Animated features have historically been created by sketching individual frames of a movie on celluloid sheets, photographing the cells one-at-a-time, and assembling the photos into a complete movie. A seminal example of this technique is Walt Disneys first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). In recent years, due in part to increasingly powerful computers and software tools, computer animation has emerged as a viable alternative, and a main-stream genre in its own right. Artists use computers to create three-dimensional (3D) models of the characters and scenery, they plan and program a sequence of character movements, and then automatically generate a sequence of 2D digital images for the final movie. Popular examples include the Pixar/Disney features Toy Story, A Bugs Life, and Finding Nemo.
This course is designed to combine some math, physical science, and computer graphics, with the fun and creative aspects of movie making. If you are comfortable using a personal computer, moderately creative or artistic, and enjoy animated films, this seminar is for you. We combine lectures covering fundamental topics such as 3D geometry and modeling, realistic simulation of lighting and motion, and digital movie editing, with a hands-on laboratory experience. Individual students will plan, implement, and at the end of the semester publicly present an original 2-5 minute animated movie.
This course will have a hands-on laboratory component. The laboratory component is aimed at two purposes: exploring examples of concepts described in lectures, and working on individual semester projects. The lab exercises related to the former are designed to leave ample time for the latter, and to maintain a reasonable time commitment overall for a three credit hour class.
The class is scheduled to meet twice each week. We will likely reserve one of those times for a classroom gathering (lecture and discussion) and the other for supervised lab work. In addition to the supervised lab time, students will be expected to work on their own in the lab as needed to complete the assignments.
Each student will spend approximately one-half of the course (the latter half) focusing on their own animated short (2-5 minute) movie. The movie topics might be original, or animated adaptations of existing short stories. The overall effort will involve planning, modeling, animating, rendering, and digital video editing. The sequence of lectures combined with ample lab time, is designed to enable the continual refinement of each students movie. The evolution of the movie will culminate with end-of-semester report and public presentation by each student.
During the scheduled final exam time slot we will hold a mini film festival. Each student will (a) hand in their final report, (b) make a brief oral presentation of the technical and artistic aspects of their project, and (c) present their short (2-5 minute) animated film.
In addition to certificates for the top animations, we are also planning on making a course poster, and a digital video disc (DVD) containing the complete collection of short films, and making both available to each student.
I will allow each student one authorized "Doh!" (excuse) during the semester. You can use this to go from a 50% to a 100% condition (maximum eligble credit) or a 25% to 50% condition. Anything over one week late is an unredeemable 0%.
There is no stated late policy for the final projects. If late, they will normally be worth 0 credit. The reason is that the grades must be turned shortly after our final exam. I.e. there is no time.
Both for examples in lectures, the hands-on work in the lab, and the final project we will use a modeling and animation package called Cinema 4D (Release 8) by Maxon. Cinema 4D has the benefit of offering both detailed controls for the expert, and relatively simple but powerful smart features for achieving advanced special effects.
Cinema 4D R8 is installed on the computers in rooms 030 and 142 in Sitterson Hall. Students can purchase their own personal copy (to install on their CCI laptops for example) for $295 from Maxon's educational order page. (Click on Curriculum & Forms and then follow the instructions under Academic Discount Order Form.)
In addition to the documentation and files provided with the basic installation, Maxon provides all sorts of nice (and free) resources for Cinema 4D. They also make available a FAQ site (frequently asked questions), the tutorials and related files, and some extra documentation.
We will be using the Cinema 4D R8 Handbook by Adam Watkins, Charles River Media, 2nd edition (August 2003), ISBN: 1-58450-216-9. You can pick this up in the student bookstore, or on line from (for example) Amazon.com.
In addition students have access to an electronic version (PDF) copy of the manual from within the application and on our web site, as well as Maxon's Cinema 4D tutorials and related files, and some extra documentation.
The weighting and corresponding importance of the course material is as follows:
In addition to the 5% "other" category of grading, individual grades might be adjusted based on class participation and/or other circumstances.
Every student is responsible for the material in the assigned reading, and the material covered at every lecture. The lecture topics and the reading will correspond, but will offer complementary explanations. The lectures will also be the venue for announcing and explaining the assignments, etc.
Every student should read their email, and visit the course web site, at least every other day.
Every student is responsible for completing their individual assignments, on time.
While students may discuss and explore general topics with each other, every student is required to do their own work. We will keep your overall signed pledge on file. Every student should read about the Honor System and UNC Chapel Hill, and the Honor Code Observation in Computer Science Courses. We will report apparent infractions directly to the Student Attorney General.