COMP 061: 3D Computer Modeling and Animation
Department of Computer Science
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Prof. Greg Welch,, 239 Sitterson Hall

Course Description

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 Disney’s 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 Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, and Cars.

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.

Semester Project

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 student’s movie. The evolution of the movie will culminate with end-of-semester report and public presentation by each student.

Final Presentations (Film Festival)

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.


  1. Weekly assignments. On a weekly basis, students will be required to provide access to (or turn in) their experimental results. Depending on the nature of the specific assignment, this might take the form of in-lab demonstrations, electronically-submitted images (“snapshots”), movie clips, or complete model/project archives.
  2. Weekly reports. On a weekly basis, students will submit a brief electronic/email report (weekly report) conveying a sense of their progress, problems, and time spent on course work in the lab.
  3. Final project. During the scheduled final exam time each student will complete the submission of their final project as follows.
    1. Hand in a brief (2-5 pages) project report with an abstract, a description of each segment of the film, what aspects of the lecture material apply, decisions, made, tools used, etc.;
    2. give a brief/informal in-class oral presentation about the animated film; and
    3. present the animated film to the class.

Assignment Late Policy

All assignments and weekly reports should be sent by the due date and time, typically class start (11:00 AM) on the days we meet in class. (Specifics are in the course calendar.) If your material is late, but received within two days (48 hours), you will be eligible for up to 50% of the credit. If your material is received later than two days (48 hours) but within one week, you will be eligible for up to 25% of the credit. Anything over one week late is an unredeemable 0%.

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 bec worth 0 credit. The reason is that the grades must be turned shortly after our final exam. I.e. there is no time.

Animation Software

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 10) 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 R10 is installed on the computers in Saunders 322. Students can purchase their own personal copy (to install on their CCI laptops for example) from Maxon for around $300. To do so, complete this form and fax it to Rafi Barbos at 805-376-3331.You can also send email to Rafi.

In addition to the documentation and files provided with the basic installation, Maxon provides all sorts of nice (and free) resources for Cinema 4D at their Cineversity web site. They also make available a FAQ site (frequently asked questions) and other things at their support site.


We will be using the Cinema 4D R9/9.1 Handbook by Adam Watkins, Charles River Media, 2nd edition (August 2003), ISBN: 1-58450-402-1. You can pick this up in the student bookstore, or on line from (for example)

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.

Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2007