A Special Effects student applies a mask to a willing volunteer.

MA Special Effects for Film & TV

  • Study Mode: Full Time
  • Location: High Wycombe / BNU based at Pinewood Studios
  • Duration: One Year
  • Start Date: September 2024
Designed in collaboration with industry professionals, this master’s programme allows you to specialise your skills and knowledge in either Prosthetics and Makeup Effects or Props and Modelmaking.
Split between our High Wycombe Campus and BNU teaching base at Pinewood studios, you’ll have access to state-of-the-art facilities and industry insights from professionals, all whilst studying right in the heart of the famous creative hub.

Why study this subject?

Do you want a career which could take you all over the world? Working in film or TV, you could take on several roles across the globe in key areas, from prosthetics and makeup effects or props and modelmaking.

This course could help you get your dream job as being part of the team that work endlessly behind-the-scenes to bring stories to life for audiences of all ages.

Special Effects make-up creature
A Special Effects student applies a mask to a willing volunteer.

Why study at BNU?

With a history of delivery expert craft, art and design education for more than 130 years, Buckinghamshire New University is the perfect place to start your creative career in special effects makeup, props or modelmaking. 

As part of the Art, Design and Performance School at BNU, you’ll benefit from a practiced-based course, supported by contextual studies. You’ll also have the opportunity to work collaboratively across the school with other courses, ensuring during your studies you are building a varied network, like you would in the real world.

Led by a dedicated and experienced course team, you’ll benefit from their industry knowledge and the industry links they bring to the course. Many of our guest lecturers are specialists based at various studios all over the country. The University also has a teaching base at the iconic Pinewood Studios, which means there could be opportunities to engage with the community there.

With London only a short train ride away, you will also experience visits to outside bodies, such as prop stores, sets and set stores, material suppliers and manufacturing professionals and museums.

What facilities can I use?

Studying at both our High Wycombe campus and teaching base at Pinewood Studios, you’ll be able to get a feel for life on set, develop your skills and understanding of this fast-paced industry, all right in the hustle and bustle of a working studio.

Our industry standard facilities are here to help you produce your most creative ideas. We will build your confidence in using the latest postproduction software. Our other specialist resources including;

  • CNC and laser cutter machines
  • engineering & modelmaking workshop equipped with the latest advanced tools
  • plastic lab
  • prosthetics lab
  • high end cameras
  • photography studios equipped with industry standard blue/ green screen.
  • blue/green screen video studio
  • computer and CGI lab
  • adobe creative suit
  • Auto desk.

Collaborating with students from a range of different courses, you’ll also get to access our professional workshop the Red Shed and our TV and film studios.

At every step you’ll be supported by a dedicated team of technicians who will provide you with advice, technical assistance and support to realise your assignment briefs and final project. As well as this as a BNU student you’ll have automatic access to our library and Students’ Union.

What will I study?

This MA enables you to focus your studies either towards the design and crafting of props, model-making, animatronics design and fabrication using engineering technology, or the conceptualisation, design and crafting of prosthetics makeup effects production e.g. advanced techniques in casualty simulation.

This taught research-based course is industry-focused and will provide opportunities for students to engage with a broad range of skills and techniques required within special effects production for film and TV and associated creative industries.

student at computer designing 3D effects

Interpretation of scripted and envisioned concepts requires innovative thinking, originality and imagination and pre-visualisation, coupled with practical skills to carry the projects through problem-solving to completion. On the course we will teach you how to do just this.

Taught by industry-professionals, you’ll benefit by learning from lecturers with real sector experience and an insight into working-life. Dr Johnny Issapour, your course leader, is the first academic in the UK with a PhD in special effects and animatronics covering both the digital and physical aspects of the subject.

When graduating from this course, you will have relevant skills in developing theoretical and critical approaches to your specialism, and together with the craft skills acquired in your chosen specialism, will be able to support the design, prototyping and production of polished, realistic functional camera-ready artefacts and be appropriately prepared for future employment.

How will I be taught and assessed?

This postgraduate degree encompasses a wide variety of teaching and learning methods. During this course, you will benefit from a full schedule where you’ll learn everything you need to know to feel ready for the industry by the time you graduate. This intense degree will make sure you challenge yourself to produce the best looks for your portfolio, whilst gaining as much experience as possible.

Most of this degree is workshop based, here we aim to create the ethos of a professional real-world environment. As a MA Special Effects for Film and TV student you’ll have to complete a series of modules and projects across your time spent studying with us. Projects are designed to present new challenges to you as you progress through the course. By the end of your time with BNU, you’ll benefit from a full portfolio to go to employers with.

We also aim to provide masterclasses and industry brief opportunities for you to apply your knowledge, skills and understanding into real-world contexts, whilst gaining feedback from current industry-leaders. The degree is strongly vocationally-based, and you may have opportunities to present your work to a range of audiences, including industry professionals. You’ll do this through collections, exhibitions, performance, screenings, and other teaching methods as applicable to each specialism.

Individual and small group tutorials led by industry professionals and business mentors, are not only to support you throughout the degree but more importantly to prepare you the professional world afterwards with an outstanding portfolio and a network of employers. 

You’ll also be assessed though; 1:1 or small group tutorials, Portfolio and presentations, written assessments, sketchbooks, group critiques and self-directed study.

By being based at Pinewood Studios for some of the programme, you are exposed, daily, to real world experiences and opportunities. 

MA Special Effects for Film & TV Programme Specification

Additional Costs for MA Special Effects for Film & TV

What are the course entry requirements?

As the key aim of this programme is to provide knowledge and skills in all related areas of SFX Prosthetics & Makeup Effects, Props and Model-making and associated 3D modelling/animation techniques for Film & TV, the course will be recruiting applicants with a broad base of appropriate skills within the field and enable them to focus on an area relevant to their career aspirations.

A minimum of 2.2 at BA/BSc level in a relevant subject is required. Alternatively, a Higher National Diploma (HND) qualification in relevant subject, with a minimum of 2 years’ industry experience will be required.

Applicants will need to have a suitably appropriate portfolio of work and an undergraduate degree in areas such as Special Effects Make-Up, Animation, Electronics, Mechanical Engineering, Model- making, Sculptor making, Engineering Product Design, and Manufacturing Design. The key aim of this programme, depending on their specialism, is to deepen students’ knowledge and specialist skills in all related areas in Prosthetics & Makeup Effects and/or SFX Props & Modelmaking before entering the industry.

Due to the technical nature of the programme, applicants whose first-degree discipline is not in a related area of special effects will be considered only if they can demonstrate that they have an appropriately focused portfolio. Likewise, candidates whose existing knowledge or skillset is not up to entry standard at Level 7 will also be required to undertake a short bridging course during the summer before the start of the MA, or be required to undertake an academic research task to develop their knowledge and preparedness for Level 7 study.

Overseas applicants whose first language is not English are required to have attained a minimum score of 6.5 overall with a minimum 6.0 in each component of the IELTS Academic Test. However, as part of the selection process, all applicants are required to attend an interview to demonstrate their strengths in addition to any formal entry requirements.


This provides a guide of the modules that make up your course. You can find more information about how your course is structured on our Academic Advice section.

What are the tuition fees

  • Home, Academic Year 2024 - 2025: £14,200
  • Overseas/International, Academic Year 2024 - 2025: £19,450

Additional course costs and financial support

Most courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees.
You could benefit from financial support through a bursary or scholarship during your time as a student. For more details visit our financial support, bursaries and scholarships section.

Questions about fees?

If you have any questions about the fees above, contact our Enquiries team by calling 0330 123 2023 or emailing advice@bnu.ac.uk.

What are my career prospects?

Throughout your time with us we’ll support you on the route to your chosen career. We’ll help you to develop crucial skills, encouraging you to become enterprising, employable and good leaders. Our Careers and Employability Team also help you find employment after graduation.

Upon graduation, you will be prepared for a range of career possibilities. Using the skills and knowledge learnt on this course, you could find yourself performing the following roles all over the world:

  • Animatronics Designer
  • Prosthetics
  • Make-up Artist
  • SFX trainee (make-up)
  • SFX technician and/or assistant
  • Props & Modelmaker
  • SFX Structure Engineer
  • Control & Signal writer
  • Sculptor
  • Character Designer
  • 3D modeller
  • Pre-visualisation Artist
  • Technical Director (TD)
  • Animatronics Engineer
  • Rig-builder
  • Fabricator.

Potential career and employment areas will fall within the animatronics, prosthetics make-up effects, casualty simulation, props & model-making, mechanical and electronic engineering, rigging, set design and visual effects sectors of the film and TV industry.

Course leader

The silhouette of a white head and shoulders of a person against a grey background
Dr Johnny Issapour
  • Course Leader
Read full profile