how fxphd works


fxphd is an online vfx, production, post-production training program led by professionals. We offer both application and craft-based courses, online forums for feedback, and vpn software.

  • Lite Membership
  • $299
  • 2 courses
  • Background Fundamentals
  • Exclusive member-only Forums
  • VPN Software
  • Download & Watch Offline
  • Source footage to build shots for your reel
  • Join Now
  • Standard Membership
  • $359
  • 3 courses
  • Background Fundamentals
  • Exclusive member-only Forums
  • VPN Software
  • Download & Watch Offline
  • Source footage to build shots for your reel
  • Join Now
  • Masters Membership
  • $459
  • 4 courses
  • Background Fundamentals
  • Exclusive member-only Forums
  • VPN Software
  • Download & Watch Offline
  • Source footage to build shots for your reel
  • Join Now
  • Doctorate Membership
  • $559
  • 5 courses
  • Background Fundamentals
  • Exclusive member-only Forums
  • VPN Software
  • Download & Watch Offline
  • Source footage to build shots for your reel
  • Join Now

Have more questions? Here are more answers…


Basic information

How much does it cost?

Our standard three course membership costs $359. We also have a two course option for $299, a four course option for $459, and a five course option for $559.

What are the current term dates? What about the next one?

The July14 Term is the current term and now open for registration. You can join any time up until mid September and have full access to the classes from the term. The July14 term ends September 30th. The next term opens for registration on Oct 1st, when our lineup of courses is announced. VPN access and posting in the forum for the July14 Term will end on November 15th.

What is “The Vault”?

The Vault came into being due to popular request. Members wanted access to some our previously run courses, but we have a limited number of courses we can offer every term and it is sometimes problematic to get the profs to have time to monitor the forums. It may also include some member favorites that are a bit old for our normal membership or cover previous software releases, but still have great information. So we opened up “The Vault”, which taps into the fxphd archives, providing immediate download of past courses.

How is it different from the normal courses and how does it work?

  • Members may select a vault course just like any other course.
  • Once a vault course is selected, all classes will immediately appear on the downloads page.
  • There are no discussion forums for the vault offerings.
  • The professor is not available for questions in the forums.
  • The courses come with QuickTime movie classes AND the footage that was distributed as part of the course.

What courses are available? They can be found on the courses course information page.

What is fxphd?

The founders of fxphd are the team from
If you want a serious job in the post-production or gaming industries, in feature film or video – locally or overseas – or you want to produce your own work, the professors at fxphd will teach you the real world facts and techniques you need to know. Each course in fxphd is run by a practicing vfx or editing professional — what we call a Professor. Each has been hand picked for the expert knowledge in the field. The professors come from a background of working on a wide variety of projects.

Here are some of the projects the professors of fxphd have worked on:

Films: X-Men 3, Poseidon, Fantastic Four, Aeon Flux, Lord of the Rings, Hunt Angels
Music Videos: Sugarbabes, Will Young
Broadcast Design: Bravo Networks, Discovery Channel, ESPN, BBC
Commercials: Ford, Samsung, Sony, Disney, Budweiser, ESPN, McDonald’s

The key is that fxphd is not random tips or disjointed quicktime tutorials. It is a full professional training center online and 24/7. You can learn during renders, at night or weekends — it is up to you. As you work through the courses, your professor is available via our online forums to answer questions and guide you. There are practical files to download from real shots and projects. You can then compare your results with the final.

So how does it work?

Just like a university, the course curriculum at fxphd is divided into 10 week terms (or semesters). In each term, we offer a selection of courses from which you are able to choose up to three in which to take part. In addition, you’ll automatically receive a mandatory additional course called Background Fundamentals. Every week during the term, you’ll get instructions on how to download a 30 to 40 minute QuickTime movie for each of your classes. This effectively amounts to 120 to 160 minutes of HD quality training per week. That’s before you work through the lesson material or attempt any challenges (see below) of your own.

In addition, we have online forums where you can discuss the classes with your professor and other artists in the classes. Since everyone is viewing the same class material, the forums will be a great place to discuss what you’ve seen in the class movie. The forums plus classes is really what sets fxphd apart from others — no more watching DVDs in a dark room by yourself.

Classes, downloads, and software

Is the video streamed?

No. Our class tutorials are H.264 encoded QuickTime movies and you can watch them whenever you wish. Many classes also come with high quality footage which allow you to create the visual effects yourself.

Do you have preview downloads of the courses?

When you pay and become a member of fxphd, you can preview the first two weeks of classes for all courses before making your final selections. This will aid you in determining what course is right for you.

Before you pay, we also offer free previews of several of the courses on the course listing page. Just check for the preview links scattered throughout the page. The home page also has a variety of free quick tips you can download — check out the right hand column.

Do I need the software to take the courses?

We recommend you have access to the software for the courses you are taking. Technically, there is no reason you couldn’t take the course without the software, but you’ll get way more out of the material by being able to trying things out yourself.

We have access to several major software packages on the site….read on to the next several questions for more details.

What software do you offer for members via VPN?

We provide downloads and VPN licensing of the following applications as part of fxphd:

  • Arnold Renderer – restricted to members enrolled in ARN101 & KAT101
  • Cinema 4D Release 14
  • Houdini FX 13
  • Mari from The Foundry – LinuxWindows/OSX
  • Maya 2014 Unlimited on Linux/Windows/OSX
  • Tandent LightBrush
  • RV 4.0
  • Modo 701 – restricted to members enrolled in a modo course
  • Mudbox 2014
  • NUKE v8 from The Foundry – Linux/Windows/OSX
  • Renderman ProServer 18.0 & RMS 4.0 for Maya
  • Shotgun (extended trial)
  • Softimage 2014
  • V-Ray 2.0

How does the VPN work?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection is used to securely connect your computer over the internet to our VPN license server. Basicallly, the software applications ping our server to make sure you can run the software. This way, you can obtain licensing to run VPN versions of different software packages we have here on fxphd. You must be already connected to the internet in order to access the VPN. VPN connections can be dicey at times and many business don’t allow VPN through their firewall…so we can’t guarantee you’ll be able to run the software from your workplace and/or home. Where you have control over the firewall, we can generally quite easily make things work but it is no guarantee.

Access to VPN versions of software is only to be used for non-commercial individual, educational use or generating material for your personal demo reel.

What are the minimum system requirements?

On Windows we require at least Windows XP SP2. We don’t recommend Vista, as many pro applications don’t run on it.

On Mac, we require at least operating system version OSX 10.5 with Intel processors. Intel machines were introduced in 2006 and most pro applications require Intel processors. Some fxphd members have used G5 machines in the past, but are limited in their software use. We are unable to provide help and guidance for PowerPC machines and OS versions prior to OSX 10.5

We also require QuickTime version 7.5 or later for viewing our movies

If you are concerned about a particular application working for you, we suggest visiting the manufacturer’s web site for current system requirements.

How are the courses organized?

We’re using a university metaphor for fxphd to help you understand our class structure. Consider going to university — you start out your first year in 100 level courses and then work your way up to 300 and 400 level courses by your fourth year. It’s the same at fxphd, but you don’t have to start with the 100 level if you feel your skills are up to it. If you are a more experienced artist, you can jump in at the 200 or 300 level. The bottom line is that the 100, 200 and 300 numbers give you some guidance as to the content level of the courses.

We offer introductory 100 level courses for many applications. These get you going and allow you to learn an application fully — we assume a basic knowledge level of the application and that you have been through the manual. Maybe you are flame artist wanting to check out toxik, or a shake artist wanting to learn some 3D, or an editor who wants to learn advanced Final Cut Pro, but also get into keying and compositing.

After you’ve completed the 100 level courses — or if you have been using the software and have a base understanding of its concepts and feel you don’t need to take the 100 level courses — you move up to the 200 level intermediate courses. These dive into the more complex details of the software and approach learning the application from a project-based level.

You then move up to the 300 level courses which are our advanced courses.

What is the Background Fundamentals course?

Background Fundamentals is a required course at fxphd. The course is a TV-style program which forms the foundation of our curriculum at fxphd. The class covers a wide variety of topics which apply across all applications. Content of the show varies widely, but past episodes have covered previs, matte painting, 3D Tracking, DI workflow, HDR, and legal issues for freelancers.

Common questions

Can I use the material on my show reel?

Absolutely – that is the point. One of the great things about fxphd is that we provide you with high quality footage for you to use in creating your own composites. We will give you real clips to work on so you can get real shots on your reel showing what you can do.

Do I get some kind of certificate for completing a course?

Yes. At the end of the term, you can download a certificate from our web site showing that you were enrolled in courses at fxphd. What’s cool about the certificate is that it has a code on it, which you can provide to a prospective employer. That person can then visit our site and check out what courses you were enrolled in. For an example, click here to check out our verification page.

Do you have certification exams?

Unlike the enrollment certificates, which simply show you were enrolled in a course, we have online exams for several of our introductory level courses. If you pass an exam, you can download a certificate showing you passed — and your passed status will appear on your enrollment verification page as well.

Is There Homework ? What are Challenges ?

Technically, there is not homework. But, you will find that you will want to follow along with most classes and try to recreate the work on your own, especially since we distribute so much great footage to go with the classes.

Additionally, some professors will solicit post grads for elements to then include in the final project – a bit of fxphd collaboration. And, usually, via Background Fundamentals there is one or two “Challenges” where post grads are invited to submit work based on a specific challenge. At the end of the Term, one of the Deans or a Professor will evaluate the submitted work. This is a huge opportunity to get high level feedback on your progress, no matter what stage you’re at.

Joining and paying

I’m convinced. Do I have to commit to a contract or some long term thing?

No. You will be automatically renewed at the end of the term, but you commit per term only, so you’re not locked in.

When can I join fxphd?

The best time to join is early in the term, but you can join any time up to week 8 of a term and have full access to all the class downloads for the term. If you can access the payment link, it means you can sign up for our classes.

Why do you have a cutoff point for memberships?

It’s because we feel it would be too difficult to catch up with all your classes before the end of a term — and so much of fxphd is based upon the discussions in our online forums. Each term, the courses we offer varies, so you can join at any term without worrying about having missed a previous term at fxphd.

How much does it cost?

Membership costs a flat fee of US$359 for the 12-week term. This enables you to choose 3 elective courses from a wide selection of Main courses and Vault courses. There is also a 2 course option for $299. Each term includes 10 weeks of individual classes per course. You can also purchase additional courses after you enroll from your subscription info page in “your account” :

How do I pay?

We accept VISA and Mastercard via the online secure payments site Verisign. If you would like to pay another way, please feel free to contact for more options.

Do you have discounts for facilities or multiple users?

Yes. We offer discounts for 3 or more users, as well as facility discounts. Contact for more details.

Is there a way to pay for just one course? Can I buy a past course you aren’t currently offering?

No…sorry. This isn’t the way we have things structured at fxphd. Our goal is to create a vibrant learning community and not just sell one-off courses. We’ve had over twenty four terms and so far this has worked out really well for us.

Can I take more than three elective courses?

For an additional charge, you may take one or two extra elective courses (US$100 each)