module specification

SM6050 - 3-D Character Animation and Effects (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title 3-D Character Animation and Effects
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   3D Character Design
Coursework 50%   Digital Character Animation with Visual Effects
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Wednesday Morning

Module summary

This module deals with advanced 3D animation theory and practice, especially in the context of character animation for narratives and games. Theoretical, technical and aesthetic aspects of character animation for arts/entertainment environments are explored, and the module enables the development of a practical understanding of the latest technologies and best practice for 3D character design, rigging and animation together with use of visual effects.


Prior learning requirements

Pass SM5000 Animation: Principles and Practice

Module aims


  • To gain a critical understanding of the scope of current character animation best practice
  • To develop effective techniques for of 3D character design
  • To develop advanced character animation and special effects skills in 3D
  • To support research into emerging issues around character driven animation in narrative, computer games and similar genres in arts/entertainment environments 


Indicative summary:

  • character development for narrative and games
  • creating skeletons, kinematics and skinning in 3D
  • character posing and rigging
  • advanced animation, creative character animation
  • morphing and blending to create expressive characters
  • visual effects in 3D
  • using dynamics and particle systems
  • use of motion capture data for animation
  • using paint effects and fluid effects to for virtual environments
  • rendering and output for interactive environments
  • cultural impact of character animation in virtual environments 

Learning and teaching

Learning and teaching in this module will involve a combination of modes, including lectures, computer workshops, tutorials and study of specially prepared online resources. Visits to animation facilities and visits from industry professionals will also be included. The standard weekly structure will comprise a one hour lecture and discussions followed by a two hour lab session. In addition support to individuals and groups will be provided through regular tutorial sessions. Key to the delivery of this module is availability of open access facilities with appropriate software for the development of animated projects. Blended learning is integral to this module and comprehensive, specially designed, online up-to-date support resources will be made available and updated weekly. These include contextual learning materials for the weekly lectures and workshops together with module booklets and materials and links relevant to assessment, facility visits, software updates, industry developments and career opportunities.


Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Design, rig and pitch an engaging 3D character suitable for animated arts/entertainment environments
  • Animate a 3D character coherently and use visual effects effectively in a narrative context for an arts/entertainment environment 

Assessment strategy

Summative assessments are strategically scheduled twice during this module with ongoing formative assessment opportunities to enable progress towards fulfilling the module’s learning outcomes. The first assessment focuses on the effective pitch of a character design for a part in an upcoming animated production (LO1). The second assessment builds on this, and ideas from Assignment 1 must be refined through self-reflection and feedback before culminating in the design and production of a video using character animation and visual effects for Assignment 2 (LO2).



Isbister, Katherine and Kaufmann, Morgan, 2006. Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological Approach (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive 3D Technology).
Hooks, Ed, 2001. Acting for Animators. Heinemann Publishing.
Kerlow, Isaac, 2009.  The Art of 3D Computer Animation and Effects, 4th Edition. John Wiley & Sons.
Keller, Eric, 2010. Mastering Autodesk Maya 2011. John Wiley & Sons.
Capodagli, Bill and Jackson, Lynn, 2010. Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons from the Worlds Most Creative Corporate Playground. McGraw-Hill Professional.
Paik, Karen and Iwerks, Leslie, 2007. To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios.
Virgin Books.
Wells, Paul, 2007. Basics Animation: Scriptwriting. SA: AVA Publishing.
Leslie, Esther, 2002. Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory, and the Avant-Garde. Verso Books.