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BA (Hons) Animation — Overview

Are you interested in bringing your character designs and illustrative concepts to life? Are you inspired by Studio Ghibli, Aardman, Laika, Disney and Pixar, or independent film, games or children’s series animation?

If so, then our BA (Hons) Animation programme offers you a unique way into exploring a whole range of production methods, and developing this into a career.

Students’ animations are video mapped during Euranim workshop in Budapest. Photo: © Morgan Rio

Globally the animation industry is estimated to be worth $222 billion, and includes film, children’s television, games, online content, VFX, motion graphics, VR and advertising. We will help you to enter this market as a specialist in a production team.

Our Animation programme will prepare you with the knowledge and skills you’ll need for a role in the animation industry.

It attracts passionate and ambitious students, who get the opportunity to build a professional CV, portfolio and showreel during their time at the college, in preparation for entry as a specialist into the animation, games or visual effects industries.

Over the three-year programme you’ll have the opportunity to explore traditional, experimental and computer animation, and work on a wide range of exciting design briefs, including live client projects and national competitions. 

Central to our ethos is the application of animation principles throughout each production, building your understanding of performance and character timing.

You’ll be taught in our purpose-built studios by a dedicated team of expert staff members, and supported by visiting professional animators, who’ll build your skills, confidence and awareness of what is required in this energetic industry.

Our programme allows you to explore all types of animation techniques, through a series of structured modules. You will become a proficient and industry-ready animator, with a thorough grounding in the 12 Principles of Animation as set out by Disney, and able to tackle both in-house modules and external client project briefs. 

Life drawing and character development is a key part of our programme.

Your showreel, developed through college projects and in collaboration with clients, will demonstrate the extent of what you can do. Having learnt how to use tools and techniques for short animated performances, demonstrating your control of gesture-based articulation and emotional resonance, your career will be ready to take off.

In your first year, you’ll explore all aspects of animation through a range of short projects, covering key production skills such as narrative development, storyboarding and character performance.

Animation student Krisztian Urr recreates a child's bedroom using CGI Computer Animation.

You will learn technical production skills in 2D, CGI and stop-motion methods of practice, giving you an opportunity to see which way you would like your own work to develop.

Your second year is more focused, with an emphasis on production team working, as you share skills with others while you develop your own specialism.

You will be supported in progressing your animation career path through professional development modules.

What will I achieve?

In your final year, you’ll put your own stamp on a dynamic and professional showreel, which will demonstrate your production skills to the industry and associated sectors that use animation as a creative medium. 

You will have focused lectures on marketing and distributing your work either to the independent film sector or to the commercial end of the animation and games industries.

See our Vimeo page for examples of student work. Follow us on Twitter.

Globally the animation industry is worth $222 billion, and includes film, children’s television, games, online content, VFX, motion graphics, VR and advertising.

 

BA (Hons) Animation — Highlights:

  • Develop your own artistic signature whilst ensuring you’re up-to-date with industry-relevant skills, through our emphasis on art and craft disciplines alongside digital skillsets.
  • Learn how to make a character perform in a way which makes the audience buy into what’s happening on screen – the pinnacle of animation practice is generating appeal in a production.
  • Gain valuable industry connections through our strong presence at key global events and animation symposia. 
  • Use dedicated studios with all the necessary tools to make short to feature quality animation.

Have a question for our team? Email: ANIMATION@pca.ac.uk

BA (Hons) Animation — Modules

Year 1

Animation Principles 
This will form an introduction to the Animation programme to equip all students with a fundamental grounding in the understanding and application of the 12 Principles of Animation and their significance in animation production.

The module will explore the fundamentals of timing, spacing and holds in both Pose to Pose and Straight Ahead forms of animation using traditional Cell drawn animation and stop frame techniques. Both these approaches establish key animation practice prior to further development in CGI and digital animation.

This will develop the students awareness of timing at the heart of all animation practice in an analogue or hands-on manner which embeds an understanding of how movement in relationship to frames is established. The module will explore the relationship between pre-digital and post-digital processing of animation cells in the use of exposure sheets and how this has affected animation production.

The Module will culminate in the first animation reel showing a selective set of animations done throughout the module which embeds professional practice and focus on the importance of the Demo Reel at the outset of the programme. Students will create an ongoing document acting as their own animator's survival kit showing their critical and visual understanding of Animation Principles.

Drawing Practices for Animation
Drawing has always and will continue to play a fully integrated role in the core skillset of an animator. The module will consist of both studio-based study and personal drawing development that provides a platform to build a focused portfolio and online presence showing all the prerequisites of visualisation used at key stages of an animation production process.

This module focuses on a variety of drawing techniques to support the development of a systematic approach to animation production especially at the pre-production phase in storyboarding, layout, character development, concept art and background design.

A considerable proportion of this module will be spent in life drawing studies in the exploration of a range of dynamic poses, in capturing volume & weight, proportion, in exploring movement gestures to support key principles of staging and solid drawing. The life drawing sessions will also be complemented with 3D studies in wire and clay modelling to extend the notion of drawing into volumetric space.

The module will centre upon the understanding the importance of strong observation of human, animal, natural and urban forms from a range of approaches and perspectives to enable strong visual composition in storyboarding linked to the fundamentals of film language and cinematography.

Illusionists Toolkit - Analogue to Digital Practice
Central to the nature of the animated discipline has been its capacity to explore and reinvent itself by embracing new developments in technology.

In the past, emerging technologies have helped us create new opportunities. They can make traditional processes more accessible as well as more economical, they have opened up the use of new materials and have helped us to re-evaluate familiar methods.

Building on prior learning in the Animation Principles module, a series of workshops and projects will familiarise students with analogue animation techniques and introduce them to the digital approaches that have replaced or enhanced them.

This module encourages students to discover and evaluate further directions within their work with the help of contemporary software and equipment and to support students to develop the necessary confidence in exploring emerging technologies and the countless opportunities that they offer for building a unique voice within the discipline.

Professional Studio Practice 1: Setting the Scene
This module is designed to help students explore the line of employment within specific areas of Animation and related industries, to enable them to start to match their current skills knowledge and creative portfolio to those required to successfully compete for work in their intended career. Students will research and follow the role of their aspired job role within the industry.

Having identified areas for development students will work with the module leader to update their Development Plan enabling them to identify those experiences and skills they will need to acquire during their degree course.

The module will cover a wide range of general skills including personal SWOT analysis, effective professional communication with employers, business cards, networking, animation/game studio locations, CVs, applications, looking at freelance working and independent studios, including starting to consider issues around contracts, copyright and working with agencies.

Interdisciplinary Studies
This module provides an opportunity to expand and develop skills and knowledge in fields beyond the immediate programme environment, in subject areas which are nonetheless relevant to your personal career aspirations, and which have the potential to develop new horizons and feedback into future modules.

You will engage in an elective offered by a discipline outside of your own. Electives may include: drawing, costume accessories, live art, printmaking, curatorial practice, web design, interactive media, creative writing, studio or location photography, underwater imaging, filmmaking, contemporary crafts, textiles, & fashion marketing and promotion.

Contexts of Practice 1
An informed understanding of how animation and film communicate their meanings is a central aspect of the animator’s toolbox. The meanings of visual media depend upon context. This module explores those contexts (cultural, historical, geographical, political), and how they inform the production and consumption of animation.

Students will develop core research and communication skills in order to discuss and contextualise ideas and issues relating to animation practice. A developing understanding of the visual languages and their contexts will inform students’ development as informed studio practitioners.

Year 2

Character Performance Studies in Voice, Gesture, Acting
This module combines two mutually important disciplines in the development of Character Animation in the balance and synergy of non-verbal gesture and expression and how voice and sound interact to bring about a fullness and richness of performance and acting.

These two disciplines are often separated but this module unites them as apose clearly defines an emotion and an emotion is usual defined by gestures or words depending on the attitude and status of the Character.

So the core of this module centres on the expressive elements needed to convey and convince an audience that the character is playing out things in the moment.

This module will explore acting for animation as the art of taking on board the personality and character traits of another and translating them to a previously inanimate object, a cg model, a puppet or a drawing. It is moving these in such a way as to lead your audience to believe that this ‘thing’ can actually think for itself.

Observation, analysis and creative problem-solving strategies, will be core to this study alongside the practice of drawing as fundamental to traditional & digital skills.

Sound is a vital tool for character performance in Animation, to enhance the experience of communication and to make the audience believe what is visually seen in movement and gestures and heard while listening to voice acting.

Sound can instantly change a character or environment; it can give impact to an action or dramatically manipulate an audience. You will be taught the technical and creative skills of recording and mixing to professional standards. You will also develop the creative skills to study and design evocative animations with lip syncing and include the basic principles of Foley.

Studio Practice
This module’s focus is on collaborative working in a Studio Environment and culture which forms the backbone of the Programmes aims.  An inspiring studio is an environment made up of people, space and equipment that shape creative ideas and technical ability.

Employers are not only looking for creative talent but also the ability to contribute effectively to a team in identifying how to make your contribution valuable and be recognised. Pooling skills and resources through collaborative practice enables you to concentrate on your strengths and produce work quicker, and to a higher standard, than would be possible on your own.

This module enables you to further develop a specialist skill and gives you the ability to respond effectively to direction whilst developing your knowledge of how to get the best out of teamwork when it comes to your turn to take a leading role.

In this module you will get out into the creative marketplace, identify potential opportunities and respond to the requirements of a range of clients. The module will also develop your understanding of production values and processes at ensuring your work and the work delivered to clients is of the highest possible professional standards. As such detailed pipeline structures and post production tools will be incorporated into the technical aspects of the module.

Professional Studio Practice 2: Start Up Strategy
This module is about being proactive in the animation industry, knowing which part of you is focusing your practice and how to generate opportunities to ensure that you are developing your professional portfolio and CV whilst studying.

It will offer the opportunity to learn effective networking and presentation skills in order to broaden and build further professional relationships with potential clients, creative talent and future stakeholders.

The module will place you as a creative animator within the context of a studio or as a freelancer and offer the strategy to ensure you are fully aware of the demands and the legal and contractual obligations associated with this aspect of your career planning.

The module content looks at how to place your work in relationship to methods of production type of studio output whether feature of TV series and how you need to work in a team or as a specialist or generalist in a pipeline depending on the size of studio you want to become involved with. It will examine current design studios and how to develop a branding.

Legal moral and ethical practices will be explored in relationship to Intellectual Property, Copyright law and tax development in animation affecting your work. The outcome of the module will be an amalgamation of weekly case reviews and analysis of the UK and global Animation markets to arrive at a Start Up feasibility strategy for a small to medium sized animation studio. The module will be supported by visiting lectures podcasts and webinars.

Contexts of Practice 2
This Level 5 module extends and consolidates the Level 4 introduction to the investigation, interpretation and analysis of animation. Through a series of themed lectures and seminars this module explores issues in animation in context.

Students are encouraged to make appropriate links between their own area of practice and wider theoretical and contextual discourses. Students will continue to develop critical approaches to research, which will inform understanding of the relationship between context and practice.

Central to this module is the notion of practice-led research. Students will conduct a contextual research project with their own practice at its centre.   


Year 3

Research and Experimentation
This module will stipulate the overarching direction and outline research methodologies that will provide a platform from which the student’s Creative and Professional Conclusion module may develop.

It is a period of reflection on past creative outcomes and the success of their commercial application. The questioning of theories and experimentation in practical processes will allow students to plan their final project and negotiate a course towards its conclusion considering future career or learning aspirations.

Negotiated proposals for outcomes must evidence indicative inclusion of contextual studies subject matter and creative intent for the final year must be clearly definable at the end of this module.

Creative and Professional Development
This module will enable students to use personal career ambitions to position themselves for progression to employment, self-employment or to post-graduate study.  

It will provide multiple opportunities for students to assimilate previous industry experiences and research into both contextual subject matter and creative outcomes of the final year modules.

The module will encourage consideration of audiences, end-users and relevant markets.  Relationships with appropriate external agencies, individuals and professionals will be explored and interactions with the creative, commercial and cultural environments will be investigated

Creative and Professional Conclusion
This module represents the culmination of the knowledge, skills and understanding acquired throughout the entirety of the student’s study on the programme through the engagement in a project that is the result of a self-initiated or self-selected brief.

Contexts of Practice 3
This module provides students with two pathways. Each pathway supports the development of independent critical thinking and requires them to consider and contextualise their practice by situating it within a wider set of discourses and contexts.

Pathway One is an opportunity to conduct a substantive piece of independent research, which is focused on an area related to your creative practice.

Pathway Two is a practice-led research project, with critical commentary. This module provides students with two pathways. Each pathway supports the development of independent critical thinking and requires them to consider and contextualise their practice by situating it within a wider set of discourses and contexts.

Pathway One is an opportunity to conduct a substantive piece of independent research, which is focused on an area related to your creative practice. Pathway Two is a practice-led research project, with critical commentary.


 

BA (Hons) Animation — Staff

All our animation lecturers teach part-time enabling them to combine their love for teaching whilst maintaining their professional  involvement in the creative industries. 

Tony Smith - Programme leader
 

Tony is an animator with a key specialism in character rigging and MEL scripting in Maya, alongside this he has ten years experience with traditional crafts, which has complemented his practice in 3D digital media.

He graduated from Manchester Polytechnic as a Ceramist and Silversmith, but developed an interest in digital media that he then went on to teach, whilst still attending to his work as a ceramicist.

He has led four education programmes since 1999 initially via support from European Social Fund (ESF) at St Helens College going on to leading The Digital Arts Award in 2002.

He followed this by establishing two undergraduate Animation courses at UCLAN and Staffordshire University.

Tony joined our Animation team as programme leader in 2014. Prior to that he lived in Germany working on an Industrial Ceramics Project as well as teaching English.

His key skills are in GUI development for character rigging in Maya and 3D printing of animation replacement faces using FreeForm Phantom Omni & Objet 350 Polyjet printer.

He has a focused knowledge of 3D scanning technology and STL production pipelines and was recently trained in using the Celaction software.

As a programme leader his aim is to concentrate on the development of animation principles, character performance and acting using traditional, digital and art based methods of production.


Chris Eales - Animation Lecturer

Chris is an illustrator and filmmaker who specializes in stop-motion and hand drawn animation.

His love of stop motion and illustration – in a world of digital creations – sees him exploring 3D characters interacting with a two-dimensional world. He sees the use of a computer as another tool to add to his belt.

Alongside his role as a lecturer here at the college he also runs workshops for museums and galleries. Partners have included the National Portrait Gallery, Orleans House Gallery and the V&A in London.

Chris is currently working on the promotion of his film ‘Two Films About Loneliness’, which was recently selected for the Sundance Film Festival 2015.

Chris joined the animation programme at Plymouth College of Art in 2014.  Prior to this he lived in Berlin working on his most recent film, and regularly travelled to the UK as an animation tutor at UCA Farnham and Kingston University, UK.

He returned to the UK to work at the college as he felt that the creative industries over here is one of the best things the UK has to offer – he admires the approach to creative problem solving and the opportunities available for a freelance artist.

Read about Chris' film 'Two Films About Loneliness' and its screening at Sundance Festival here.

Kim Charnley  - Animation in Context lecturer

Kim Charnley’s book, Socio-Political Aesthetics will be published by I.B. Taurus in their Radical Art / Radical Aesthetics series in 2014.

His area of research focuses on questions around the relation between participatory art, popular culture and subculture.  Along side his lecturing he is completing a PHD and regularly delivers papers at international conferences.

He was invited to join the animation team in 2011 to design a contextual studies module tailor made for animation students. He enables students from all walks of life to understand how their animation relates to the wider context of art and the socio political culture of our time.

Luke West - Lecturer in Sound and Production

With a love for games, animation and tattoos Luke specialises in delivering the key digital software skills needed for animation and games production. This includes 3D studio max, Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, Flash and after effects.

Whilst undertaking his PGCE placement at Plymouth College of Art, his enthusiasm for teaching and positive feedback from students led him to apply for the post of technical demonstrator. In 2011 he became a member of the animation and games programmes, encouraging students to incorporate into their work the full potential of digital design.​
 

BA (Hons) Animation — Student Work

'All Seeing Eye' by Aedan Jenner

'Plymouthland' by Sofia Beale

Student work by Sofia Beale

Student work by Aedan Jenner

Student work by William Coles

Sophie Oliver

Student work by Sofia Beale

Student work by Amy Bray

Sophie Oliver

Student work by William Coles

Lauren Jones

Student work by Aedan Jenner

BA (Hons) Animation — Students Say

BA (Hons) Animation — Careers & Alumni

Connecting you with industry

Our programme team is made up of professional animators, filmmakers and researchers who will assist you in building your own professional network.

We have excellent industry links in the UK and internationally, developed through annual visits to both the FMX and International Trickfilm festivals in Stuttgart, Germany.

These trips give you the chance to engage with leading animation studios face-to-face; past students have secured employment and paid commissions from filmmakers and studios they have been introduced to at FMX.

Another huge benefit to this programme is that you will be given the chance to attend the prestigious London International Animation Festival where workshops, Q&A’s with filmmakers and screenings take place.

You’ll also be able to participate in highly publicised animation competitions and get involved in the European-funded Animation Initiatives, with the possibility of studying abroad for a semester or a year at one of our Erasmus partner universities.

We encourage all our students to take up opportunities for study visits and work experience. We are currently involved as the UK representative college in the Euranim video mapping project, which allows our students to participate in a pan-European funded project until 2018.

The college’s annual Graduate Shows provide an excellent opportunity for students from this programme to engage directly with industry before launching their own careers.

Recent graduates:

2015 graduate Sofia Beale secured an internship and then a job at London-based social media marketing company 33 Seconds – working on creative briefs for clients including Amazon and Peugeot.

Sofia working at social media marketing agency 33seconds in London.

Graduates become:

  • Animators
  • Character Designers
  • Concept Artists
  • Set and Prop Designers
  • Storyboard Artists
  • 3D CGI Animators
  • Compositors
Visiting Lecturers

We have regular visits form leading industry professional.  From specialists in 2D and 3D animation using traditional and digital media as well as Automata and interactive projection for performance and installation.

Past visiting lecturers include:

Alice Holmes
Dot to Dot Productions, worked on 'Poppy Cat' and 'Footy Pups'. 

Becki Wilson
Industrial Light & Magic, worked on Spectre.

Daniel Waterman
Carse & Waterman

Suzie Templeton
Oscar and Bafta awarded filmmaker Stop, a master of model stop frame animation her films include the academy award winning “Peter & the Wolf” (2006) the Bafta- winning “Dog” (2001) and Stanley (1999)

King Rollo Films

Royal Society of Arts

Will Betcher    Stop frame model animator for Aardman. Recently lead animator on Pirates.

Phil Mulloy      2D cut out animation, an international maverick reknown for his dark humour. www.philmulloy.com

Max Hattler     VJ and Animation director. www.maxhattler.com

Keith Newstead and Paul Spooner - Automata artists
Both Paul and Keith are leading artists in the magical world of automata. Their work, whilst distinctively different, is in museums and Private collections all over the world. We are incredibly fortunate to have their input on the course. www.keithnewstead.com / www.cabaret.co.uk/artists/paul-spooner

Forkbeard Fantasy - Theatre and projection
Forkbeard Fantasy is an artist-led multi-media theatre company formed in 1974 famed for their cutting edge work with animation and film on stage. www.forkbeardfantasy.co.uk

‘Careers in the Curriculum’ at Plymouth College of Art = The Three E’s (Employment, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise)

Through consistent, embedded participation in professional practice throughout your studies, you will have the opportunity to engage with the key professional, transferrable skills for employability in the creative industries and potentially working in partnership with other sectors either locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.

From writing and making the most of your CV to curating, exhibiting, or volunteering, the acquisition of professional skills has been designed and written in to the programmes of study by staff teams with ‘real world’ experiences and supported through engagement with Industry Liaison Groups, who help inform the development of the higher education curriculum.

BA (Hons) Animation — Entry Requirements

Minimum 5 GCSEs, grade C or above, from a general range of educational GCSE subjects, preferably including at least one from Art, Design, Textiles or Media.

200 UCAS Points
BTEC National Diploma - MMP grade
GCE (A-Levels) and VCE
Foundation Diploma Art art Design
VDA: AGNVQ, AVCE, AVS
Access to HE Art and Design
Irish/Scottish Highers/Advanced Highers
International Baccalaureate
Other International Qualifications

Applications welcome from candidates without formal qualifications who can provide evidence of their creativity.

BA (Hons) Animation — Resources

Immersed in a working animation studio, you’ll be surrounded with industry-standard 2D, 3D and stop-motion equipment.

We also offer regular one-to-one tutorial support throughout your study, while lectures from visiting industry experts enable you to make the transition from student to professional. Recent visits include Industrial Light & Magic, Dot To Dot Productions, BAFTA-winning King Rollo Films and Aardman Animations.

Students make full use our animation industry standard software, including Toonz Harlequin (used by Studio Ghibli), TVPaint, Maya, Celaction, and Dragonframe.
 

Facilities at the college include:


Animation, Film and Photography Studios

Our students make full use of our industry-standard dedicated studio spaces – including our infinity cove, green screen, and specialist sound studio (with Foley pit and vocal recording booth) – plus our stop-motion suite, our darkrooms, and plenty of individual edit suites, all up-to-date with the latest industry-standard software.

Our stop-motion suite.

Drawing Studios

With north-facing windows, a ‘methods and process’ area, individual studio space and a specialist life-drawing studio, our impressive, open-plan, triple-height Drawing Studio is a huge space, perfect for many different activities and specialisms.

Fab Lab

Our ‘fabrication laboratory’ is kitted-out with the latest in digital design technologies – from 3D printers to 3D scanners, a vinyl cutter, CNC milling machine, CNC router and laser cutter. It adds a whole new level of opportunity for students across all creative walks of life.

Students have full access to our range of 3D technologies in our Fab Lab.

Fine Art Printmaking Studios

A fantastic facility supporting fine art printmaking, our dedicated space caters for a wide range of programmes and processes. You’ll get access to a 150-year-old Columbian press, an Albion press, an historic and rare wallpaper press, and an automatic FAG proofing press, plus a broad selection of metal and wood type, vacuum screen-printing beds, and four etching presses.

The Print Lab and Equipment Resource Centre

The Print Lab offers affordable and quick print services for all our students who are looking for anything from large-format or solvent printing, to photo printing, scanning or vinyl cutting, and a wide range of finishing services. And our highly experienced Equipment Resource staff can advise you on which of our 6,000 pieces of industry-standard kit – from underwater cameras to traditional large format cameras and all free to hire – will best meet your needs.

Woods and Plastics Workshop

Alongside the latest in new technology, we value the long-standing traditions of making in wood and plastics – and have developed an excellently-resourced workshop that is open to all our students. It boasts a wide range of kit, including an impressive CNC router, plenty of saws and lathes, and strip-heaters, as well as greenwood-working facilities.

Our FabLab.

Our Photographic cove.

Our Fine Art Printmaking Studio.

UCAS Code: W61M Full Time
Part Time

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