CS838-1 Spring 2000

Topics in Computer Animation

Last modified: 12:02 Jan 31, 2000


Administrative Details:

Michael Gleicher (gleicher@cs.wisc.edu)
Office: 6385 CS&S
Office Hours: Thursday 11-12, or by appointment
Teaching Assistant:
Andrew Prock (prock@cs.wisc.edu)
Lab: 3370C CS&S
Office Hour: Wednesday 10:45-11:45, or by appointment
Course Meetings
9:30-10:45 Tuesday/Thursday
1221 Comp Sci & Stats (note: this is a big room for a small class, so sit in front!)
Course Web Page:
Mailing list Archive:
Last Year's Web Page:
There will be a course reader, available at the DOIT store (probably in pieces over the semester).
Part of the reader is a preprint of a book on Computer Animation, written by Rick Parent. We are test users of this book. The publisher (Morgan Kaufman) is offering a bribe if you agree to help review the book. Details will be given in class.
You will also be required to read some of a film text. Details will be given in class.
There are many other books that you might find interesting/useful.


Please see me if you have any questions as to whether or not you should be in this class. Because of the team nature of the work in this class, and the reliance on class discussion, it will be unpleasant for both you and everyone else if you try to take this class and are not up to the task.

In order to take this class, you must have had a graphics class (such as my CS638, or a similar course elsewhere). The prerequisites for a graphics class (linear algebra and data structures) are important for animation as well.

While it is not a requirement, you will be best off if you have experience in "doing math with computers" (e.g. numerical analysis, mathematical programming, ...). Experience with signal processing is also useful, but you should be able to pick up enough along the way.

Be warned: this class will require a substantial amount of reading and programming. Much of the content of this course is very mathematical. The beginning of the class may be very "soft" as we discuss artistic issues, but don't get a false sense of security.


From the announcement:

This course is intended to provide an overview of the field of computer animation, from a computer science perspective.The class will survey the range of tasks involved in creating an animated film, from conception to writing the final tape. Some selected "current topics" in the field will be discussed in greater depth.

The course will be hands on: not only will you have to implement computer animation techniques, but you will also use these techniques to create animation.

My goal in this course is to give you a broad background in the technical aspects of computer animation. In order to appreciate the technical aspects, you must first appreciate the artistic aspects, so we will look at that as well.

Ideally, this course should work towards preparing you to be a practitioner or researcher in the field of computer animation. Many of the activities in the class are planned to help in one of those two directions.

Topically, the course will be skewed towards the generation and manipulation of motion. We will not spend much time discussing rendering. Motion is really what makes animation unique, and therefore is what is most essential and core to the field (IMHO). Many of the issues that appear in other sub-problems (like modeling and rendering) rely on similar foundations. It's also what I am most interested in, and most comfortable teaching.

Course Requirements

Class Participation
You are expected to participate in class. First, this means that you must come to class. Prepared. You will be expected to participate in discussions.
There will be a good deal of reading for this class. You must read the required readings. You are expected to look at at least some of the recommended and optional readings.
NOTE: you are responsible for checking the course web page to find out what the readings are! I will not always remind you.
Readings will come from the course reader, from the web, and from texts.
For some of the readings, I will give you some questions to think about to help guide you through the paper.
Reading Groups
You will be required to participate in a reading group. We will form groups of 3 to 4 people the first day of class. Your reading group must meet to discuss each paper that will be discussed in class. You should also divide up the recommended readings (so that everything gets read and discussed, even if everyone doesn't read everything).
At times, I will make suggestions for things to talk about in your reading groups.
Web Page
Every student must make a course web page. We will give you a directory to put it in. In the event that you do something with someone else, all participants should create links to it (although there only needs to be 1 copy of the actual thing itself).
Art Assignments
There will be 2 or 3 "art" assignments that will ask you to fire up a commercial animation system and try your hand at producing some animation. We will not grade you on your artistic skill. However, you are required to publicly display your work, so
Programming Assignments and Projects
There will be 3 projects scattered about the semester.
In-class presentations
Everyone will be asked to present some of the course material to the class at some point.


Many of the assignments in this class will be done in teams. You are required to work together when an assignment is specified as collaborative. Part of the goal is to get you to experience working together.

Readings groups must be 3 or 4 people.


Computing Resources

For the assignments in this class, you may use whatever tools you like. If you're doing something non-standard please ask. There are some ground rules:

For this class, we will provide you with what you need. You will have access to Windows NT workstations on the first floor of CS (the ones in room 1355 are designated specially for this class). We will provide you with software sufficient to do the assignments.


Turning Things In

Everything that you turn in (assignments, paper reviews, project proposal, project writeup, animations) you will put on the web so that I (and the other students, and anyone else who wants to) can view it. The exact format of the web pages don't matter (there's no requirement that they be works of art, but I won't complain if it is).

You will be given a space in the course directory to put your hand-in web pages. In this directory, you should put an "index page" (called index.html) that contains pointers to everything else that you put in this directory. By the end of the course, this should contain links to everything in the course requirements.

For collaborative projects, both team members should link to the project, however, only one copy needs to be stored in the directory.

Late Policy:

All assignments and projects are due by 5pm on the date specified. You will be given a "grace period" until the beginning of the next class after that date in which to complete the assignment. Assignments will not be accepted after that unless arrangements are made before the due date.


This course will be graded on an A-F scale.

Your final grade will be the product (yes, the product!) of your project grades, your class participation, and your assignment participation. So, if you don't participate in class, or don't turn in all of the assignments, you will not get a good grade - even if you do brilliant projects!

The projects will be graded on an A-F scale.

Art assignments will be counted as acceptable or unacceptable (with a notation that what you did is "above and beyond the call of duty.") Because we will not grade you on your artistic skill, the main thing here is to make sure that you really tried to do what was asked of you.



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