The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Digital Production Arts (DPA) at Clemson University is a professional degree program aimed at producing technically savvy, artistically talented graduates who are sought after by the growing electronic arts industry, particularly by those companies engaged in visual effects within the entertainment and commercial video, film, and gaming industries. The DPA program offers a unique blend of instruction from art, computer science, computer engineering, graphic communications, performing arts, philosophy, and psychology, together with newly designed courses targeted at production techniques specific to the animation, visual effects, and electronic games industries. Because the MFA is a terminal degree in fine arts, students will also be prepared to accept university faculty positions.

The degree requires 60 credit hours, 12 of which are devoted to Digital Production Studio (DPA 8600), wherein the student participates in group production work; 6 of which are devoted to Graduate Research Studio (DPA 8800), where students may choose to continue work on a team project, or pursue an individual project or production; and 6 of which are devoted to the Master’s Thesis (DPA 8910). Of the remaining 36 hours, 15 must come from the Core Courses (listed below), and the remainder from Electives (listed below) or Foundation Courses (listed below). You may also refer to the DPA Handbook for curriculum planning. In addition to the standard application and supporting materials required by Clemson Graduate School, the DPA MFA program requires a portfolio, details of which can be found on our Admission page.

By University policy, full time status is defined as being enrolled in 9 credit hours in fall and spring and 3 credit hours in each summer session.


The Foundation Courses are intended for those entering students who, due to insufficient background, are not prepared to begin graduate level work in either Art or Computing. Up to two foundations classes may be required as directed by the admissions committee upon examination of the student’s portfolio and record of coursework. Students requiring more than two foundations courses will be asked to make up any extra deficiencies before admission.

DPA 6000: Technical Foundations of Digital Production I
Description: The technical, conceptual, and algorithmic foundations of computer graphics. Covers the Unix operating system, scripting, C programming, and an interactive graphics API.
Not open to Computer Engineering, Computer Information Systems or Computer Science majors.



DPA 6010: Technical Foundations of Digital Production II
Description: The mathematical and algorithmic foundations of computer graphics. Covers spatial data structures, object oriented programming in C++, mathematics for graphics, and 3-D graphics API. Preq: DPA 6000 or consent of instructor.
Not open to Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or Computer Information Systems majors.



DPA 6020: Visual Foundations of Digital Production I
Description: Presents the visual foundations underlying computer graphics production. Covers perspective, observational drawing, color and value, principles of composition and design, and storyboarding. Incorporates the studio method, involves students in hands-on work and the critique process, and stresses examples from the history of art, animation and film.
Not open to Architecture or Visual Arts majors.


DPA 6030: Visual Foundations of Digital Production II
Description: Extends the foundational visual principles underlying computer graphics production begun in DPA 4020. Stresses representation of the figure in drawing and the use of cameras. Incorporates the studio method and the critique process, and stresses examples from the history of art, animation and film. Preq: DPA 4020 or consent of instructor.
Not open to Architecture or Visual Arts majors.


The core courses provide a broad underlying artistic, technical, and studio methods foundation for advanced study, leading to original studio and research work. If a student has taken a course of comparable content at Clemson University or elsewhere, an Elective Course (listed below) may be substituted (decisions on comparable content will be made by the DPA Director).

All students must complete five of the following core courses. Although only five courses are required, students are highly encouraged to take all six. The sixth course may be chosen towards the Open Electives requirement:

Artistic Core

ART 8210*: Visual Narrative
Description: Students develop visual communication skills through the vernacular of cinema, and express concepts and ideas in sequential narrative design.
Preq: Consent of instructor.

THEA 6870: Stage Lighting I
Description: Theory and practice of stage lighting through an understanding of various lighting instruments, lighting control systems, and execution of lighting designs.

*Art 8210 also fulfills the aesthetics and theory requirement but requires an additional (other) elective if this option is selected.


Technical Core

CPSC 6040: Computer Graphics Images
Description: Presents the theory and practice behind the generation and manipulation of two-dimensional digital images within a computer graphics context. Image representation and storage, sampling and reconstruction, color systems, affine and general warps, enhancement and morphology, compositing, morphing, and non-photorealistic transformations.
Students are expected to have completed coursework in data structures and linear algebra.

DPA 8090: Rendering and Shading
Description: The art and science of lighting and shading for effective computer graphic imagery, including the mathematical, physical and perceptual elements contributing to the simulation of a desired visual look. Shading languages, advanced rendering tools, global illumination effects, production of photoreal and non-photoreal imagery.
Preq: DPA 8070.


Studio Methods Core

DPA 8070: 3D Modeling and Animation
Description: Foundation principles and practice of modeling, animating and rendering of 3D computer graphics scenes. Students complete a series of projects using industry-standard software. Topics include modeling techniques, technical animation, rigging, materials, lighting, scripting and post production.
Preq: Digital Production Arts major.

DPA 8150: Special Effects Compositing
Description: Video special effects, compositing problems, effects animation, matchmoving and 3-D geometry, color and texture reconstruction from 2-D images; extensive use of scripting languages and high-end software platforms.
Preq: CPSC 6050 or CPSC 8070.



Aesthetics & Theory

The aesthetics and theory electives provide an introduction to the analysis and conceptual foundation of visual presentation. Although only one course is required, an additional course may be chosen towards the Open Electives requirement. All students must complete one of the following courses:

AAH 6300: Twentieth Century Art I
Description: Acquaints students with the major artists’ monuments and issues of the Modern period in art. Through lecture/ discussions and the reading of primary sources, course places the major modern movements in the context of the period (1860s -1945).
Preq: Consent of instructor.

AAH 6320: Twentieth Century Art II
Description: Overview of trends in art and architecture since World War II. Specific artists, artworks, and movements are presented in a socio/historic context with specific emphasis on the transition from a late-modernist to a post-modern perspective.
Preq: Consent of instructor.

ART 8210*: Visual Narrative
Description: Students develop visual communication skills through the vernacular of cinema, and express concepts and ideas in sequential narrative design.
Preq: Consent of instructor.

ENGL 6500: Film Genres
Description: Advanced study of films that have similar subjects, themes, and techniques, including such genres as the Western, horror, gangster, science fiction, musical, and/or screwball comedy. Also considers nontraditional genres, screen irony, genre theory, and historical evolution of genres. Topics vary.
Preq: ENGL 3570 or consent of instructor. Coreq: ENGL 6501.

ENGL 6510: Film Theory and Criticism
Description: Advanced study into the theory of film/video making emphasizing understanding a variety of critical methods to approach a film. Examines the history of film theory and defines the many schools of film criticism, including realism, formalism, feminism, semiotics, Marxism, and expressionism.
Preq: ENGL 3570 or consent of instructor. Coreq: ENGL 6511.

ENGL 8530: Visual Communication
Description: Understanding the language of images used in textual and extratextual communication; theories of perception, methods of visual persuasion, gender analysis, and cognitive and aesthetic philosophies of visual rhetoric; technologies of visual communication; and technologies of visual production.


The Electives provide an opportunity for students to either develop a special expertise, or broaden their background to support studio and thesis work. Approved electives are offered in the areas listed below. An additional Core Course or an additional Aesthetics and Theory Elective may be used towards this requirement. The student’s thesis committee, subject to review by the DPA Director, may approve other courses. All students must complete at least four Electives.

Artistic Electives

ART 6050: Advanced Drawing
Description: Advanced level studies of drawing which explore the synthesis of refined drawing skills and philosophies of art. Students’ understanding of drawing as a form of art is developed through studio practice augmented by critiques, demonstrations, lectures, field trips, and independent research.
Preq: ART 3050 or consent of instructor.

ART 6070: Advanced Painting
Description: Advanced studio course in painting. Students select painting media and develop a strong direction based on prior painting experience. Includes study of contemporary painters and directions.
Preq: ART 3070 or consent of instructor.

ART 6090: Advanced Sculpture
Description: Intensive independent studio concentration to further develop personal direction and content. Emphasizes continued investigation of sculptural context, materials and processes, and relative historical research.
Preq: ART 3090 or consent of instructor.

ART 6110: Advanced Printmaking
Description: Culmination of process, techniques, and individual development. Students are expected to have mastered process and technique for the benefit of the image produced. Creativity and self-expression are highly emphasized as students select a process for concentrated study.
Preq: ART 3110 or consent of instructor.

ART 6130: Advanced Photography
Description: Continuation of ART 3130. Advanced problems in photography.
Prerequisite(s): ART 3130 or consent of instructor.

ART 6170: Advanced Ceramic Arts
Description: Students are directed toward further development of ideas and skills. Glaze calculation and firing processes are incorporated to allow for a dynamic integration of form and ideas.
Preq: ART 3170 or consent of instructor.

AUD 6800: Audio Engineering II
Description: Advanced course in music technology focused on music production integrating digital audio and virtual instruments.
Preq: AUD 2850; and AUD 3800; and PHYS 2080 or PHYS 2210; each with a C or better. Coreq: AUD 6801

THEA 6720: Improvisation: Interpreting and Developing Texts
Description: Practical applications using drama as a learning tool to strengthen writing skills, motivate collaboration, heighten analytical skills. Students use improvisation to analyze texts and to revise original work, consider theory and research of contemporary scholars, and develop approaches to literature and composition based on readings and drama experiences.
Preq: Senior standing or consent of instructor.

THEA 6970: Scene Painting
Description: Practical study of basic painting techniques for the theatre including layout, proper use of materials, painting styles, and texturing techniques.
Coreq: THEA 6971.

Technical Electives

CPSC 6050: Computer Graphics
Description: Computational, mathematical, physical and perceptual principles underlying the production of effective three-dimensional computer graphics imagery. Students are expected to have completed coursework in data structures and linear algebra.



CPSC 6780: General Purpose Computation on Graphical Processing Units
Description: Instruction in the design and implementation of highly parallel, GPU-based solutions to computationally intensive problems from a variety of disciplines. The OpenCL language with interoperable OpenGL components is used. Applications to models of physical systems are discussed in detail.
Preq: CPSC 2120 and MTHSC 2060, or consent of instructor.



CPSC 6110: Virtual Reality Systems
Description: Design and implementation of software systems necessary to create virtual environments. Discusses techniques for achieving real-time, dynamic display of photorealistic, synthetic images. Includes hands-on experience with electromagnetically-tracked, headmounted displays and requires, as a final project, the design and construction of a virtual environment.
Students are expected to have completed coursework in data structures.


CPSC 6140: Human and Computer Interaction
Description: Survey of human and computer interaction, its literature, history, and techniques. Covers cognitive and social models and limitations, hardware and software interface components, design methods, support for design, and evaluation methods.
Students are expected to have completed coursework in data structures.


CPSC 6160: 2D Game Engine Construction
Description: Introduction to tools and techniques necessary to build 2-D games. Techniques draw from subject areas such as software engineering, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. Students employ techniques such as sprite animation, parallax scrolling, sound, AI incorporated into game sprites, and the construction of a game shell.
Students are expected to have completed coursework in data structures.


CPSC 8050: Advanced Computer Graphics
Description: Advanced techniques used in the artificial rendering of natural scenes; current practice in computer graphics; full software implementation of each technique; extensive coding.
Preq: CPSC 6050.



CPSC 8170: Physically Based Animation
Description: Physically based modeling and dynamic simulation techniques as used for the automatic description of motion and geometry for animation and computer graphics. A variety of approaches are explored, with a special emphasis on the use of particle-systems to represent complex phenomena.



CPSC 8630: Multimedia Systems and Applications
Description: Principles of multimedia systems and applications; techniques in effectively representing, processing and retrieving multimedia data such as sound and music, graphics, image and video; operating system and network issues in supporting multimedia; advanced topics in current multimedia research. Term project requires implementing some selected components of a multimedia system.

CPSC 8110: Technical Character Animation
Description: This course introduces students to the state of the art in computer animation with a focus on character animation. Topics for the course include animation basics, forward kinematics/inverse kinematics, motion editing, motion capture, motion graphs and motion trees, the perception of animation, faces and eyes, gestures and hands, emotions and style, behavior, and animation controllers.

Studio Methods Electives

DPA 8080: Advanced Animation
Description: Foundation principles of the production of computer animation, from original concept development and character design, thorough rigging of articulated figures, character animation methods, and digital cinematography.
Preq: CPSC 8070.

CPSC 8190: Physically Based Visual Effects
Description: The use of physically-based dynamic simulation techniques in the production of digital special effects. Course emphasizes tools, techniques and pipeline. Laboratory assignments are done using both commercial software and student’s custom code.
Preq: CPSC 8170.


General Electives

ECE 8470: Digital Image Processing
Description: Review of fundamental concepts, issues and algorithms in image processing. Includes image formation, file formats, filters, edge detection, stereo, motion and color.
Preq: ECE 4670.

GC 8010: Process Control in Color Reproduction
Description: Techniques and rationale for procedures used in reproducing color originals for printed media. Topics include color systems, measurement, reproduction characteristics, proofing systems, process evaluation/analysis for offset, gravure, flexographic and screen printing processes.
Preq: GC 6440. Coreq: GC 8011.

PSYC 8220: Human Perception and Performance
Description: Basic research on human perception as applied to task performance; vision and audition in adults; basic knowledge of human sensory and perceptual characteristics as applied to such tasks as machine operation, task performance, etc.

DPA 6810: Independent Study
An individualized course of study is designed by the student in consultation with a faculty member who agrees to provide guidance.

DPA 6820: Special Topics in Digital Production Arts
In-depth treatment of topics in digital production not fully covered in regular courses. Topics vary from semester to semester. May be repeated for a maximum of six credits, but only if different topics are covered.

DPA 6830: Special Studio Topics in Digital Production Arts
In-depth treatment of topics in digital production with a studio focus not fully covered in regular courses. Topics vary from semester to semester. May be repeated for a maximum of six credits, but only if different topics are covered.


DPA 8600: Digital Production Studio
Description: Digital Production Studio provides the student with the opportunity to develop as accomplished visual problem solvers in a team setting. As part of the studio experience, students must complete 12 credits on a team-oriented production project, in which they will work on a project from concept through finished piece. This process provides an experience of working on a goal-oriented artistic team.

This requirement is normally fulfilled in the second year of study. Students begin the Digital Production Studio sequence by completing 6 credits in the Fall semester. During this time, they complete a team-based production project, taking on more of a junior role in the production. The purpose is to familiarize the students with the entire team process workflow and production pipeline. In the Spring semester, students enroll for the 6 remaining credits and help lead design, develop, and complete a significant original team prodution. Since 8600 will be the students’ largest commitment for the semester, and because of the labor-intensive nature of the production process, students will be expected to make a substantial effort in these projects.

The Digital Production Studio includes regular class meetings, under faculty supervision, providing the vehicle for planning, critique, and presentation of ongoing project work. Although a large majority of studio work is undertaken outside of class meetings, active participation in class is crucial to a successful studio experience, and is required.

Up to 6 hours of credit may also be obtained through a Board-approved summer internship at a professional production studio.

DPA 8800: Graduate Research Studio
Description: Graduate Research Studio provides students with the opportunity to complete a major project or projects, under the supervision of a faculty advisor, in a direction supporting their personal goals and aspirations. Such work may be team-oriented or individually-oriented, and may be of a technical or of an artistic nature. All students must complete 6 credits of research studio.

DPA 8910: M.F.A. Thesis
Description: M.F.A. Thesis consists of a studio project, undertaken with the guidance of the student’s advisor and thesis committee. The thesis project is developed to a refined degree, articulated in the form of a written document, and presented orally in a thesis defense. The project is intended to elaborate and refine a theme that the student has begun to explore in the elective coursework and the production and research studios.



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