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Master of Fine Arts in Digital Production Arts (M.F.A.)

Program Overview

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 MFA requires 60 credit hours including a MFA thesis.

The degree requires 60 credit hours. The program is officially listed as a 2-year program, but most students will find that a 2-1/2 or 3 year pace is more realistic and results in a stronger grounding in the field. Of the 60 credit hours, 12 are devoted to Digital Production Studio (DPA 8600), wherein the student participates in group production work; 6 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 are devoted to the Master of Fine Arts Thesis (DPA 8910). Of the remaining 36 hours, 15 must come from specified Core Courses, and the remainder from approved Electives or Foundation Courses.

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.

Foundations Courses (0, 3 or 6 credits, as directed on admission)
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 beginning study.

  • DPA 6000 Technical Foundations I (Fall)
  • DPA 6010 Technical Foundations II (Spring)

These courses include introductions to the algorithmic and mathematical bases of computer graphics. They provide students with practical experience in C++ programming, scripting, linux/unix operating systems, spatial data structures, mathematics for graphics, and an interactive graphics API. Students will complete a series of visually grounded programming projects.

  • DPA 6020 Visual Foundations I (Fall)
  • DPA 6030 Visual Foundations II (Spring)

These courses include introductions to observational drawing and clay modeling, color, principles of composition and design, photography, and storyboarding. Courses incorporate the studio method, involving students in hands-on work and the critique process, and stress examples from the history of art. 

Core Courses (15 credits)
The core courses provide the broad underlying artistic, technical, and studio-methods foundations 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 used to fulfill the elective requirement.

Artistic Core

  • THEA 6870 Stage Lighting I (Fall, Spring)
  • ART 8210 Visual Narrative (Fall)

Technical Core

  • CPSC 6040 Computer Graphics Images (Fall)
  • CPSC 8090 Rendering and Shading (Spring)

Studio Methods Core

  • CPSC 8070 3D Modeling and Animation (Fall)
  • CPSC 8150 Special Effects Compositing (Fall)

Aesthetics and Theory Electives (3 credits)
All students must complete one of the aesthetics or theory courses listed below. This elective provides an introduction to the analysis and conceptual foundation of visual presentation. Although only one course is required, an additional course from this list may be used to fulfill the elective requirement.

  • AAH 6300 Twentieth Century Art I
  • AAH 6320 Twentieth Century Art II
  • ENGL 6500 Film Genres
  • ENGL 6510 Film Theory and Criticism
  • ENGL 8530 Visual Communication

Electives (12-18 credits)
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
  • ART 6070 Advanced Painting
  • ART 6090 Advanced Sculpture
  • ART 6110 Advanced Printmaking
  • ART 6130 Advanced Photography
  • ART 6170 Advanced Ceramic Arts
  • THEA 6720 Improvisation
  • THEA 6970 Scene Painting
  • AUD 6800 Audio Engineering II

Technical Electives

  • CPSC 6050 Computer Graphics
  • CPSC 6110 Virtual Reality
  • CPSC 6140 Human and Computer Interaction
  • CPSC 6160 2D Game Engine Design
  • CPSC 6780 General Purpose Computation on Graphical Processing Units
  • CPSC 8050 Advanced Computer Graphics
  • CPSC 8170 Physically Based Animation
  • CPSC 8630 Multimedia Systems and Applications

Studio Methods Electives

  • CPSC 8080 Advanced Animation
  • CPSC 8190 Physically Based Visual Effects

General Electives

  • ECE 8470 Digital Image Processing
  • GC 8010 Process Control in Color Reproduction
  • PSY 8220 Human Perception and Performance

Digital Production Studio (DPA 8600) (12 credits)
Digital Production Studio provides the student with the opportunity to develop as an accomplished visual problem solver 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.

Each 8600 course will be 6 credits long, comprising a substantial team-based production project. The type of production is driven by the specific choice of the faculty instructor of each offering, e.g. animated-short, or video game. Further, while the 8600 studio experience is typically covered in the second year, students in good standing may take 8600 in their first year, with consent of the instructor.

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.

Graduate Research Studio (DPA 8800) (6 credits)
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 the student’s personal goals and aspirations. Such work may be team-oriented or individually-oriented, and may be of technical or artistic nature. Many students will use this course as an opportunity to do an initial exploration of ideas that lead to their Thesis project. All students must complete 6 credits of research studio.

Up to 6 hours of credit for DPA 8600 or DPA 8800 may be obtained for a summer internship experience at a professional production studio approved by the DPA Director.

M.F.A. Thesis (DPA 8910) (6 credits)
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.


For more information about course options visit the DPA curriculum website.

DPA Graduate Student Handbook

Graduate School Course Catalog

All prospective students should submit GRE and TOEFL/IELTS/PTE (international students only) scores. Letters of recommendation from teachers and/or employers are also considered. Official transcripts do not need to be submitted until the applicant is accepted into the program and receives an official acceptance letter from the graduate school. Students are highly encouraged to talk with the DPA graduate student coordinator before beginning the application process. 

To access the Graduate School application, click HERE

Cost information can be obtained by visiting the Tuition and Fees section of the Clemson Graduate School website.  Digital Production Arts is a Premier program.

Students can now choose to study in Clemson or Charleston, SC and we offer financial support in both locations. This level of support is dependent on the student’s application materials, however, we will strive to make costs competitive and affordable to all qualified students. We accept applications throughout the year on a rolling admission basis for the nearest term (Spring or Fall), however, our standard deadline for full consideration is January 15.

For More Information

Victor Zordan, Director Digital Production Arts



For more information regarding the Master of Fine Arts in Digital Production Arts (M.F.A.), visit the departmental website.