What are the top visual effects schools in the midwest for 2022?

Top 5 Visual Effects (VFX) Schools in the Midwest - 2022 College Rankings
1Columbia College ChicagoIllinois
2DePaul UniversityIllinois
3Purdue UniversityIndiana
4Columbus College of Art & DesignOhio
5College for Creative StudiesMichigan

Our 2022 rankings of the Top 5 visual effect schools in the Midwest, our first annual rankings for VFX. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago

The School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago houses the Department of Cinema and Television Arts, home to the Film Program. The Film and Television BFA here provides the opportunity concentrate in Cinema Visual Effects (CVFX). The concentration consists of 12 courses including CVFX Foundations, Computer Animation: Visual Effects, Motion Graphics I-II, Cinema Color I-II, Editing I and Editing I Studio, Computer Animation: Keyframing, CVFX Cinematography I, and CVFX Compositing I-II.

All students will have the opportunity to participate in the multidisciplinary Semester in LA Program (SiLA). This program allows students to work, live, and study in Hollywood for an entire semester. Features include networking events, courses held at Sunset Las Palmas Studios, a 15-20 hour a week LA-based internship, attendance at tapings, tours, and exclusive events. SiLA also provides intensive week-long workshops in January and the summer.

Columbia College Chicago graduates work at a variety of networks and studios including Warner Bros., DreamWorks Studios, Weta Digital, Disney, Nickelodeon, Pixar, and Cartoon Network, among others.

Founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory, Columbia College Chicago serves 7,000 students enrolled in more than 150 majors, minors, and graduate programs. In addition to offering programs in creative areas such as communication and writing, media and digital, and music and sound, Columbia offers business management programs. Columbia College Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

2. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) at DePaul University (DePaul) houses the School of Cinematic Arts, home to the Film & Television Program. Degree options for Visual Effects (VFX) Artists include a BFA and MS in Film & Television, a VFX Minor, and a BFA in Animation with a VFX Animation Concentration. Both the BFA and MS in Film & Television offer a VFX Concentration.

Across programs, students will take courses such as Introduction to Visual Effects, Visual Effects Cinematography, Advanced Topics in Visual Effects, Visual Effects Supervision, 3D Motion Graphics, Compositing I-II, 3D Texturing and Lighting, Advanced Color Correction, 3D Design & Modeling, Coding for Audio and Video, CG Compositing, Editing I-II, Virtual Cinematography, Previsualization, Virtual Cinema, and Post-Production.

Other CDM features include access to the latest software, tools, and technologies including Cintiq labs; 3D motion capture, motion control, and sophisticated sound studios; 3D printing, stop motion stages and fabrication studios; and professional-level animation and effects software; participation in the 10-week immersive Los Angeles Quarter Program where students will have opportunities to intern at major Hollywood studios such Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Studios, Nickelodeon, The Jim Henson Company, Titmouse Animation, Bix Pix Animation, and Warner Brothers; and the visiting artist series, where past guests have included artists from Pixar and Disney.

Students also have access to Animation Lodge and they may participate in Project Bluelight. Students at The Lodge collaborate on group projects, network, and build their portfolios. Bluelight provides hands-on experience in motion picture production to all interested students.

Graduates of Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University have been hired at DreamWorks Animation, LAIKA Studios, Warner Bros. Animation, Blizzard Entertainment, BioWare, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, ShadowMachine, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Electronic Arts (EA), Cartoon Network, Iron Galaxy Studios, and The Mill, among others.

DePaul University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). With 21,670 students, more than 300 programs, two campuses, and 10 academic colleges, DePaul University is the largest Catholic university in the United States. Founded in 1898, DePaul is also America’s 13th-largest private, not-for-profit university, and the largest private, not-for-profit college in the Midwest.

3. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University

Purdue University (Purdue) is home to Purdue Polytechnic Institute—one of the 10 academic colleges at the university. Purdue Polytechnic houses the Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) which has several pathways to study visual effects (VFX). Options include the BS, MS, and accelerated 5-Year BS/MS in CGT. The undergraduate program offers a major in Animation and Visual Effects.

Visual Effects at Purdue is a STEM-based discipline, so all students will take courses such as Physics, Calculus, and Trigonometry. Programs also explore the business side of the film and entertainment business, so students will take marketing, management, business writing, and entrepreneurship courses.

Other course examples across programs include Visual Effects Introduction, Visual Effects: Particles And Procedural Effects, Visual Effects – Pyrotechnics And Destruction Effects, The History And technique Of Visual Effects in Film, 3D Modeling, Rendering, and Texturing, Digital Lighting, Audio, Computer Graphics, Compositing, Motion, Character Rigging, and Lighting.

Students will have opportunities to create visual effects and animations using industry-standard programs such as Autodesk Maya. Production facilities include the Visual Effects Lab, IDEA Lab, High Performance Computer Graphics Laboratory, Heavilon Lab, Games Innovation Laboratory, and the Digital Enterprise Center.

Other CGT features include training on the LightCraft Previzion System (the same visual effects system used in Hollywood productions), real-world projects with real clients, access to  innovative tools for animation and visual effects compositing, professors who are leading experts in their respective fields, and networking opportunities through Purdue’s ACM SIGGRAPH (Association of Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques) chapter—the first student chapter of the professional computer graphics organization.

Graduates of the CGT Programs at Purdue Polytechnic Institute are routinely hired at Walt Disney, DreamWorks, and Google, among others. 

Purdue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Established in 1869, the school serves nearly 50,000 students, with around 6,000 enrolled in Purdue Polytechnic Institute. Purdue offers more than 400 programs in 10 colleges and schools. Purdue Polytechnic Institute was founded in 1964 as Purdue University’s School of Technology. The Institute houses seven departments and schools offering dozens of technology-centered programs.

4. Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus College of Art & Design

The Film & Video BFA and the Animation BFA at Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) allows students to study visual effects through required coursework, electives from any major, and dozens of minor and concentration options. Course examples for the Flim & Video Program include Video 1: Editing and Production, Digital Cinema, Lighting Design, Video 2: Camera Techniques, Experimental Animation, Video 3: Advanced Production Techniques, and Sound Design.

Course examples for the Animation Program include 3D Animation Modeling and Surfacing, 3D Character Animation Simulation, 2D and 3D Fundamentals, 3D Animation Light and Compositing, Pipeline + Production Fundamentals, SODA Collaboration Across the Design Arts, and Animation Lab Production.

CCAD students have access to industry-standard equipment and software; fully equipped shooting studios, screening rooms, 4K cameras, audio recorders, microphones, tripods, lights, studio and field grip equipment; 24-inch Cintiq tablets; camera dollies and jib arms Mac labs; editing stations; stop-motion lab equipped with DSLRs and Dragonframe; state-of-the-art computer teaching lab; virtual reality drawing lab; the Tad Jeffrey FabLab outfitted with laser cutters, 3D printers, spray booths, and CNC machine; and production software including Adobe Creative Suite, DaVinci Resolve, and Toon Boom Sound recording booth.

Columbus College of Art & Design graduates are prepared for careers such as Visual Effects Artist, Effects House Animator, Motion Graphics Artist, Cinematographer, Technical Artist, Live Theater Effects Designer, Motion Designer, Director, Editor, Production Designer, and Animator. Graduates have been hired at DreamWorks Animation, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Universal, Cartoon Network, BET, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Riot Games, Electronic Arts (EA), Blizzard Entertainment, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Laika, Bento Box Entertainment, among others.

Columbus College of Art & Design is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). CCAD is also affiliated with the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD). Columbus College of Art & Design was established in 1879, making it one of the nation’s oldest private, nonprofit art and design schools. Serving more than 1,000 students, CCAD offers more than a dozen degree programs, as well as dozens of concentrations and minor options.

5. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
College for Creative Studies

The College for Creative Studies (CCS) has several pathways to study visual effects (VFX). The Entertainment Art BFA Program is one of the largest offerings at CCS, and provides Concentrations in Animation, Digital Film, Concept Design, and Game Design. All concentration areas are STEM-designated with access to courses such as Film Graphics & VFX I-II, Game Art (includes VFX), Motion 3D, Color Theory, Digital Animation, Scoring for Film, Experimental Filmmaking, Modeling & Texturing, Digital Filmmaking, Character Rigging, Stop Motion, 3D Computer Graphics, Computer Character Animation, Lighting for Digital Film, and Creative Visualization.

CCS students have the option to customize the curriculum by taking coursework from all concentration areas. Internships are strongly encouraged, and students are required to complete the Writing Workshop and Senior Production Studio courses.

Graduates of the Entertainment Art Programs at CCS Animation are VFX Artists, Riggers, Directors, Animators, Editors, Creative Directors, Cinematographers, and Studio Owners. CCS alumni have been hired at  Sony Pictures Imageworks, Disney, ABC Television Group, and DreamWorks Animation, among others.  

College for Creative Studies is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The school is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Founded in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, CCS serves more than 1,400 students enrolled in more than 30 art and design programs at all degree levels.