The Natural World and Computer Graphics

Fall 2013

Lecture: R 11-1 (UC 177, BA5166)
Instructor: Karan Singh
Phone: 978-7201
Office hours: by appt. (BA5258)


Computer graphics is at a crossroads where the real and virtual blend indistinguishably together. At this stage it is less about synthetically depicting the beauty of the natural world and enabling us to weave narratives of worlds both real and imagined. It is Gestalt combination of art and science where the whole is clearly greater than the sum of the parts. This course will introduce both the art and science of computer graphics. We will trace its history to current practice, its connection to the world we live in, its aesthetics, its mathematical and scientific basis, and some of the tricks of the trade.  Our goal will be to understand and appreciate the magic of computer graphics for what it is and use it as a tool for our own creative expression.


The course will have 4 assignments (15% each due on sept.19, oct. 17, oct. 31 and nov. 21 respectively). These will be typically written assignments involving playing with modeling, animation and rendering software and finding and critiquing various imagery. Depending on the class background there may be some aspects of creative use of software and scripting. There will be one course project to be done in groups of 4-6 students (40%, due nov. 28).


Week #

Slides, reading material

Topics covered


Introduction, modeling assignment with meshmixer

Overview of perception, CG, images, reality.


Modeling: representing the natural world

geometric representation, operations, form + function.


Animations: making it move, initial project discussions

animation principles, keyframing, mocap, simulation, production pipeline.


Rendering: making it real, animation assignment with moovl, perception study

light transport, raytracing, photorealism and beyond.


Interacting with the natural world

live lab demos


Project discussions



Seeing and Pictures

Guest Lecture John Kennedy Oct. 24


How does Computer Graphics see us? Illusions, seeing sound assignment.

Gestalt, shape, value, space.


Anatomy and Psychorealism

Skeletal and muscle models.


Making faces



Artistic modeling and rendering



Project presentations and Conclusion