3-credit studio elective that is not offered through the Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects Department. Please refer to individual departmental listings for elective courses open to all students.


Third-Year Requirements

Requirement A
One semester of:

SDD-3090 Production Resources
SMD-3110 Sound and Vision: Producing a Sound Track
SMD-3120 Thesis Research 

One of the following groups:

SMD-3146 Computer Animation: 3D Modeling and Animation III
SMD-3147 Computer Animation: 3D Modeling and Animation IV
SMD-3568 Thesis Preproduction: Computer Animation


SMD-3157 VFX and Motion Graphics III
SMD-3158 VFX and Motion Graphics IV
SMD-3566 Thesis Preproduction: Visual Effects and Broadcast Design 

Requirement B
One 3-credit studio elective that is not offered through the Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects Department. Please refer to individual departmental listings for elective courses open to all students.

Fourth-Year Requirements

SMD-4011 Production Skills I
SMD-4012 Production Skills II
SDD-4030 The Business of Being an Artist
SDD-4080 Thesis I
SDD-4085 Thesis II
SDD-4090 Thesis Special Topics

One 3-credit studio elective from any undergraduate department, including the Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects Department. Please refer to individual departmental listings for elective courses open to all students.

Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects General Course Listing

Updated course information can be viewed using MyServices Student, which can be accessed at:

Professional Practices
One semester: no credit
Class time is reserved for discussion of topics relating to the use of computer-generated images in the entertainment, video and game industries. Students will explore the many aesthetic and career options they face as they begin to formulate their educational goals and career paths. 

Python Scripting for Maya Artists
One semester: 3 studio credits
The ability to master technical solutions through scripting is a key component, and a sought out skill, for artists within the film and commercial production pipelines. This course will introduce the basic skills required to script effectively in Maya using the object-oriented scripting language, Python. Knowing Python will allow you to customize the Maya UI, automate repetitive tasks, modify existing tools and create your own tools. Students will also learn to use Python outside of the Maya environment to make system changes, which can be useful in understanding how pipeline tools in studios are created. This course is designed to give you an edge in pushing the boundaries of Maya’s off-the-shelf tool set, and to place you in a large-scale production environment that is used within the entertainment, gaming and medical industries. 

Life Drawing for Computer Animators
One semester: 3 studio credits
Gesture, movement and character expression are important considerations for the computer animator. This drawing course will explore various facets of human expression, such as emotions and physical mannerisms. Using models, students will learn to “catch” a moment in time through quick poses, as well as work out individual subtleties through longer poses. Field trips will be part of the challenge of learning to draw people in crowds and in motion. 

SMD-2146 / SMD-2147
Computer Animation: 3D Modeling and Animation I and II
Two semesters: 3 studio credits per semester
Professional practices will be stressed in creating preliminary sketches, concepts and designs. Students will learn how to employ geometrical primitives, extruding and lathing as well as de-forming objects and working with mesh objects. 3D animation is explored by analyzing motion, understanding the devices of anticipation, reaction, overlapping motion, and squash-and-stretch, to add clarity and strength to sequences. Students will create storyboards and motion tests, and develop concepts as integrated with basic animation techniques of keyframe interpolation, model, light and camera animation. 

SMD-2157 / SMD-2158
VFX and Motion Graphics I and II
Two semesters: 3 studio credits per semester
Using combinations of still and video images, students will learn the fundamentals of keyframing, applying effects over time, field and frame rendering, creating mattes and rotoscoping. Emphasis will be placed on editing techniques, art direction, aesthetics and the overall style of professional motion graphic production. An introduction to green-screen techniques, compositing and layering animated images will also be covered. Asset management and basic editing disciplines will be reinforced through assigned projects. 

AHD-2180 / AHD-2185
History of Film I and II
Two semesters: 3 art history credits per semester

Serving as an introduction to theatrical motion pictures, the first semester of these courses will examine its nascence along with the silent era and early sound. While American narrative film will be emphasized, examples of world cinema will also be screened. Political, cultural and aesthetic history will form a background for viewing selected films—both important works and more transitory ones—to gain an understanding of how the medium developed and its cultural impact. In the second semester we will examine the history of motion pictures from the ascendancy of the studio system, through effects of World War II on the film industry to the subsequent collapse and re-emergence of prominent studios. The era of independent filmmaking will also be addressed. While American narrative film will be emphasized, examples of world cinema will also be screened, as well as examples from various film genres, including documentary, animation and experimental work.  

AHD-2190 / 2195
History of Animation I and II
Two semesters: 3 art history credits per semester

These courses explore milestones in animation, from pioneers like Walt Disney, Norman McLaren and Lotte Reiniger, to present-day digital innovators. Along the way we’ll consider a range of techniques, including line-and-cel, glass painting, stop motion, clay animation, morphs and 3D characters. We’ll also see why animation deserves to be seen as perhaps the most complex art form. 

Photoshop: Beyond the Foundations
One semester: 3 studio credits
People often say they know how to use Adobe Photoshop, but do they really know its most important features and how to harness its power? Each session will concentrate on one isolated aspect of Photoshop. By the end of the semester, every student will be a Photoshop power user. Issues to be focused on include levels, curves, actions, layer styles, filters, extract, alpha channels and liquefy, among others. In one semester, this course will cover the Photoshop universe. 

Production Resources in Computer Art
One semester: no credit
Within the production process of computer animation and visual effects a unique and powerful set of resources are available to computer art majors. Established protocols for utilization of advanced systems for motion capture, digital video capture, color grading and asset management will be established for students as they plan their thesis production pipelines. Software and hardware developments will be discussed. 

Sound and Vision: Producing a Sound Track
One semester: 3 studio credits
Students will gain an understanding of the basic principles of audio capture, enhancement and production by focusing on the methods used in creating a professional sound track. Examples of award-winning videos and animations will be analyzed scene by scene. Students will compose a sound track for an existing project or their thesis production. This will include writing or locating appropriate music, gathering and recording sound effects, and mixing the final track. 

Thesis Research
One semester: 3 studio credits
Instructors: Thesis Research Committee
In addition to advanced story and character development, timing and narrative structure will be taught through a series of written exercises and reading assignments. Students will tell and write their own stories and have them critiqued in classroom discussions. Students will develop scripts and draw storyboards using traditional and computer-assisted methods. 

SMD-3146 / SMD-3147
Computer Animation: 3D Modeling and Animation III and IV
Two semesters: 3 studio credits per semester
This course will stress professional techniques and work flow methodology to maximize students’ realization of their working drawings. Students will develop highly accurate timing to achieve their individual style of animation. Editorial decisions involving narrative, character and scene design will be an integral part of this course. Topics will include: planning and executing complex models, testing how well they perform in production, skeletal rigging, constraints and scripted expressions. The course will also cover animation strategies, advanced keyframe editing and motion tests; shaders, textures, lights and camera moves. 

SMD-3157 / SMD-3158
VFX and Motion Graphics III and IV
Two semesters: 3 studio credits per semester
These courses will explore the design requirements for professional-quality broadcast graphics and title design for film, television and digital content. Students will capture and use original footage to create a title sequence that includes an audio sound track, still images and typographic elements. Asset management, aspect ratios, resolutions, interpolation algorithms, color depth, color timing and image stabilization techniques will be addressed. Students will learn to work with lighting, grain matching, perspective control and camera moves to create the illusion of photorealism in the final composite. 

Character Concept and Creation
One semester: 3 studio credits
The many aspects of 3D character concept creation will be the focus of this course, with an emphasis on solid drawing and sculpting techniques. A workflow that utilizes both 2D and 3D tools to create character designs for film, TV and games will be explored. Students will strengthen the their 2D concept design using software such as Mischief and Adobe Photoshop through assignments and in-class critique; 3D elements from software, including Pixologic ZBrush and Sculptris will be employed within the final concept design work. The emphasis will be on concept designs as opposed to final production models. 

Basic Modeling and Animation with Maya I
One semester: 3 studio credits
Autodesk Maya is widely used in the 3D animation industry and is highly regarded for its modeling, animation and visual effects capabilities. Starting with storyboards, students will then learn modeling, cameras, lighting, surfaces, motion scripting and rendering. Several examples of high-end 3D animation will be demonstrated and analyzed. 

Basic Modeling and Animation with Maya II
Monday 9:00-11:50
Spring semester: 3 studio credits
Instructor: S. Rodrig
A continuation of SMD-3228, Basic Modeling and Animation with Maya I, this course will explore Maya’s more advanced tools and capabilities through in-class exercises and assigned projects. Topics include character design, animation, skeletal rigging, dynamics, particles and shading. 

Introduction to Digital Photography
One semester: 3 studio credits
This intensive hands-on course will introduce you to the fundamental concepts of classic photography, including determining proper exposure, lighting, lens choices, image composition, black-and-white and color photography. In addition, we will delve into the most important aspects of digital photography, such as which file formats are best, camera management and advanced digital darkroom techniques with Adobe Photoshop. The course will cover fundamental studio lighting techniques and provide a thorough understanding of digital camera types. Students will come away with a working knowledge of photographic exposure techniques to compensate for a variety of lighting situations and an understanding of camera optics and their impact on image composition. Students must have a digital camera. 

Basic After Effects Techniques I
One semester: 3 studio credits
Adobe After Effects is a powerful compositing and animation tool used in visual effects, 2D and 3D animation, and broadcast graphics. Using keyframes, we will cover how to animate masks and filters over time, to create precise motion paths using Bézier curves and to achieve complex layered compositions. 

Basic After Effects Techniques II
One semester: 3 studio credits
Adobe After Effects is now an integral design tool in video production and motion graphics studios. After Effects allows the artist to control each element of design and digital effects with precision. Through class exercises and examples, students will learn to explore and discover the technical aspects of this program and incorporate these aspects into their own animated designs and motion graphic projects. 

Basic Cinema 4D
One semester: 3 studio credits
Cinema 4D is an intuitive 3D package used for creating amazing still images for print and breathtaking video for broadcast, web and film. The easy interface and logical workflow of the software make it possible for those new to 3D to produce high-end work quickly. This course will cover modeling, animation, lighting and camera techniques to create 3D typography, objects and motion graphics. We will also discuss the integration of Cinema 4D creations with Adobe products for compositing and broadcast purposes. 

Digital Matte Painting with Photoshop
One semester: 3 studio credits
Digital matte painting (DMP) is a field that has been around since the early days of still and moving images. Initially created as paintings on large pieces of glass, the digital revolution has extended the form to levels previously unimagined. In the current climate of heavy visual-effects productions in film, broadcast, the web and video games, the skills necessary to perform quickly and with emotion have become all the more crucial. The beauty of working in digital matte painting is that it employs traditional art skills blended with cutting-edge technology. This course will introduce students to the history of the medium, the philosophy of “style” (photorealistic, non-photorealistic) and the practical applications used to execute a shot. 

Video Game Design I
One semester: 3 studio creditsThis course is an introduction to the design and production of digital games. Students will explore concept art, level design, asset production, lighting, sound and dynamics. Weekly lectures will guide students through game art theory and technique. Practical exercises will be shared and play tested by the class to help refine ideas. The semester will culminate with a playable game level created by each student. 

Video Game Design II
One semester: 3 studio credits
Focusing on the creation of game characters, this course will take a deeper dive into the concepts and techniques learned in SMD-3408, Video Game Design I. Topics include: character concept art, building character controllers, high to low poly character modeling techniques, next-gen texturing and blending between animation states. Students will collaborate with their classmates to design and produce a short, playable game of their choice. 

Virtual Reality Design
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course is an overview of virtual reality design and development. It will integrate lectures and workshops so that students can combine hands-on experience with the knowledge required to build useful and enjoyable experiences. We will discuss 360º video, gameplay, interactive narrative content, and other applications. Students will learn to develop and design experiences using real-time engines. Topics will include the evolution of the technology, user experience, existing precedents, input tools, augmented reality, and more. Students should finish the course with an understanding of VR and the ability to plan and build basic VR experiences. 

Introduction to Website Design
One semester: 3 studio credits
Design of a website is as important as the content. In this course, we will explore the creation of websites for creative and self-promotional purposes. Students will learn to take their visual language and apply it to the web with a focus on usability to the target audience. Adobe Dreamweaver and Animate techniques will be covered, as well as how to prepare files for the site design using other programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Students will learn how to plan the architecture of their site and how to make their concepts a reality. 

Procedural Art
One semester: 3 studio credits
Procedural art involves designing recipes or spells that generate things. Instead of clicking buttons manually, in this course students will learn how to let the computer do the work. We will build on a series of small exercises. Repetition will lead to muscle memory, and muscle memory will lead to understanding. We will search for complexity and emotion via simple building blocks. By the end of the course students will be able to write code that generates complex designs, such as Mondrian paintings or Kusama-like Infinity Mirror rooms. Code will be demystified and you can confidently venture into designing VR, AR, XR, and more, in Unity. 

Introduction to Real-Time Rendering and Game Engine Graphics
One semester: 3 studio credits
GPU-based rendering or “real-time rendering” has long been utilized in the game industry to produce dynamic cinematic sequences and cutscenes. These techniques are employed by a host of companies from the entertainment and advertising industries to product design and education. In this course students will develop a solid understanding of the workflow between content creation software (such as Autodesk Maya) and real-time rendering environments (such as Epic’s Unreal Engine and Unity3D). Topics will include preparing assets for export to a game engine, surfacing using PBR materials, lighting using engine specific dynamic and baked lighting, transferring animation via rigged characters and Alembic cache. Camera control and the basics of visual coding systems provided by each engine provides. Students will develop an original multi-shot animated project rendered in a real-time environment. 

Thesis Preproduction: Visual Effects and Broadcast Design
One semester: 3 studio credits
The professional production workflows of digital and practical visual effects will be discussed and examined, along with the integration of computer-generated images and live-action footage. While continuing with concept development, students will begin production of their thesis projects, including previsualization, design, casting of actors and directing. 

Thesis Preproduction: Computer Animation
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course stresses the professional aspects of previsualization and detailed character sketches in developing and planning an animated short. Students will continue concept development and begin production of their senior thesis projects. Students are required to finalize 3D models and environments and create a full-length previsualization for their thesis projects. 

Figure Sculpting for the Computer Animator
One semester: 3 studio credits
In this course, students will study the human form and its application to a 3D character model. Students will learn how to build an armature and how to sculpt a clay figure. Specific attention will be spent on the anatomy, human proportions and body mechanics. Students will then take the principles learned in creating the clay figure and apply them to a new or pre-existing 3D model. 

Advanced Modeling and Rigging
One semester: 3 studio credits
In this course students will create 3D models based on 2D designs. Once the models are made, students will refine their rigging skills to create lifelike movement for characters, props and environments. We will delve into rigging tools and scripting to improve character setup skills and focus on creating controls for our models. 

Advanced Compositing Techniques
One semester: 3 studio credits
The ability to integrate composite images into a seamless transparent moving image is the core of contemporary visual effects. Students will learn to use Nuke to create a scene that is a composite of 3D and live-action footage. Students will also color correct and add shadows and effects to the footage, such as the illusion of depth of field and a limited focus range. Color space, bit depth and film formats, advanced keying, matte edges, importing and exporting track data with Maya, advanced color correcting, blur and grain, warp and morph effects will be covered. 

Lighting and Rendering I
One semester: 3 studio credits
The lighting workflow using both the Maya and mental ray rendering software will be explored in this course. Students will learn the specific lighting types, shadow types and their attributes, raycast (scanline) vs. ray-trace rendering, and light/shadow linking. Aesthetic concepts covered involve use of light to create mood, indoor and outdoor environments, space, and the use and distribution of color and tone using light. 

Lighting and Rendering II
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course concentrates on the hypershade window in Maya and its technical applications for an aesthetic end. General workflow for creation of materials and textures for both the Maya and mental ray rendering software will be addressed. Some examples of specific materials such as skin, glass, hair and other special circumstances will be covered. Class discussions will include render diagnostics and troubleshooting. 

Motion Capture
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course will cover the art and science of motion capture: motion sensing technology used to record the action of a live actor and apply it to a 3D model. The course will cover setting up and rigging Maya characters for MoCAP, as well as setting up and calibrating the motion tracking system. Other MoCAP related subjects that will be covered include: preparing the actor, capturing their performance, tracking, editing and reconstruction of MoCAP data as well as using advanced animation tools within Motion Builder for reintegration into Maya. MoCAP for gaming, lip sync, voice recognition and facial capture will also be covered. 

Introduction to VFX Animation with Houdini FX
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course gives an introduction to the Houdini FX interface, procedural modeling, particles and dynamics. It will also cover some expression functions, which give creative control to produce powerful visual effects and models. Projects include the creation of procedural landscapes, explosive particle effects and a basic crowd/flocking simulation. The Houdini FX concepts and techniques covered, such as procedurally based workflow and rigid body dynamics, will show students how to get the most out of this impressive software in the same way studios do for commercial and film productions. 

Intermediate VFX Animation with Houdini FX
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course will give students an opportunity to grow in their understanding of VFX animation in the Houdini FX procedural node-based workflow. Students will create realistic simulations of liquids with varying viscosities and surface tensions, as well as fire and smoke with different volumes and look. Students will also take a closer look at particles and how to control the parameters of their forces, contracts and collisions when working with small debris or crowds of characters. Other topics that will be explored include cloth, wire and fur, giving students in-depth training in this visual effects toolset. 

Advanced Python for Technical Directors
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course will delve into the core components of object-oriented programming and extend to the broader aspects of modular programming. It will also introduce students to the multiplatform graphic user interface “QT,” which is the standard choice for UI. Furthering the use of the native python, the course will also cover PyMEL (the alternate python implementation in Maya). The latter half of semester will focus on the Maya API and the ability to write your own plug-ins. This will also include the advanced feature of supporting your user with custom commands to customize your plug-in in the front end. The same techniques will also be employed to show how to utilize the Nuke API to write tools and plug-ins. 

Three-Dimensional Digital Sculpture
One semester: 3 studio credits
Students will study digital sculpting through traditional sculpting techniques to advance their knowledge of modeling. Using tools such as Pixologic ZBrush and Autodesk Mudbox, students will virtually sculpt 3D models for computer animation that demonstrate professional-level techniques. Integration of these tools into the computer animation production pipeline will be discussed. 

Creature Creation
One semester: 3 studio credits
Creating highly detailed fantasy creatures that demonstrate professional-level techniques and tools to create believable, three-dimensional fantasy art will be the focus of this course. Assignments will include student interpretations of a classic horror figure (Frankenstein, mummy, wolf man, vampire, etc.) and a hybrid human/animal. Lectures and demonstrations of modeling and rigging as it relates to fantasy art fare (trolls, goblins, witches, wizards, ogres, dragons) will be included. The course will focus primarily on modeling and texture using Autodesk Maya, Adobe Photoshop and Pixologic ZBrush. 

Character FX I
One semester: 3 studio credits
This course is an introduction in fur, hair and cloth development for computer animation. Students will explore grooming techniques for both characters and environments using Autodesk Maya’s XGen and iGroom. Grooming topics will include sampling, shaping, exploring tactile qualities of hair, surfacing, and basic rendering. We will also cover how to model and setup clothing for simulation using Autodesk Maya’s nCloth. A character FX artist must have a wide range of creative and technical skills; this course will give students access to these skills for application in their own work. 

Advanced Character Animation
One semester: 3 studio credits
Great animation is the blend of technique with acting and action. The successful expression of physical traits and emotional reactions are at the core of memorable character animation. From the wildest emotion to the slightest facial movement, the detail we are able to reveal in our characters is what brings them to life. This course focuses on the fundamental mechanics of character animation with particular attention to acting and performance. Since 3D characters move with a world we create, the use of camera, composition, staging and timing are required elements of this course. 

SMD-4011 / SMD-4012
Production Skills I and II
Two semesters: 3 studio credits per semester
Seniors will continue to perfect thesis concepts and techniques, while exploring advanced topics that will be incorporated into final projects. These courses will lead students through the technical directions of their thesis projects, to ensure they are meeting professional standards in their work while staying on schedule. Through lectures, student presentations and in-class assignments, students will learn about production pipelines and creative solutions to technical problems. 

The Business of Being an Artist
One semester: 3 studio credits
Computer artists work in creative environments with short deadlines and ever-changing needs, and the number of artists required to complete a project fluctuates constantly. Many artists work as project hires, while others are full-time staff members. Working as a freelance artist can be extremely rewarding, if one is careful to protect one’s own interests. Students will learn the essentials of résumé preparation as well as interviewing skills required for employment in a dynamic and competitive industry. Issues of financial planning, health insurance and investments will be discussed in reference to freelance and salaried employment opportunities. Developing a basic business plan, negotiating contracts and keeping financial records will be among the course assignments. 

SMD-4031 / SMD-4032
Collaboration in Computer Art I and II
Two semesters: no credit
Collaboration in Computer Art is a seminar for BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects majors who have been approved to work in teams to complete their thesis projects. Students will meet weekly with the department chair to review production schedules and creative issues in working as a team. Production schedules for these thesis projects are accelerated compared to individual projects, and the submission deadlines for collaborative thesis projects will be established during the semester. 

Advanced Sound Design and Mixing
One semester: 3 studio credits
The focus of this course will be advanced sound design, placement and mixing techniques. These techniques will then be applied to each student’s thesis project. Through lectures, student presentations and in-class assignments, students will be provided with work critiques to assist them in constructing a soundscape for their theses. 

Color Grading
One semester: 3 studio credits
In this course students will explore how to manipulate color and other image characteristics to enhance the look of footage. Color fundamentals, including bit depth, floating point, RGB and XYZ color spaces will be covered. How to use histograms, waveform and vectorscope monitors will be addressed, in concurrence with industry standard tools, such as the Three Way Color Corrector for manipulating color, levels and curves, as well as secondary compositing tools for keying, masking and motion tracking. 

SDD-4080 / 4085
Thesis I and II
Two semesters: 3 studio credits per semester
These courses will lead students through the production process of creating a thesis project that is original and of professional quality. Weekly critiques and class discussions will allow students to progressively develop and produce their thesis projects. The creative and technical skills developed over the first three years are now applied, as students complete their thesis projects. 

Thesis Special Topics
One semester: no credit
Class time is reserved for discussion of special topics, senior requirements, production scholarships, visiting artists and technical workshops as required throughout the senior year. 

One semester: 3 studio credits
Students can gain valuable experience and broaden their professional network through an internship with an employer. Internships-for-credit are available to juniors and seniors who have earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 or better. To receive credit, students must apply online during the designated application period, be approved by the Career Development Office, and registered for the internship by their academic advisor. Students need to work 150 hours during the semester (usually 10 to 15 hours per week), participate in a weekly online course with other SVA interns, and complete midterm and final self-evaluations. Elective studio credit is awarded for the successful completion of an internship. For more information go to

School of Visual Arts | 209 East 23 Street, NY, NY 10010-3994 | Tel: 212.592.2000 | Fax: 212.725.3587