Science and engineering combine with imaging technologies used in the motion picture industry to prepare students for research engineering roles at technology and entertainment powerhouses like Sony, Technicolor, and Dolby or technical post-production positions in digital color correction, sound design, visual effects, and more.
Motion Picture Science is an RIT New Economy Major. This collection of degree programs is forward-thinking and future-forming, and helps prepare you to excel in the multidisciplinary nature of our modern, dynamic economy.
A collaborative major where students combine engineering with the arts to prepare for dynamic careers where art and science inspire innovation in feature film, television, and animation production.
Graduates have established distinguished careers at major visual effects, post-production studios, and media technology companies including Apple, DreamWorks, Dolby, HBO, Marvel Entertainment, NBC, Netflix, and Technicolor.
Students engage in forward-thinking research projects that have been sponsored by Netflix and other industry partners. Students have access to MAGIC Spell Studios, a facility with industry-standard color correction, sound mixing suites, and much more.
Students, faculty, and alumni are routinely recognized for their research contributions at the Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMTPE), which recognizes innovation and contributions to cinema technology.
What’s the last great movie or TV show you saw that made a lasting impression on you? The most ingenious minds behind the most captivating shows and movies apply their knowledge of science and engineering, and use their passion for storytelling to make film, television, and animation possible.
The BS in motion picture science provides a science- and engineering-based education in the fundamental imaging technologies used for the motion picture industry. By combining a core curriculum in practical filmmaking from the College of Art and Design and course work from the imaging science major from the College of Science, the motion picture science degree prepares students in the art and science of feature film, television, and animation production. Topics include film and digital image capture, film scanning, digital image manipulation, color science, visual effects, and digital and traditional projection. New facilities provide students with hands-on experience on the same equipment being used in major motion picture production today.
Utilizing research, critical thinking, creativity, and a range of problem-solving principles, students are taught to address complex motion imaging workflow issues within the constraints of time, space, budget, and technology. Graduates enjoy a variety of career opportunities, from feature film and television post-production to imaging equipment design and essential motion imaging technology research and development.
Students are active in making industry connections through attendance at large national conferences, including the National Association of Broadcasters' trade show and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers' (SMPTE) Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition. Additionally, students, faculty, and alumni are routinely recognized at the SMPTE Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition for their innovation and contributions to cinema technology. Students and alumni have won numerous SMPTE awards for their undergraduate research at RIT and for their research as industry professionals.
Professional Student Organizations
The School of Film and Animation maintains memberships in a number of professional organizations: Animation World Network, College Art Association, Rochester Audio Visual Association, Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, University Film and Video Association, Siggraph, and BEA.
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General Education – Elective: Innovative Freshmen Experience I
Innovative Freshman Experience I is the first of a two-course sequence. Through the exploration of concepts in physics, math, and computer science, students will experience the creation of a system to address a contemporary technological need through the application of the principles of the scientific method. With the help of faculty and staff from different departments across campus, as well as external experts, students will plan and organize the effort, review current literature applicable to the posed technical challenge, apply hypotheses to address presented scientific questions, conduct experiments to assess technology options, integrate components to create a prototype, and confirm that the prototype and methods meet desired levels of performance. The students will develop a working knowledge of the scientific method and an appreciation for the value of teamwork in technical disciplines, develop the skills required to execute a large project, and increase proficiency in oral and written technical communication. (Academic Level 1, Degree Seeking students.) Lec/Lab 3 (Fall).
General Education – Elective: Vision & Psychophysics
This course presents an overview of the organization and function of the human visual system and some of the psychophysical techniques used to study visual perception. (Prerequisites: SOFA-103 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
General Education – Mathematical Perspective A: Project-Based Calculus I
This is the first in a two-course sequence intended for students majoring in mathematics, science, or engineering. It emphasizes the understanding of concepts, and using them to solve physical problems. The course covers functions, limits, continuity, the derivative, rules of differentiation, applications of the derivative, Riemann sums, definite integrals, and indefinite integrals. (Prerequisite: A- or better in MATH-111 or A- or better in ((NMTH-260 or NMTH-272 or NMTH-275) and NMTH-220) or a math placement exam score greater than or equal to 70 or department permission to enroll in this class.) Lecture 6 (Fall, Spring, Summer).
General Education – Mathematical Perspective B: Project-Based Calculus II
This is the second in a two-course sequence intended for students majoring in mathematics, science, or engineering. It emphasizes the understanding of concepts, and using them to solve physical problems. The course covers techniques of integration including integration by parts, partial fractions, improper integrals, applications of integration, representing functions by infinite series, convergence and divergence of series, parametric curves, and polar coordinates. (Prerequisites: C- or better in (MATH-181 or MATH-173 or 1016-282) or (MATH-171 and MATH-180) or equivalent course(s).) Lecture 6 (Fall, Spring, Summer).
General Education – Natural Science Inquiry Perspective: University Physics I
This is a course in calculus-based physics for science and engineering majors. Topics include kinematics, planar motion, Newton's Laws, gravitation, work and energy, momentum and impulse, conservation laws, systems of particles, rotational motion, static equilibrium, mechanical oscillations and waves, and data presentation/analysis. The course is taught in a workshop format that integrates the material traditionally found in separate lecture and laboratory courses. (Prerequisites: C- or better in MATH-181 or equivalent course. Co-requisites: MATH-182 or equivalent course.) Lec/Lab 6 (Fall, Spring).
A fundamental course in non-synchronous film production and an introduction to digital video editing. Filmmaking is presented as a means of interpretation and expression. This course combines technical information in motion picture exposure and editing with a theoretical and practical approach to motion picture continuity. Production is in non-sync format and post-production is digital software. Students furnish film, tape and processing. **Fee: There is a lab free required for this course. ** (This class is restricted to 1st and 2nd year students in FILMAN-BFA or DIGCIME-BS.) Lecture 2, Studio 3 (Fall Or Spring).
General Education – Elective: Introduction to Imaging and Video Systems
This course provides an introductory overview of the basic engineering and scientific principles associated with imaging systems. Topics covered include imaging physics, photographic science, human vision and perception, image capture and display technologies (both analog and digital), and digital image processing. This course is taught using both mathematical and phenomenological presentation and prepares students to proceed with more in-depth investigation of these fields in subsequent imaging science and motion picture science courses. Accompanying laboratory exercises provide hands-on experience with the presented concepts. (Co-requisite: MATH-171 or MATH-181 or MATH-181A or equivalent course.) Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Fall).
Basic Sound Recording
Students will learn to work with sound and to distinguish and evaluate proper sound techniques for film and animation productions. The course lays the foundation for professional work in the sound industry. Each student records audio and prepares a mixed soundtrack to professional quality standards. (Prerequisite: SOFA-101 or equivalent course.) Lab 2, Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
RIT 365: RIT Connections
RIT 365 students participate in experiential learning opportunities designed to launch them into their career at RIT, support them in making multiple and varied connections across the university, and immerse them in processes of competency development. Students will plan for and reflect on their first-year experiences, receive feedback, and develop a personal plan for future action in order to develop foundational self-awareness and recognize broad-based professional competencies. Lecture 1 (Fall, Spring).
General Education – First-Year Writing (WI)
Introduction to Computing and Control
This hands-on course is an introduction to computer programming, simple electronics, and the control of electronic devices using commercially available, single-board computers (e.g. Raspberry Pi). Emphasis will be placed on utilizing the analog and digital input/output ports available on these single-board computers to control and acquire data from electronic devices like optical detectors, LED sources, and servo-motors. The use of open-source software libraries to assist in the control and real-time acquisition of image data from peripheral imaging devices and cameras will be covered in detail. The student will be introduced to object-oriented programming using Python. Fundamentals of flow control, object types and creation, input/output, and problem-solving approaches such as the use of randomness, divide-and-conquer, Monte Carlo, and search will be examined in detail and applied to scientific, mathematical, and imaging-specific related problems. (This class is restricted to IMGS-BS or DIGCIME-BS Major students.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Probability and Statistics for Imaging
This course introduces the principles of probability and statistics that are used in imaging science. The first half of the course covers probability distributions for discrete and continuous random variables, expectation, variance, and joint distributions. The second half of the course will consider point estimation, statistical intervals, hypothesis testing, inference, and linear regression. (Prerequisites: MATH-182 or MATH-182A or MATH-173 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
General Education – Elective: Linear and Fourier Methods for Imaging
This course develops the concepts of complex numbers and linear algebra for describing imaging systems in the frequency domain via the discrete and continuous Fourier transforms. (Prerequisite: MATH-173 or MATH-182 or MATH-182A or equivalent course.) Lecture 4 (Spring).
General Education – Elective: Fundamentals of Color Science
This course will introduce students to the field of Color Science. Students will learn about the physical sources of color, the visual mechanisms that provide our experience of color, and the descriptive systems that have been developed for relating the physical and visual properties. Through hands-on projects, students will learn practical methods for measuring, modeling, and controlling color in digital imaging systems. (Prerequisites: SOFA-103 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
General Education – Scientific Principles Perspective: University Physics II
This course is a continuation of PHYS-211, University Physics I. Topics include electrostatics, Gauss' law, electric field and potential, capacitance, resistance, DC circuits, magnetic field, Ampere's law, inductance, and geometrical and physical optics. The course is taught in a lecture/workshop format that integrates the material traditionally found in separate lecture and laboratory courses. (Prerequisites: (PHYS-211 or PHYS-211A or PHYS-206 or PHYS-216) or (MECE-102, MECE-103 and MECE-205) and (MATH-182 or MATH-172 or MATH-182A) or equivalent courses. Grades of C- or better are required in all prerequisite courses.) Lec/Lab 6 (Fall, Spring).
General Education – Elective: Animation I
This class will introduce students to the gamut of animation thinking and making through classroom instruction and hands-on practical experience. Lecture and readings will emphasize the process, theory and practice of animated filmmaking with extensive film screenings to illustrate each technique and related aesthetics. Hands-on supervised studio sessions will guide students to an intuitive understanding of the process of producing animation and students will use this understanding to analyze various animated works Each student will develop their personal vision through assigned projects utilizing the material discussed in class. Facilities fee required for non-majors. Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Fall, Spring).
This course is an introduction to all aspects of professional film/video narrative production. Students produce short projects while learning basic shooting and crewing procedures, studio protocol, equipment handling and maintenance, and basic sync editing. (Prerequisite: SOFA-101 or equivalent course.) Lecture 2, Studio 10 (Fall, Spring).
IT Fundamentals for Digital Media
This course will provide an overview of IT and networking fundamentals critical in emerging digital media workflows. Emphasis will be placed on the architecture of modern digital media production and post-production facilities. Media industry technology standards for cinema, television, internet and mobile consumption will be introduced. This course is designed for students in the College of Art and Design and the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences who are interested in mastering the basic principles of IT and networking infrastructures used in digital media and broadcast applications. (Prerequisites: SOFA-103 or NSSA-102 or equivalent course.) Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Fall).
General Education – Ethical Perspective
This course introduces the concepts of quantitative measurement of electromagnetic energy. The basic radiometric and photometric terms are introduced using calculus-based definitions. Governing equations for source propagation and sensor output are derived. Simple source concepts are reviewed and detector figures of merit are introduced and used in problem solving. The radiometric concepts are then applied to simple imaging systems so that a student could make quantitative measurements with imaging instruments. (Prerequisites: MATH-182 or MATH-182A or MATH-173 and PHYS-212 or equivalent courses.) Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Fall).
General Education – Elective: Geometric Optics
This course introduces the analysis and design of optical imaging systems based on the ray model of light. Topics include reflection, refraction, imaging with lenses, stops and pupils, prisms, magnification and optical system design using computer software. (Prerequisites: PHYS-212 or equivalent course.) Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Fall).
Image Processing and Computer Vision I
This course is an introduction to the basic concepts of digital image processing. The student will be exposed to image capture and image formation methodologies, sampling and quantization concepts, statistical descriptors and enhancement techniques based upon the image histogram, point processing, neighborhood processing, and global processing techniques based upon kernel operations and discrete convolution as well as the frequency domain equivalents, treatment of noise, geometrical operations for scale and rotation, and grey-level resampling techniques. Emphasis is placed on applications and efficient algorithmic implementation using the student's programming language of choice. (Prerequisites: IMGS-180 and IMGS-261 or equivalent courses.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Image Processing and Computer Vision II
This course is considers the more advanced concepts of digital image processing. The topics include image reconstruction, noise sources and techniques for noise removal, information theory, image compression, video compression, wavelet transformations, frequency-domain based applications, morphological operations, and modern digital image watermarking and steganography algorithms. Emphasis is placed on applications and efficient algorithmic implementation using the student’s computer programming language of choice, technical presentation, and technical writing. (Prerequisites: IMGS-361 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Choose one of the following:
Introduction to 3D Modeling
Students create models for animation in three-dimensional software. Students learn various modeling, texturing, and lighting techniques that apply to animation and digital cinematography. Students' model, texture and light three-dimensional environments. (Prerequisites: SOFA-121 or equivalent course.
Co-requisite: SOFA-107 or equivalent course.) Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Spring).
Digital Effects & Compositing
This course will offer hands-on experience in manipulating live action video and applying digital effects. There is an emphasis on digital compositing using rotoscoping, image tracking, alpha channels and transparency. Composites may be accomplished through green screen shooting, transfer modes, masks, and/or traveling mattes. Node based compositing will also be addressed as well. (Prerequisites: SOFA-103 or SOFA-122 or equivalent course.) Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Fall).
Image Capture and Production Technology
This course offers a full investigation of image capture technologies used in contemporary motion picture production. Historical image generation techniques will be provided as an introduction to modern media and equipment. Fundamental characteristics of silver halide photochemical imaging systems will be explored with emphasis on typical metrology and imaging properties. Electronic image capture will also be presented in the context of fundamental imaging properties. Standard film and video workspaces and workflows will be examined as a direct introduction to post-production technologies to be presented in subsequent motion picture science courses. (Prerequisites: SOFA-103 and IMGS-221 and IMGS-351 or equivalent course.) Lab 4, Lecture 2 (Fall).
Digital Post Production Technology (WI-PR)
This course will focus on the specific technologies of motion picture post-production and imaging science. Motion content generated via film or electronic technologies on set are ingested into the post-production chain utilizing various optical, opto-mechanical, and electronic systems. Topics will include video standards, telecine transfer, digital color spaces, digital intermediate, special effects, color correction, and image processing. Motion content mastering will be explored as an introduction to exhibition technologies to be presented in the final motion picture science course. Particular emphasis will be placed on production equipment testing, data acquisition and image analyses. (Prerequisites: SOFA-311 or equivalent course and completion of First Year Writing (FYW) requirement.) Lab 4, Lecture 2 (Spring).
General Education – Artistic Perspective
General Education – Global Perspective
General Education – Immersion 1
Film Projection and Digital Cinema
As the final course in the motion picture science core technology sequence, this class completes the study of motion picture technologies, focusing on exhibition and display engineering. Topics covered include traditional mechanical film projection, electronic projection and the color science associated with image appearance. Special focus will be given to evolving exhibition standards, image quality evaluations and emerging techniques. The course will conclude with an investigation of 3D technologies and varied distribution models for motion content. (Prerequisites: SOFA-312 or equivalent course.) Lab 4, Lecture 2 (Fall).
Senior Project I
In this course student's in their final year begin work on a major student project. Students may work on projects including motion picture engineering, image science research or relevant craft. Students are in charge of their own work, but they work directly with an adviser to track their progress on the project. The class meets one hour each week to provide discussion on project progress and learning. (This class is restricted to students in the DIGCIME-BS program.) Lecture 1 (Fall).
Senior Project II
A continuation of Senior Project I, in this course students in their final year continue work on a major student project. Students may work on projects including motion picture engineering, image science research or relevant craft. Students are in charge of their own work, but they work directly with an adviser to track their progress on the project. The class meets one-hour each week to provide discussion on project progress and learning. (Prerequisites: SOFA-401 or equivalent course and student standing in DIGCIME-BS.) Lecture 1 (Spring).
General Education – Social Perspective
General Education – Immersion 2 (WI-GE), 3
Total Semester Credit Hours
Please see General Education Curriculum (GE) for more information.
(WI) Refers to a writing intensive course within the major.
Please see Wellness Education Requirement for more information. Students completing bachelor's degrees are required to complete two different Wellness courses.
For all bachelor’s degree programs, a strong performance in a college preparatory program is expected. Generally, this includes 4 years of English, 3-4 years of mathematics, 2-3 years of science, and 3 years of social studies and/or history.
Specific math and science requirements and other recommendations
Motion picture science requires 3 years of math; pre-calculus and physics are recommended.
Transfer course recommendations without associate degree
Courses in liberal arts, science, design, drawing, and film, video, or animation.
Appropriate associate degree programs for transfer
Transfer as a third-year student is uncommon, as comparable programs are not generally available at other colleges.
Analytical thinking, complex problem solving, creativity, resiliency, and flexibility are among the top skills needed for emerging careers by 2025. Anticipating these rapid changes in the workplace—further accelerated by lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic—RIT is seizing on the opportunity to guide students to “new economy majors” that are multidisciplinary, transformative, and future-focused.
RIT students discovered lost text on 15th-century manuscript leaves using an imaging system they developed as freshmen. By using ultraviolet-fluorescence imaging, the students revealed that a manuscript leaf held in RIT’s Cary Graphic Arts Collection was actually a palimpsest, a manuscript on parchment with multiple layers of writing.