course
Computer Animation

Jan 2014

One of the best, and also one of the hardest, most time-demanding classes I have ever taken. Grinspun is a very well known and accomplished professor who is passionate about his work, as well as an enthusiastic and organized lecturer. Take this class late in your CS career - the more programming experience you have, the better. Homeworks are difficult, but you are provided with a code base that provides visual debugging tools, as well as a grading script with numerous tests that gives you an accurate idea of the performance (and final grade) of your code. All homeworks come with a PDF explaining the physics concepts behind the code for that week, and although there were some errors, the PDFs were for the most part very helpful, especially if you happened to miss a lecture. (In the case of mistakes in the PDF, extensions were often given) To prepare: learn linear algebra, refresh your knowledge of differential calculus (mandatory), be a strong C++ programmer, and, although it is not listed in the course requirements, I STRONGLY recommend some kind of physics background. While Grinspun does go over this material in class, if you start with at least one college-level physics class under your belt, the lectures and homeworks will be much more comprehensible, and you won't waste time learning elementary physics. Grading: I include this section to discuss some grading policies I disagreed with. 85% of the homework grade comes from the "bot", or the test suite mentioned earlier. The other 15% comes from a mandatory creative scene, built by you to showcase the elements developed for that weeks milestone. At the beginning of the class, Grinspun said you do not need artistic skill to succeed in this class. However, I disagree. If your code works 100% according to the script, you could still get a B on the assignment if you fail to produce a good creative. These creatives are then judged by your peers, who determine the remaining 15% of your grade. Humorous creatives can outweigh visually pleasing creatives, so if you're in a time crunch, go for that. The professors and the TA's weigh in on these grades, so they may give you more points if they see technical ability not easily recognized by your peers. Extra credit is awarded for the top 5 creative scenes, and sporadic extra credit is offered throughout the semester on the homeworks (when it is offered, it is a lot! Do it!) Exams: None. There is a final project worth the weight of two "milestones"/homeworks, which is left up to you. You could modify the code base to produce an extravagant creative, implement a technical paper, or implement algorithms from the class in an external software - whatever you want. Bottom line: If you have any interest in computer graphics or animation, take this class. It will either weed you out, or light a fire under you to go farther in the field. It's a love-it or hate-it class, since you will have to really commit, but if you want to be in this field, you cant miss this opportunity.

Nov 2013

This is the BEST course I've ever taken. Prof. Grinspun is talented, not only on his research, but also on teaching. It seems he can see through your mind, find your weekness and try to fix it with all the material he provides. This course is MUST for students who is in the graphics track or want to enter either the graphics industry or academia after graduation. In addition, I think this course is also a MUST for who want to be a professor in computer science to learn how to be a good lecturer and how to organize your material well in a 1.5-hour presentation. Besides coding and graphics, the course covers a lot in physics, linear algebra and differential geometry. Everything is self-contained so you can start this course even your math is only at high school level.