University of Southern California
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Animation and Digital Arts

Master of Fine Arts

The Master of Fine Arts degree in Film, Video and Computer Animation is a three-year (six semester) graduate program designed for students who have clearly identified animation as their primary interest in cinema. The program focuses on animation production, including a wide range of techniques and aesthetic approaches, from hand-drawn character animation to state-of-the-art interactive computer graphics. While embracing traditional forms, the program strongly encourages innovation and experimentation, and emphasizes imagination, creativity and critical thinking. Students should graduate with a comprehensive knowledge of animation from conception through realization; an understanding of the history of the medium and its aesthetics; in-depth knowledge of computer animation software and the most important elements of film, video and interactive media.

The program requires a minimum of 50 units: 38 units are in prescribed, sequential courses in the School of Cinema-Television. The other 12 units are cinema-television electives, four of which must be taken in the Division of Critical Studies. A thesis is required for the M.F.A. degree. Ongoing workshops in life drawing and computer software provide additional educational opportunities.

Admission is granted once a year in the fall; there are no spring admissions. Approximately 14 students will be enrolled in each incoming class. In addition to practical production, the program also provides opportunities for fieldwork experience and internships to facilitate the student's transition into the profession.

Applicants for the M.F.A. in Film, Video and Computer Animation must submit a supplemental application and materials. For specific instructions, contact the Cinema-Television Animation and Digital Arts Program Office, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211, (213) 740-3986, or online at

The application deadline is February 15 for the fall semester.

Prior knowledge of fundamental computer animation concepts and techniques is recommended. Those without this background will be required to enroll in CTAN 523 Principles of Computer Animation for two of their elective units in year one.

Requirements for the M.F.A. in Film, Video and Computer Animation

Year One, First SemesterUnits
CTAN 451History of Animation2
CTAN 482Basic Motion Picture Techniques for Animators2
CTAN 522Animation Department Seminar1
CTAN 544Introduction to Film, Video, and Computer Animation3
CTAN 577aFundamentals of Animation2

Year One, Second SemesterUnits
CTAN 436Writing for Animation2
CTAN 522Animation Department Seminar1
CTAN 547Animation Production I3
CTAN 579Expanded Animation2

Year Two, First SemesterUnits
CTAN 501Interactive Animation2
CTAN 522Animation Department Seminar1
CTAN 524Contemporary Topics in Animation and Digital Arts2
CTAN 548Animation Production II3

Year Two, Second SemesterUnits
CTAN 522Animation Department Seminar1
CTAN 549Animation Production III3
CTAN 591Animation Pre-Thesis Seminar2

Year Three, First SemesterUnits
CTAN 522Animation Department Seminar1
CTAN 594aMaster's Thesis2

Year Three, Second SemesterUnits
CTAN 522Animation Department Seminar1
CTAN 594bMaster's Thesis2

*A minimum total of 12 elective units must be taken.

Cinema-Television Electives
To complete the 50 units required for the M.F.A. in Film, Video and Computer Animation, students are required to take a minimum of 12 School of Cinema-Television elective units at the 400 and 500 level. Four of those units must be taken from the following Critical Studies courses:

CTCS 400Non-Fiction Film and Television4
CTCS 402Practicum in Film/ Television Criticism4
CTCS 404Television Criticism and Theory4
CTCS 407African-American Cinema4
CTCS 408Contemporary Political Film and Video4
CTCS 409Censorship in Cinema4
CTCS 464Film and/or Television Genres4
CTCS 469Film and/or Television Style Analysis4
CTCS 501History of the International Cinema Before World War II2
CTCS 502History of the International Cinema After World War II2
CTCS 503Survey History of the American Sound Film2
CTCS 510Case Studies in National and/or Regional Media4
CTCS 511Seminar: Non-Fiction Film/Video4
CTCS 518Seminar: Avant-Garde Film/Video4
CTCS 564Seminar in Film and Television Genres4
CTCS 567Seminar in Film/ Television and a Related Art4
CTCS 569Seminar in Film and Television Authors4
CTCS 585Seminar in Film/ Television Critical Theory and Production4

Thesis Project

In order to begin work on the thesis project, students must first successfully propose their project to a committee of M.F.A. Animation Program faculty. The proposal is prepared during the second year of study in CTAN 591 Animation Pre-Thesis Seminar and is submitted at the end of the second year. Throughout the three years of study, students will meet regularly with an M.F.A. Animation Program faculty advisor to develop and refine the proposal and discuss the progress of their work. The advisor will be a member of the thesis committee.

The proposal itself will include a written treatment of the project with a discussion of similar work in the field and its relationship to the proposed project. It will describe aesthetic issues to be explored and specific techniques to be employed in its realization. It will also include a storyboard, budget and schedule, in addition to supporting materials created by the student demonstrating his or her ability to pursue the project. The faculty committee will make comments and decide whether the student may go forward with his or her project. Upon acceptance, the student will begin work on the project, otherwise revising the proposal and meeting again with the committee.

In the third and final year, students concentrate on their thesis projects, completing production and post-production. All sound or music, final high-resolution rendering (for computer animation), final film or video output, and compositing, titles or subtitles, will be done during this time.

A final review will take place in the second semester of the third year. The committee will meet and the student must show and defend the work.

Criteria for successful completion include: 50 percent originality and 50 percent quality of execution.

Grade Point Average Requirements

A grade point average of at least 3.0 (A= 4.0) must be maintained in all USC course work toward the master's degree. Courses in which a grade of C- (1.7) or lower is earned will not apply toward a graduate degree. Courses below a C must be repeated.

Time Limit

Students must maintain satisfactory progress toward their master's degrees at all times. The time limit to complete all requirements is three years from the first course at USC applied toward the Master of Fine Arts degree. Course work more than seven years old is invalidated and will not be applied toward the degree.