What are the top midwest visual effects schools for 2023?

Top 5 Midwest Visual Effects (VFX) Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1DePaul UniversityIllinois
2Columbia College ChicagoIllinois
3Purdue UniversityIndiana
4College for Creative StudiesMichigan
5Webster UniversityMissouri

Our 2023 list of the Top 5 Visual Effects Programs in the Midwest, our second annual rankings for VFX. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.

1. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) at DePaul University (DePaul) is home to the School of Cinematic Arts, which has several paths to study Visual Effects (VFX). Options include BFA and MS degrees in Film & Television, a VFX Minor, and an Animation BFA. Both the BFA and MS degrees in Film & Television provide the opportunity to Concentrate in VFX. The Animation BA has a VFX Animation 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, Producing for Animation and VFX, Advanced Color Correction, 3D Design & Modeling, Coding for Audio and Video, CG Compositing, Editing I-II, Virtual Cinematography, Previsualization, Virtual Cinema, and Post-Production.

Students in all Programs have 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. Students also have access to the Animation Lodge, where they have opportunities to collaborate on group projects, network, and build their portfolios.

Other Program features include Project Bluelight, which provides hands-on experience in motion picture production to all interested students; the visiting artist series, where past guests have included artists from Pixar and Disney; and participation in the 10-week immersive Los Angeles Quarter Program where students have opportunities to intern at major Hollywood studios such Disney, Warner Brothers, DreamWorks Animation, Sony, Nickelodeon, The Jim Henson Company, Bix Pix Entertainment, and Titmouse.

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, ShadowMachine, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Electronic Arts (EA), Cartoon Network, Iron Galaxy Studios, and The Mill, among others.

DePaul University provides exceptional academics and real-world experiences to prepare students for a changing world. With nearly 21,000 students across more than 300 academic programs, DePaul has two campus locations in Chicago. Students richly benefit from the city’s many opportunities. In turn, DePaul is one of the forces that shapes Chicago’s future. The university was founded in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), a Roman Catholic religious community dedicated to following the ideals of St. Vincent de Paul. DePaul is among the nation’s top universities for diversity because of its long tradition of providing a high-quality education to students from a broad range of backgrounds. DePaul is one of the largest private, nonprofit universities in the Midwest and one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation.

2. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago

Columbia College Chicago houses the School of Media Arts, home to the Department of Cinema and Television Arts. Within the Department is a Cinema Visual Effects (CVFX) Concentration that prepares students for direct entry into the field. The CVFX Concentration is one of the eight areas open to Film and Television BFA Majors.

The Program begins with two Foundations courses including Cinema Notebooks and Cinema Image. These courses are taught back-to-back to give students an idea of what it’s like to work on a real production set. Columbia College also produces hundreds of film each year, allowing students to work on set with Film students at all degree levels.

The Cinema Visual Effects 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.

Examples of Film and Television course requirements include Cinematic Storytelling, World Cinema I-II, and Cinema and Television Production. BFA students will also complete BFA Studio, BFA Research and Presentation, and the BFA Thesis across two course.

All Film and Television 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. SiLA consists of a 15-20 hour a week LA-based internship; intensive week-long workshops in January and the summer; attendance at tapings, tours, and exclusive events; courses held at Sunset Las Palmas Studios; and networking events.

The Film and Television BFA/CVFX Program culminates with the production and completion of a short, festival-quality film. CVFX students will contribute what they’ve learned during this culminating experience.

Graduates of Columbia College Chicago have been recruited by major networks and studios such as Disney, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Warner Bros., DreamWorks Studios, Weta FX, and Cartoon Network.

Columbia College Chicago was established in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory. The school serves nearly 6,700 students enrolled in more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. In addition to 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).

3. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University

Purdue University (Purdue) houses Purdue Polytechnic Institute (Purdue Polytechnic). One of the school’s 10 academic colleges, Purdue Polytechnic is home to the Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT), which has several paths to study visual effects (VFX). Options include the BS, MS, accelerated 5-Year BS/MS, and PhD in CGT. Students in all programs have the opportunity to major or concentrate in Animation and Visual Effects.

The Computer Graphics Technology Program at Purdue University is accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET). Visual Effects at Purdue University is a STEM-based discipline, so all students must take courses such as Calculus, Trigonometry, and Physics. The CGT Programs also explore the business side of the film and entertainment business, so students will take Business Writing, Management, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship courses.

Across Programs, VFX students will also take courses such as  Visual Effects Introduction, Visual Effects: Particles And Procedural Effects, Visual Effects – Pyrotechnics And Destruction Effects, Post-Production And Special Effects For Computer Animation, Sketching For Visualization And Communication, The History And Technique of Visual Effects in Film, Geometric Modeling For Visualization and Communication, Motion for Computer Animation, Computer Graphics Programming, and Modeling for Entertainment Graphics.

Other CGT Program features include opportunities to create visual effects and animations using industry-standard programs such as Autodesk Maya; access to the Visual Effects Lab, IDEA Lab, High Performance Computer Graphics Laboratory, Heavilon Lab, Games Innovation Laboratory, and the Digital Enterprise Center; and training on the LightCraft Previzion System—the same visual effects system used in Hollywood productions.

All CGT students at Purdue University will work on real-world projects with real clients. These projects are led by professors who are experts in their respective fields. CGT students also have networking opportunities through Purdue’s ACM SIGGRAPH chapter.

Graduates of the CGT Programs at Purdue University enjoy a near 90% job placement rate. Program alumni are routinely hired by major studios and companies such as Google, Walt Disney, and DreamWorks.

Established in 1869, Purdue University is Indiana’s Land Grant University. This public school opened with six instructors and 39 students on September 16, 1874. Today, Purdue employs more than 10,000 full-time faculty members and employees that serve approximately 50,885 students from all 50 states and 130 countries. The school provides more than 400 programs in 11 colleges and schools. Purdue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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

The College for Creative Studies (CCS) is one of the first schools in the Midwest to receive accreditation from Toon Boom’s Center of Excellence (COE) Program. More than 500 industry studios use Toon Boom 2D Software to create films, games, TV shows, and advertisements. Demand is high for artists with  experience in Toon Boom, which means CCS graduates have an advantage once they enter the job market.

In addition to Toon Boom accreditation, the College for Creative Studies has several paths to study Visual Effects (VFX) including the Film BFA and the Entertainment Art BFA. The Film Program requires 126-127 credits and explores film theory, history, and techniques, as well as storytelling. Course examples include Film Graphics & VFX I, 2D & 3D Integrated Design Studio, Color & Light Studies, 4D Design Studio, Film Graphics & VFX II, Experimental Filmmaking, and Sound Design I.

Film BFA students will have the opportunity to focus their studies further through electives and the creation of several productions in their chosen area during the course of the program. Students may also gain production experience through an internship. The culminating experience for the Film BFA is the Film Thesis completed across two courses.

The Entertainment Art BFA, which is one of the schools largest programs. The BFA provides several paths to study Visual Effects (VFX) through Concentrations in Digital Film, Animation, Game Design, and Concept Design. The College for Creative Studies provides the unique opportunity to customize the Entertainment Art BFA curriculum by taking coursework from all Concentration areas.

All Concentration areas are STEM-designated and provide access to courses such as Film Graphics & VFX I-II, Game Art (includes VFX), Digital Animation, 3D Computer Graphics, Character Rigging, Digital Filmmaking, Animation Nuts and Bolts, Stop Motion, Computer Character Animation, Digital Techniques, Creative Visualization, Animation I-III, Experimental Filmmaking, Modeling & Texturing, Scoring for Film, Process & Making, and Senior Production Studio I-II. Students will also have the opportunity to complete an internship.

Graduates of the Film and Entertainment Art Programs at College for Creative Studies are VFX Artists, Animators, Game Designers, Riggers, Directors, Editors, Cinematographers, Creative Directors, and Studio Owners. CCS alumni have been hired by major studios such as DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, ABC Television Group, and Disney.

Founded in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, College for Creative Studies is a private, nonprofit institution that serves more than 1,400 students enrolled in 23 Art and Design programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. CCS is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and it is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

5. Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri
Webster University

The School of Communications at Webster University (Webster) houses the Media Arts Department, home to the Film, Television and Video Production (FTVP) Program. Leading to BA, the FVTP Program has four Areas of study including Postproduction, Cinematography, Producing and Directing Narrative Films, and Documentary Film and Video. While all areas provide opportunities to study Visual Effects (VFX) through electives, the Postproduction Area is ideal for students who would like to Specialize in VFX.

Course examples for the Postproduction Area include Visual Effects, Motion Graphics, and Advanced Edit and Color. Students will also take courses such as Graphics and Effects, Advanced Edit and Color, Experimental Film and Video, Cinematography, Produce and Direct, Audio Production, Advanced Camera and Light, StoryLab, and Production House.

All students in the FTVP BA Program at Webster University will take a minimum of nine credit hours in Theory. Course examples include History of Animation, Modern World Cinema, and Topics in Film Studies.

Graduates of the Film, Television and Video Production (FTVP) Program at Webster University are prepared to pursue careers in VFX and other areas of Film and Animation; Game Design and Development; and Television Production. Program alumni  have worked on films and TV shows such as Spider-Man 2, The Bourne Ultimatum, Manchester by the Sea, Moonrise Kingdom, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Ghost Who Walks, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Late Night with Seth Meyer.

Alumni have produced works for Marvel Studios and Sundance. Projects can also be found on Amazon Prime, Netflix, Nickelodeon, MTV, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Disney, Hallmark Channel, TLC, Fox Network, ESPN, and the History Channel.

Webster University was founded in 1915 as Loretto College by the Sisters of Loretto. When it opened, the school became the first senior Catholic college for women in Missouri and one of the first Catholic women’s colleges west of the Mississippi River. Today, Webster serves a diverse population of more than 10,000 students enrolled in more than 160 programs across five colleges and schools. Webster University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).