Film, Animation, and Visual Effects

Blend your creativity with emerging technologies and learn how to bring stories to life through film, animation, and visual effects.

Abstract montage of dark brown images
Screenshot from 'Minimum Mass', an interactive narrative virtual reality developed for the Oculus Rift-S platform

Film, Animation, and Visual Effects (VFX) merges technical and aesthetic craft to push the boundaries of time-based and interactive media. Research in this dynamic and expressive field ranges from traditional 2D and 3D filmmaking techniques, to mixed media and experimental work, to cutting-edge interactive media and virtual/augmented/extended realities.

With a diverse range of industry experience and creative practice, our Film, Animation, and VFX research group is built on a foundation of narrative craft and visual design for motion. Researchers have more than 50 years of combined experience as senior creatives at world-renowned film and animation studios, including Weta Digital, Disney Feature Animation, DreamWorks, Buck Design, ShadowMachine, and the Mill. Our work leverages technical craft as a tool for storytelling, art direction, world building, and conceptual development.

Film, Animation, and VFX welcomes a range of research interests as broad as the field itself. These include filmmaking and film theory, storytelling through visual effects, interactive media, game art and animation, design for motion, and experimental practice in any of the above.

Research topics

Research topicStaff who can supervise research in this area
3D animationByron Mallett

2D animation

Laura Yilmaz

Hybrid/mixed-media animation

Laura Yilmaz, Doug Easterly

Visual effects

Raqi Syed, Areito Echevarria, Leon Gurevitch

Narrative and experimental filmmaking

Laura Yilmaz, Raqi Syed, Areito Echevarria

Virtual/augmented/extended reality

Byron Mallett, Raqi Syed, Areito Echevarria, Leon Gurevitch

Media archeology, film and feminist studies

Raqi Syed, Leon Gurevitch

Creative writing

Raqi Syed

Effects and simulationAreito Echevarria
FilmmakingTuakana Metuarau, Areito Echevarria
AnimationTuakana Metuarau, Leon Gurevitch

Academic staff

Name Research interests
Doug Easterly
  • Animation and design for hybrid work involving multiple techniques and/or time-based mediums
Areito Echevarria
  • The art of VFX for cinema and immersive mediums and VFX as a tool for storytelling
  • Filmmaking techniques, narrative development, and conceptual exploration for animated/hybrid/experimental work
  • Extended Reality (XR) as an interdiciplinary storytelling medium with a focus on real-time engine platforms
  • Procedural and physics-based approaches to designing visual effects
  • Indigenous films, film production, practical VFX approaches with modern tools and VFX history
Leon Gurevitch
  • The art of VFX for cinema and immersive mediums and VFX as a tool for storytelling
  • Extended Reality (XR) as an interdiciplinary storytelling medium with a focus on real-time engine platforms
  • Film theory and cultural studies as a methodology for examining contemporary issues in VFX and animation
  • Animation and visual design for film, interactive mediums and animation history
Byron Mallett
  • Animation and visual design for film and interactive mediums
  • Extended Reality (XR) as an interdiciplinary storytelling medium with a focus on real-time engine platforms

Tuakana Metuarau

  • Indigenous films, film production, practical VFX approaches with modern tools and VFX history
  • Animation and visual design for film, interactive mediums and animation history

Raqi Syed

  • The art of VFX for cinema and immersive mediums and VFX as a tool for storytelling
  • Filmmaking techniques, narrative development, and conceptual exploration for animated/hybrid/experimental work
  • Extended Reality (XR) as an interdiciplinary storytelling medium with a focus on real-time engine platforms
  • Film theory and cultural studies as a methodology for examining contemporary issues in VFX and animation
  • Fiction and creative non-fiction approaches to writing across mediums

Laura Yilmaz

  • Animation and visual design for digital 2D and hand-drawn animation
  • Animation and design for hybrid work involving multiple techniques and/or time-based mediums
  • Filmmaking techniques, narrative development, and conceptual exploration for animated/hybrid/experimental work

Design Research Labs

Virtual Worlds Lab

Virtual Worlds LabNew developments with virtual reality technology highlight a vast territory for immersive storytelling, gaming, and many other forms of interactive experiences such as simulated education, medical therapy, and scientific visualisation. While Sony, Samsung, and Oculus Rift (Facebook) have delivered the hardware, start-ups and research labs are playing catch-up with the development of content. Local Wellington company 8i, for example, has received over 20 million dollars in seed funding, and Weta Digital is also investing in this new domain.

At the lab, Design staff and students will research new methods for storytelling, interaction, and immersive experience, presented via emerging technologies like head-mounted displays.

For more see Virtual Worlds Lab.

Study options

The following postgraduate programmes allow you to pursue research in the area of film, animation, and visual effects:

Master of Design (MDes)

The MDes allows you to further develop your critical thinking and discussion skills, increase your understanding of design, and learn to express your own ideas and conclusions within a theoretical framework.

Find out more about the Master of Design (MDes).

Master of Design Innovation (MDI)

The MDI delves deep into the process of innovation, from conception to design to construction. Through independent research, you'll gain the specialist skills and knowledge you need to be a successful professional in the design industry.

Find out more about the Master of Design Innovation (MDI).

Master of Design Technology (MDT)

The MDT builds on the existing digital media skills acquired in an undergraduate degree in design. It prepares you for highly technical design professions such as game design, visual effects (VFX), exhibition design, and multimedia design.

Find out more about the Master of Design Technology (MDT).

PhD

On our PhD programme, you'll produce an original body of research that expands the design discipline. Your work will be largely independently driven, with two supervisors available to advise you. Typically the PhD is studied on-site, but in suitable cases it may be studied by distance.

Find out more about the PhD.