Capture the nuance of life
Animate an experience
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Animation & Special Effects

Integrate your key area of knowledge into digital animation projects

About Animation & Special Effects

Our desire to convey expressive motion has pushed us to develop our arts and technology skills since prehistory. Our artistic visions have to work within the technology available to us, but this inspires innovation in both areas. Professionals in the animation and special effects industries work closely with each other to urge this innovation forward.

Students in the Animation and Special Effects concentration will study the interconnected components of performance capture, rendering, 3D and 2D animation, and special effects. They will merge arts and technology perspectives in all courses to explore each of these components and the area of digital animation as a whole. Through common repositories across courses and collaborative projects, students will explore how the different components and types of expertise come together to create a convincing computer animated experience.

Students in this concentration will also be able to connect to other IDeATe courses to explore applications of digital animation in different contexts (games, interactive environments etc.) and to integrate other key areas of knowledge (narrative, sound) into digital animation projects.

How to Participate

IDeATe's Animation & Special Effects minor and courses are open to students from any major. The minor requires taking a portal course plus four courses from the collaborative and supportive course options. Students interested in pursuing a minor should contact the IDeATe advisor to discuss curriculum and to make a loose plan of study.

Students may also opt to take just one or two courses to fulfill course requirements or electives or to explore an area of interest. Pursuing a minor is not a prerequisite for taking the Animation & Special Effects courses.


The table below outlines the curriculum requirements and course options for Animation & Special Effects. For a listing of the courses being offered this semester, please visit the Courses page.

Minor - Five courses

One Portal Course:

  • For DC, CFA, TSB majors: 15-104 Introduction to Computing for Creative Practice
  • For CIT, MCS, SCS majors: 62-150 Introduction to Media Synthesis & Analysis

Four Collaborative or Supportive Courses:

  • 15-365/60-422 Experimental Animation
  • 16-374/60-428 Art of Robotic Special Effects
  • 60-461 Experimental Capture
  • 60-125 Introduction to 3D Animation
  • 60-126 Introduction to Performance Capture and Rendering
  • 60-220 Technical Character Animation
  • 60-333 Character Rigging for Production
  • 60-398 Social History of Animation
  • 15-463 Computational Photography
  • 60-410 Moving Image Magic: Visual Effects and Motion Graphics
  • 60-414 Animation, Art, and Technology
  • 60-415 Advanced ETB: Animation
  • 60-417 Advanced ETB: Video: Experimental Science Fiction
  • 60-426 Advanced ETB: 2D Animation
  • 76-285 Team Communication
Note: Students also have the option of taking one Collaborative or Supportive course from one of the other IDeATe areas.

Double-counting: Students may double-count up to two of the IDeATe minor courses for other requirements.


The IDeATe collaborative courses promote hands-on learning through making, critique, and iterative design. Students in these courses apply skills from both technology and arts disciplines to prototype ideas and leverage the diversity of perspectives to produce innovation in their field. Learning happens both through the instructor and through the interdisciplinary peer cohort.

Art of Robotic Special Effects

Offered by: Art, Robotics Institute

Spring 2017. Inspired by the early “trick” films of George Melies, this project-oriented course brings together robotics and film production technique to infuse cinema with the wonder of live magic. Students will learn the basics of film production using animatronics, camera motion control, and compositing. The projects apply these techniques to create innovative physical effects for short films, all the way from concept to post-production. The course emphasizes real-time practical effects to explore the immediacy and interactivity of improvisation and rehearsal. The robotics topics include...

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Character Rigging for Production

Offered by: Art

In computer animation, rigging is the art of building a digital skeleton and control system to drive the animation of a character or object. This particular course will focus on the process needed to create fully articulated characters that are strong enough for film and/or video game production. We will start with rigging fundamentals to learn proper joint orientation for skeleton creation, focus on skinning techniques for attaching the skeleton to the character afterwards, and then work on building a system of controls to move the character in compelling ways. Certain topics will include kinematics,...

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Experimental Animation

Offered by: Art, Computer Science

This class will explore animation from the student’s perspective with a sense of investigation toward both form and content. Topics in the class will include non-linear narrative, visual music, puppet and non-traditional materials, manipulation of motion and performance capture data, immersive environments.

Spring 2015 instructors: James Duesing and Jessica Hodgins

Spring 2015 course website: Experimental Animation

Experimental Capture

Offered by: Art, Robotics Institute

This is an interdisciplinary course in experimental media practices that arise from using devices to "capture" the world. We will survey state-of-the-art techniques and emerging ideas, in the industry and in academia, to capture, model, and render objects, people, places and events. The course evaluation will be project-based, in which students will capture a wide variety of things, and develop projects around the data they collect. We will cover capture techniques including motion capture, video-based capture, panoramic and hyperspectral imaging, depth sensors, 3D scanners, hand and eye-gaze...

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Introduction to 3D Animation

Offered by: Art

This mini on introductory animation is designed to explore the wonderful world of computer animation from initial concept to final production. In a mixture of class discussions, training workshops, and guest lectures from industry experts, students will become acquainted with the necessary skills needed to create their own characters and animations. Both artistic and technical elements within animation production will be covered, and workshops will help to delve into more specific elements within a topic. Some specific topics include modeling, rigging, character/object animation, texturing,...

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Introduction to Performance Capture and Rendering

Offered by: Art

This mini is designed for those interested in the growing world of performance capture and visual effects. Utilizing the advanced motion capture facilities at Carnegie Mellon and the Kinect, students will learn how to capture motion from performance and apply it to CG characters and objects. While this technique is found in many video games and vfx movies, it has the ability to create endless possibilities within the realm of computer graphics and experimental animation/art. Students will also become more familiar with the process of rendering to create the necessary polish for their animations/visualizations....

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Technical Character Animation

Offered by: Art

With an emphasis on character animation, this course will explore the whole production pipeline of 3D Animation from initial concept to rendered result through the use of Maya. Through a series of technical assignments, in class demonstrations, and guest lectures from industry professionals, students will come to learn the basic principles of animation and work up to more advanced techniques. Some specific animation areas that will be covered include locomotion, pantomime/acting, dialogue, set driven keys, and blend shapes. Students will also learn more technical/advanced approaches to other...

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In addition to the collaborative courses, the IDeATe network also incorporates a number of existing courses from across the university into its curriculum. These courses have significant applications in the technology-arts realm and serve to enrich the student experience in IDeATe and at Carnegie Mellon.

Introduces students to digital 2D animation techniques and processes through hands-on lab projects.
Offered by: Art
This studio will introduce students to a variety of 3-D computer and 2-D drawn animation techniques.
Offered by: Art
This course serves as an introduction to the creation of extraordinary cinematic visions using a variety of analog and digital tools and techniques.
Offered by: Art
This course explores the possibilities of experimental science fiction filmmaking to critique contemporary society and to imagine possible (or impossible) futures.
Offered by: Art
A project-based course in which four to five interdisciplinary teams of students produce animations.
Offered by: Art, Computer Science, Robotics Institute
Study ways in which samples from the real world (images and video) can be used to generate compelling computer graphics imagery.
Offered by: Computer Science
Social History of Animation will investigate the history of animation from early experiments with trick film through the development of major studios, to independent and web based work.
Offered by: Art
This mini will introduce you to research and theory on how to create effective teams.
Offered by: English


A student can choose to enroll in an IDeATe concentration or minor either in their sophomore or in their junior year. These required portal courses introduce students to the concepts and practices of knowledge areas beyond their discipline that contribute to the subject of each minor/concentration.

Arts and Humanities Students
15-104 is an introduction to fundamental computing principles and programming techniques for creative cultural practices, with special consideration to applications in music, design and the visual arts. Intended for students with little to no prior programming experience, the course develops skills and understanding of text-based programming in a procedural style.
Engineering / Computer Science Students
The course is an introduction to basic principles for the creation of digitally mediated content. The course is aimed towards students from science and engineering disciplines who have limited exposure to content analysis and authoring.


Faculty members from across the university collaborate to develop and instruct courses that are collaborative in nature and support diverse areas of student expertise.

Spencer Diaz
School of Art
Animation & Special Effects
James Duesing
School of Art
Animation & Special Effects
Jessica Hodgins
The Robotics Insitute
Animation & Special Effects
Paolo Pedercini
School of Art
Animation & Special Effects Game Design
Yaser Sheikh
The Robotics Insitute
Animation & Special Effects
Suzie Silver
School of Art
Animation & Special Effects