Best Online Schools to learn Visual Effects (VFX) in 2020
There are plenty of amazing schools available to learn visual effects on campus, but the landscape is changing and many of these schools are scrambling to figure out how to move their courses online. The good news is that there are already a bunch of well established online schools with strong reputations and a long list of alumni that have graduated and moved into professional roles.
If you are looking to learn Visual Effects online from home, the following list of schools is the best place to start. They all have solid curriculums, teachers with industry experience, great online tools and the exceptional support services to help you get where you need to go.
Back in the day, this was the school I always wanted to attend. Having visited the facilities as a guest in recent times it gave me a serious case of FOMO. Gnomon really are the gold class in teaching creative media and entertainment. They always rank in the Best Visual Effects Schools in the World which is another clear indicator of their ability to teach aspiring artists.
Gnomon’s online courses put you in a virtual classroom with direct access to working industry professionals and your peers. They have a full range of courses such as: Creature modeling and sculpting, Hard Surface Modeling, Introduction to 3d, Photoshop for digital production.
Each of the courses are taught by working professionals and are well versed in the most up-to-date software, hardware and techniques used in the film, game, television and advertising fields.
- one of the best schools in the world
- solid curriculum and lecturers
- student work is breathtaking
- pricey (but worth it)
- you'll have FOMO not attending campus
Think Tank Training Centre
Ever since I met the team behind Think Tank Training Centre while attending SIGGRAPH in Vancouver I've been a massive supporter of this school. They recently ranked #1 in Canada (#4 worldwide) for Game Development, and #2 in Canada (#3 worldwide) for Visual Effects, and have consistently placed in the top four in previous years for the Best Visual Effects School in the World Global Rankings.
Think Tank Training Centre offers a specialised CG Training Program online that focuses on the latest software, techniques and technologies used by 3D artists working in the film, television and video game industries. They too have an experienced line-up of lecturers ready to guide you through the curriculum and even help build your network outside.
The online visual effects course takes 16 months and focuses on asset creation. When you graduate you will be a rockstar in modeling, texturing, characters, environments and everything else in between. The student work speaks for itself and is always exciting to judge each year in the Rookie Awards.
- amazing team
- rock solid curriculum and online tools
- student work is exceptional
- you'll have FOMO from not attending campus
I've been a massive fan of CG Spectrum and their team for longer than I can remember. They have established an incredible team and built their curriculum up over the years and perfected the way creative media courses can be taught online. Unlike many other schools, CG Spectrum only offers online courses which means they are not distracted with issues facing other schools that run campuses.
CG Spectrum’s comprehensive online courses are taught by award-winning industry mentors to ensure everyone graduates with the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career in the entertainment industry.
They have a huge list of online courses such as Introduction to 3D Modeling, Advanced 3D Modeling Diploma, Advanced Illustration Diploma, Foundations in Visual Effects, Nuke VFX Compositing Diploma.
A recent exciting addition to CG Spectrum's lineup is they now offer a Bachelor of Animation & VFX in partnership with Collarts. This is huge deal because Bachelor degrees are traditionally only offered on campus.
- impressive and well established online portal
- passionate and experienced team with strong industry connections
- pricing is very reasonable
- student showcase could be better (word is that it's coming soon!)
Academy of Art University
Academy of Art University is another well established school with a solid online curriculum and facilities. Their main course that you will be interested in checking out is the Online Animation and Visual Effects Degree.
As an online student, you get to work with the same expert instructors as they do on campus. You will get hands-on training and real-world industry advice at your fingertips. The course is delivered with original instructional videos, audio-enhanced slideshows, digital documentation, interviews with field experts and bunch of livestreams for good measure.
Similar to the other courses mentioned here, they have an online portal that allows you to submit your work, exchange ideas and get constructive feedback.
- supported by high profile university
- mixed reviews about school and teachers experience
FXPHD has been around as long as I can remember. The website doesn't change much, but the curriculum is clearly where their energy is placed and it pays off. The team behind FXPHD are from fxguide.com so they know there stuff.
The online courses are run online 24/7 via their full professional training center which means you can learn during renders, at night or weekends — it is up to you. As you work through the courses, you have access to a professor via online forums to answer questions and guide you. There are practical files to download from real shots and projects.
- strong reputation
- focused curriculum for fx
- tech feels outdated
CG Masters is another well established online school for creative media artists. They too have a solid team of industry professionals that guide you through the courses and offer personalised feedback.
They have 100+ online courses with something for absolute beginners and artists looking to perfect their specialised craft such as matte painting, fx, modeling and more.
Where CGMA shines is with their dedicated Programs which are more targeted to students looking to really step up their game and get serious about a career. The smart thing about these programs is they really focus on establishing a solid foundation of core principles, tools & techniques.
There are currently 10 Programs on offer such as 3D Character Arts Program, 3D Environment Arts Program, Houdini FX Program, Compositing and more.
- cheaper pricing
- huge range of courses and programs
- short training videos each week
Academy of Interactive Entertainment
The Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) is a solid Australian game design and Visual Effects school. AIE has been running courses online since 2005 and is staffed by experienced industry professionals.
Online courses are taught in virtual classrooms where students can watch lectures, participate in live tutorials and interact with other students during and after classes. All sessions are recorded so you can go back over notes or catch-up on missed sessions. Teachers present group instruction, facilitate group projects and conduct private one-on-one support.
AIE offers a 3D Animation & VFX for Film course that runs over two years, full-time and is designed to get you into these industries.
- opportunity to meet a lot of industry pros
- huge range of courses and programs
- quite expensive
Over the next year I'm sure we'll see a surge in schools competing for the online education space. This will not only push the technology further making the online education experience more enjoyable. I personally hope it also attract a fresh batch of industry professionals interested in becoming teachers and helping give back to the community.
If you are interested in learning online, make sure to read 7 questions you must ask an art school before giving them money. The article will help you pick the right school and prevent you from getting persuaded by glossy brochures and landing pages that don't deliver any results
If you are completely overwhelmed by the whole process of picking a school, one thing I can't recommend enough is to talk to the team at Mozaik. They offer unbiased and concise information about all the best art school around the world. The best part is that the service is funded by certified schools so it doesn't cost you a cent.
As always, if you know of other great schools please ping us here and we will reach out to them to ask them all the tough questions for you first.