CMSC 491/691: Computer Animation

Spring 2016, M/W 1:00-2:15, Sherman Hall 015

Instructor: Dr. Adam Bargteil <>
ITE 341; Office Hours: Mon 2:30-4:30

Prerequisite: MATH 221 (Linear Algebra), CMSC 341 (Data Structures), C/C++ programming experience
(Yes, we will make heavy use of the prerequisites)


Description: This class focuses on the programming techniques involved in computer animation. Algorithms and approaches for both character animation and physics-based animation will be covered. Particular subjects may include skeletons, skinning, key framing, facial animation, inverse kinematics, locomotion, motion capture, video game animation, particle systems, rigid bodies, clothing, hair, and other techniques.


  1. Understand the foundations of computer animation: keyframing and interpolation, kinematic chains and inverse kinematics, skinning, and physics-based animation.
  2. Implement key components of animation pipelines, including keyframe interpolation, forward and inverse kinematics, skinning, and basic physics-based animation.
  3. Become acquainted with some advanced topics in computer animation; these might include motion capture, motion editiing, physics-based characters and controllers, finite element methods, finite difference methods, numerical integration, etc.

Grades: Grades will be based on programming assignments (60%), a midterm exam (15%), and a final exam (25%).

Assignments: Programming assignments require the use of the C/C++ programming language. These assignments may be time-consuming. START EARLY! A tentative list is given below:

Assignment Weight Description Due Date
Assignment 1 12/10% Interpolation Feb 23
Assignment 2 12/10% Kinematic Chains Mar 21
Assignment 3 (691 Only) 10% Inverse Kinematics
Assignment 4 12/10% Skinning Apr 6
Assignment 5 12%/10 Position-based Dynamics Apr 20
Assignment 6 12/10% Fluids May 11

Students taking the course for graduate credit (i.e. CMSC 691) will be expected to do extra readings and extra parts on each assignment.

Late Policy

Assignments are to be submitted electronically by 1:00 AM on Wednesday of the week listed. Late assignments will penalized with a multiplier in the range [0,1) depending on how late they are. Assignments received before the deadline have a multiplier of 1. For each hour late (or portion thereof) in the first 24 hours, the multiplier is decremented by 0.005. For hours 24-48, the multiplier is decremented by .01 for each hour. For hours 48-72, the multiplier is decremented by .02 per hour. After 72 hours, the multiplier is decremented by .04 per hour. After 76 hours, the multiplier reaches 0.

Academic Honesty

By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UMBC's scholarly community in which everyone's academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong.

All assignments and exams in the course are expected to be your INDIVIDUAL work. You area allowed to discuss programming assignments, but must do the coding yourself: words and math are OK, code is not. Any help you receive must be documented. At the beginning of the readme.txt submitted with each assignment, you must include a statement indicating the sources you used while working on it (excluding course staff and text) and the type of help you received from each. If you received no help, say so. Failure to include this statement with your assignment will result in your program being returned ungraded. For example, "I discussed the algorithms for this project with my study group, including student X and student Y. I also found some helpful descriptions on"

Tentative Schedule

Required reading from the book should be completed BEFORE the first date listed below for maximum benefit

Date Topic Computer Animation Due
Jan 25/27 Cancelled due to snow  
Feb 1/3 Introduction and Overview; Keyframing and Interpolation 3  
Feb 8/10 Adaptive Gaussian Quadrature, Arc Length Reparameterization,
Representing and Interpolating Orientations
Feb 15/17 More Arc Length Reparameterization 3
Feb 22/24 Kinematic Hierarchies and Forward Kinematics 5 Assignment 1
Feb 29 / Mar 2 Inverse Kinematics 5
Mar 7/9 Motion Capture, Simulation, and Optimization 6
Mar 14/16 Spring Break
Mar 21/23 Review Study Guide Sample Exam; MIDTERM   Assignment 2
Mar 28/30 Skinning / Physics-based Animation
Apr 4/6 Position-based Dynamics
Apr 11/13 Finite Element Methods
Apr 18/20 Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics
Apr 25/27 Rigid Body Simulation
May 2/4  
May 9 Review Sample Final
May 18 FINAL EXAM 1:00-3:00


There is a class web page, (or 691), where you will find this syllabus online, except you can follow all of the links. Important announcements and updates will be made to this class web page throughout the semester. I will announce at the beginning of class if I make a significant change or addition.

There is a class piazza site for this class. Everyone will be added to this site Announcements will be made there, and you can also use it for public communication with your classmates, the TA and instructor. You should either check this site periodically, or make sure it is set to send you messages by email. Please only post messages appropriate for the entire class to see. Be sure to send messages about grades or other private matters directly to the instructor or TA.