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Special Effects Design BSc (Hons)


What is Unistats?

Key Information Set (KIS) Data is only gathered for undergraduate full-time courses. There are a number of reasons why this course does not have KIS data associated with it. For example, it may be a franchise course run at a partner college or a course designed for continuing professional development.


The BSc (Hons) Special Effects Design (SFXD) is a highly specialised degree course that builds on our successful Product Design courses and is for students interested in developing the skills and knowledge needed to design special effects for TV, film, theatre and advertising. You'll develop the skills, knowledge and competencies need to meet this industry's unique needs and challenges.

Please note that this course is only open to applications for September 2018 entry. To view other courses which are open for 2017 recruitment, please visit our course finder.

5 reasons to study here

Focused studies: A highly specialised course for those who aspire to design physical ‘Special Effects’.
Practical approach: Includes a high proportion of prototyping and model making including miniatures, sculpture, mould making and prosthetic make-up.
Ready for business: Prepares students for working in a commercial environment by building skills in business awareness, budgeting, project planning and scheduling processes.
Work experience: Complete your third year in a paid professional work placement.
Strong alumni network: Become part of an 80,000-strong LSBU alumni network.

This degree course covers...

You'll be encouraged to think about the subject broadly, drawing on influences from outside the industry. Your creative and intellectual abilities will be developed, and you'll gain critical self-awareness and confidence in making judgements. This course covers:

  • art and sound design
  • 2D animation
  • visual effects aesthetics
  • digital sculpting
  • design communications
  • 3D CAD
  • additive manufacture

You'll display your work at our end of year degree show.

Key course information - ordered by mode
Mode Duration Start date Location
4 years
Start Date
Southwark Campus
3 years
Start Date
Southwark Campus


Year 1

  • Introduction to prop and model making
    Both the SFX and Theatre Technology courses require you to be familiar with a number of traditional model making techniques to develop a solution from a 2D concept through to 3D props, models and other artefacts. This module will give you a foundation in a range of prototyping materials and techniques that can be used to communicate the 3D physical form of a prop, design or model. Initially you'll be given designs and drawings to visualise in 3D, as the module progresses you'll have some design input into the design of your props and models. Assessment method: 100% coursework.
  • Introduction to light and sound
    This module introduces you to the fundamentals of technical theatre, with particular focus on theatre lighting and sound technology. The module will introduce the basics of light and sound installation and operation and will include practical work with lighting and sound equipment. An understanding of the specific risks associated with theatre production activity and safe-working practices are integrated into the module. Assessment method: 50% exam 50% coursework.
  • Digital design and modelling
    This module provides an introduction to the principles and use of Computer Aided Design techniques and software for product and engineering design. Assessment method: 100% coursework.
  • Post production
    The module unpacks two key areas; Storytelling, which is the fundamental reason for producing the SFXD/VFX shots.  Exploring ‘the cut’, its influence on the viewer, genre conventions, and the impact photo real elements can make to the ‘believability’ of the story. Teaching elements including pre-vis, sound effects, mixing, and colour grading are all areas in which you'll gain knowledge and practical experience. The second key area delivers technical knowledge around file formats, codecs, colour principals, resolutions, and post-production workflows for delivery to online, TV and film platforms. The core principles of asset and data management essential to a fluid workflow may also be explored. The management of this media, and data allows the compositor to combine elements (real world, SFX, CG, matte painting etc) from numerous sources and formats and composite them. You'll develop an understanding of the historical context in which Post Production operates helps shape meaning, form and structure and informs creative decisions made by editors. Assessment method: 100% coursework.
  • The creative industries

Year 2

  • Design and manufacture by project SFXD
    This module will allow you to investigate how your ‘design thinking’ techniques and methods coupled with your engineering analysis and practical skills, and apply them to the design development and production of a working prototype of a product. Assessment method: 100% coursework.
  • Design contexts and communications
    This module will enhance fundamental employability skills for a graduate in the contemporary design industry. It builds on the concepts that were introduced in Level 4 modules, with a view to creation of a professional portfolio that reflects your design capabilities, in order to leave you in a strong position for gaining a work placement and/or graduate employment. Assessment method: 100% coursework.
  • Special effects design
    This module will raise your awareness of new design approaches, emerging technological and scientific research, as well as ethical, economic and sociocultural changes in the society. It will enhance your ability to address and think critically about future challenges. It will also explore new design methods to provide opportunities for interdisciplinary skills to be developed. Projects will encourage you to be informed by different perspectives, people and disciplines, enabling collaborative exchange of knowledge. Assessment method: 100% coursework.
  • Virtual engineering and CAD
    This module will help you develop advanced Computer Aided Design skills and will introduce you to the principles of Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) and Computer Aided Manufacture (CAM). Assessment method: 100% coursework.
  • Shared filmed performance
    The use of special effects dates back to the early 1900s. Optical and mechanical effects were both used in George Melies early films and were built upon and refined over the next 80 plus years. Much of this work transitioned into digital VFX,  although robotics and animatronics continue to this today. Some individual special effects elements are still filmed ‘live’ currently, but they are composited together with CG and other real world elements in post production. A study of the history and art of special effects gives students a great incite into the processes and terminology, which, in part still exists today. There are opportunities to visit the special effects museum of Karel Zeman. It is also an opportunity to look at films such as Star Wars and the development of ‘Industrial Light and Magic’, which was fundamental in pushing the boundaries of what was deemed possible in analogue film making at that time. This module provides an idea opportunity for making and filming special effects and embedding these seamlessly into a digitally composited shot. The module with be part of a collaboration with the BSc in SFX and Theatre Technology students and allows for the opportunity to make a short film from concept through production to post.
  • The art of illusion and spectacle
    This theoretical module will explore the wider historical and cultural contexts of the visual effects industry, focusing particularly on the art of illusion and the spectacle. The programme will begin with a review of techniques used in the medieval mystery plays, and move on through the visual illusions of the Elizabeth and Victorian theatres and music halls. The use of the magic lantern (1700-1860’s) primed audiences for projected entertainment (Parkinson, 2011). The work of George Melies, who was inspired by the magic lantern shows) and Karel Zeman is reviewed, in particular how they blended theatre with film and costume to create the spectacle. The module then turns to examine in-camera effects, using German Cinematographer Eugen Schufftan’s work on Metropolis (1926) and Peter Jackson’s artistry in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) amongst other examples. The latest in the Star Wars movies, The Force Awakens, incorporated CGI but also went back to 35mm film and practical effects, “using real-scale so judiciously that you would then buy things that were illusions” (George Lucas, Wired, Jan/Feb, 2016 :140). Assessment method: 100% coursework.

Year 3

  • Industrial placement
    Students benefit enormously from spending a period of time in industry, whatever course they undertake. This module is designed to provide you with first-hand knowledge and experience in an appropriate industrial setting. Some design and creative industries work largely on the basis of long-term salaried positions, others work on the basis of subcontracted and specialist working, usually of a short-term nature. You're required to work in a situation where you're accountable to an outside company or person for the work you carry out. The employment in total needs to be the equivalent of at least a complete academic year in some form of appropriately employed or voluntary capacity within the industry, in its broadest terms. You're required to have access to the local management in order to understand the ways in which management decisions and actions take place, as well as concentrating on achieving the best performance possible in the technicalities of the placement work. Assessment method: 100% coursework.

Year 4

  • Research methods
    In this module you'll identify a suitable subject for your Design Project; you'll then develop a project brief and work plan, which will be presented visually and verbally in addition to your preliminary contextual research and justification for the proposed project. You'll also develop brand identity for the Design Degree Show, which may be pitched to experts and/or design professionals. Assessment method: 100% coursework.
  • Dissertation 
  • SFXD portfolio projects
  • Innovation and enterprise
    In the rapidly changing world around us, it's imperative that you're able to think dynamically to create advantage in your life. This module encourages you to question what you see and experience around you and in your prospective engineering field with an aim to enhance your creativity to discover new and better ways of doing things. It aims to equip you with methods and processes to recognise opportunities and to plan on harnessing commercially viable benefits that may exist from exploiting those opportunities in a sustainable fashion. This might be a product or service (such as consultancy or contract management). The application of project management principles will help to define the critical path of a proposed business and how the many processes involved (planning, market research, market placement, finance, operations, human resources etc.) are interlinked throughout the initial planning exercise and how they can change over time. You'll be expected to reflect on what you can contribute towards a group. Assessment method: 100% coursework. 
  • SFXD Major project
    SFXD Project requires you to develop a solution from concept through to artefact based on the subject that is identified via Research Methods for Design Projects module. The artefact may be physical and/or digital and the design output could include system or service design. The project deliverables include, a detailed record of the design development, a fully developed artefact, and an analytical and reflective review. The project provides an opportunity to explore a chosen specialist field in order to develop expertise and demonstrate depth of understanding. In order to execute their individual projects you'll draw on selected tools and resources learned in previous modules and produce a coherent and professional methodology for the intended solution.

This course is assessed by 100% coursework.


LSBU Employability Service

We are University of the Year for Graduate Employment - The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018

LSBU is committed to supporting you develop your employability and succeed in getting a job after you have graduated. Your qualification will certainly help, but in a competitive market you also need to work on your employability, and on your career search.

As an LSBU student you have access to the Employability Service and its resources during your time here and for two years after you graduate.

Our Employability Service will support you in developing your skills, finding a job, interview techniques, work experience or a placement/internship, and will help you assess what you need to do to get the career you want at the end of your course. LSBU offers a comprehensive Employability Service, with a range of initiatives to complement your studies, including:

  • Direct engagement from employers who come in to network with students
  • Job Shop – daily drop in service to help with, tailoring CVs, cover letters and applications, sourcing online resource, mock interviews and general job searching. One to one appointments for further support also available
  • Mentoring and work shadowing schemes
  • Higher education achievement report - The HEAR is designed to encourage a more sophisticated approach to recording student achievement, which acknowledges fully the range of opportunities that LSBU offers to our students.
    It pulls into one certificate: Module grades, Course descriptions, Placements, LSBU verified extra-curricular activities
  • Employability workshops - delivered free to students all year round on a variety of related topics
  • Careers fairs throughout the year to really focus your thoughts on a career after university

Find out about any of these services by visiting our student employability page


In your third year you'll undertake a 30 week placement in a relevant industry - TV, theatre, film or model making or advertising company. You'll be supported in finding this placement by the course team and the University employability service.


Ben Clarke

School/Division: Engineering / Mechanical Engineering and Design
Job title: Lecturer in Engineering Product Design


Teaching and learning

Special Effects Design is the ultimate synthesis of art and engineering so learning is primarily experiential and by ‘doing’. This is supported by more formal lectures, seminars and tutorials. Discussion and debate are important parts of the programme and help to develop your ability to analyse, criticise and assess your own and others’ work as part of the design process. 

As well as facilitating the development of technical expertise, and knowledge, you'll develop your own individuality and aesthetic sensibilities throughout the programme.

At the end of each semester you'll have a 1:2:1 interview with your tutor to discuss your portfolio and progression.

Percentage of time spent in different learning activities
Lectures and seminars Self-directed study
Year 1 39% 61%
Year 2 39% 61%
Year 3 33% 67%

Entry requirements

2018 Entry

  • A Level BBB or;
  • BTEC National Diploma DDM or;
  • Access to HE qualifications with 24 Distinctions 21 Merits, must include a minimum 3 Merits in Maths, Design Technology and Physics or;
  • Equivalent level 3 qualifications worth 128 UCAS points
  • Applicants must hold 5 GCSEs A-C including Maths and English or equivalent (reformed GCSEs grade 4 or above).
  • This includes 3D design or 3D art qualification, plus a portfolio and interview.

We welcome qualifications from around the world. English language qualifications for international students: IELTS score of 6.0 or Cambridge Proficiency or Advanced Grade C.

How to apply

International (non Home/EU) applicants should follow our international how to apply guide.

Instructions for Home/EU applicants
Mode Duration Start date Application code Application method
4 years
Start date
Application code
Application method
3 years
Start date
Application code
Application method

Please note that this course is only open to applications for September 2018 entry. To view other courses which are open for 2017 recruitment, please visit our course finder.

All full-time undergraduate students apply to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) using the University's Institution Code L75. Full details of how to do this are supplied on our How to apply webpage for undergraduate students.

All part-time students should apply directly to London South Bank University and full details of how to do this are given on our undergraduate How to apply webpage.


Students should apply for accommodation at London South Bank University (LSBU) as soon as possible, once we have made an offer of a place on one of our academic courses. Read more about applying for accommodation at LSBU.


It's a good idea to think about how you'll pay university tuition and maintenance costs while you're still applying for a place to study. Remember – you don't need to wait for a confirmed place on a course to start applying for student finance. Read how to pay your fees as an undergraduate student.

Fees and funding

For more information, including how and when to pay, see our fees and funding section for undergraduate students.

Possible fee changes

Current regulatory proposals suggest that institutions will be permitted to increase fee levels in line with inflation up to a specified fee cap. Specifically, LSBU may be permitted to increase its fees for new and existing Home and EU undergraduate students from 2017/18 onwards. The University reserves the right to increase its fees in line with changes to legislation, regulation and any governmental guidance or decisions.

The fees for international students are reviewed annually, and additionally the University reserves the right to increase tuition fees in line with inflation up to 4 per cent.


We offer students considerable financial help through scholarships, bursaries, charitable funds, loans and other financial support. Many of our scholarships are given as direct tuition fee discounts and we encourage all eligible students to apply for our Access Bursary. New home full-time undergraduate students meeting eligibility criteria could receive a £1,000 cash bursary by joining us in the 2017/18 academic year. Find out more about all our scholarships and fee discounts for undergraduate students.

International students

As well as being potentially eligible for our undergraduate scholarships, International students can also benefit from a range of specialist scholarships. Find out more about International scholarships.

Please check your fee status and whether you are considered a home, EU or international student for fee-paying purposes by reading the UKCISA regulations.

Case studies

Select a case study and read about practical project work, students' placement experiences, research projects, alumni career achievements and what it’s really like to study here from the student perspective.

Prepare to start

We help our students prepare for university even before the semester starts. To find out when you should apply for your LSBU accommodation or student finance read the How to apply tab for this course.

Applicant Open Days

To help you and your family feel confident about your university choice we run Applicant Open Days. These are held at subject level so students start getting to know each other and the academic staff who will be teaching them. These events are for applicants only and as an applicant you would receive an email invitation to attend the relevant event for your subject.

Enrolment and Induction

Enrolment takes place before you start your course. On completing the process, new students formally join the University. Enrolment consists of two stages: online, and your face-to-face enrolment meeting. The online process is an online data gathering exercise that you will complete yourself, then you will be invited to your face-to-face enrolment meeting.

In September, applicants who have accepted an unconditional offer to study at LSBU will be sent details of induction, which is when they are welcomed to the University and their School. Induction helps you get the best out of your university experience, and makes sure you have all the tools to succeed in your studies.

Read more about Enrolment and Induction.

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Contact information

Course Enquiries - UK/EU

Tel: 0800 923 8888

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7815 6100

Get in touch

Course Enquiries - International

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7815 6189

Get in touch
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