Course outline

CS 248 - Introduction to Computer Graphics
Autumn Quarter, 2000
Marc Levoy
Handout #1

Table of contents:



Marc Levoy
Gates Computer Science Building, Room 366
(650) 725-4089
Office hours: Tue/Thu 11:00am - 12:15pm and by appointment

Teaching assistants

David Koller
Gates Computer Science Building, Room 379
(650) 723-2409
Office hours: Tue 9:00am - 11:00am, Wed 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Gates Hall 379

Matt Ginzton
Office hours: Thu 4:00pm - 6:00pm, Fri 11:00am - 1:00pm, Gates Hall B24B

Yu Ping Hu
Office hours: Mon 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Tue 4:00pm - 6:00pm, Gates Hall B24B

Hiroshi Ishii
Office hours: Mon 8:00pm - 10:00pm, Wed 8:00 - 10:00pm, Sweet Hall graphics labs

Joint email address:

Help sessions: There will be help sessions on the Friday of each week in which a project is assigned, i.e. on Oct. 6, Oct. 20, and Nov. 10, and for project #3 there will be a second help session on Wednesday, Nov. 8. There will also be review sessions on the Friday of each week before an exam, i.e. on Nov. 3 and Dec. 8. All help and review sessions will be 3:15pm - 4:05pm in Gates B03 and televised on SITN channel E2, except for the Nov. 8 session, which will be 4:15pm - 5:15pm in Gates B01, televised on SITN channel E3. The dates of these sessions are summarized in the course schedule (HO #2). Other than these dates, there will be no classes or discussions meetings on Fridays. In addition to these help and review sessions, on the weekends immediately preceeding the due dates of each programming project, the instructor and teaching assistants will hold special office hours in the Sweet Hall graphics labs. Hours to be announced (TBA).


Ada Glucksman
Gates Computer Science Building, Room 368
(650) 725-3724


There will be twenty lectures. These lectures will be broadcast on SITN (channel E4), and videotapes will be available in the library, but SCPD has decided not to digitize the lectures for access via Stanford Online. The topics to be covered, with approximate dates, are given in the class schedule. As soon as possible after each lecture, I will place my lecture notes online, linked off of the class schedule.


Required: Foley, van Dam, Feiner, and Hughes,
Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice,
second edition in C, Addison-Wesley.
Click here for errata
Optional: Woo, Neider, and Davis,
OpenGL Programming Guide,
third edition, Addison-Wesley.
Click here for errata
Optional: Möller and Haines,
Real-Time Rendering,
A K Peters, 1999.

Copies of all five texts are available in the textbook and general computer science sections of the campus bookstore. Readings from Foley, van Dam, Feiner, and Hughes will be assigned throughout the course. The OpenGL book will be used only in the last half of the course. We first want you to learn how OpenGL's graphics primitives work. Afterwards, you can start using it as a power tool. The Real-Time Rendering book covers programming techniques you'll find useful when writing your video game, so it too will be used mainly toward the end of the course.

Additional readings

We will also read a number of papers from current journals and conference proceedings. I will hand out copies of these papers in class as they become relevant. All required reading (including from the textbooks) will be assigned verbally in class as well as being listed in the class schedule.

Reserve readings

I am placing the following materials on 2-hour reserve at the Stanford Math/Computer Science Library.

  1. Foley, van Dam, Feiner, and Hughes, Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, second edition in C, Addison-Wesley.
  2. Woo, Neider, and Davis, OpenGL Programming Guide, third edition, Addison-Wesley.
  3. Möller and Haines, Real-Time Rendering, A K Peters, 1999.
  4. Andrew Glassner, Graphics Gems,Academic Press.
  5. James Arvo, Graphics Gems II, Academic Press.
  6. David Kirk, Graphics Gems III, Academic Press.
  7. Paul Heckbert, Graphics Gems IV, Academic Press.
  8. Alan Paeth, Graphics Gems V, Academic Press.

Numbers 4 through 8 are compendiums of graphics tricks, hacks, and useful algorithms. These three books are so popular that if I don't place them on reserve, you'll have to buy them to read them - not a bad idea in any case.

Also on reserve (permanently) are the proceedings of ACM Siggraph, the premiere forum for publication of research results in the field of computer graphics. I will frequently reference Siggraph papers during my lectures. I encourage you to browse these books; you will find them inspirational in times of suffering and a wellspring of good ideas for your projects.

Course prerequisites

CS 248 assumes no prior knowledge of computer graphics. However, most students taking 248 have had some exposure to graphical user interfaces and interaction techniques, usually through CS 107 or 108. Formally, we require CS 107, not 108 as erroneously stated in the SCPD catalog, and we require Math 103. However, we do not enforce these prerequisites. More specifically, we assume some programming experience in C (or C++) on a UNIX workstation, and we assume a basic knowledge of calculus and linear algebra (one college-level course of each). An exposure to digital signal processing or Fourier analysis is useful, but it is not required.

Course requirements

In addition to regularly scheduled readings, the workload for this course consists of three programming projects, an evening midterm examination, and a final examination. The midterm will be on Monday, Nov. 6 in the evening. The final will be on Monday, Dec. 11, at 3:30pm - 6:30pm. SITN students must come to campus for both exams. Makeup exams will be offered only in extreme circumstances, and must be approved in advance. A makeup final exam will not be offered to students because they are taking conflicting classes.

The first two projects teach you how to write low-level imaging and graphics primitives, while being fun at the same time. The last project asks you to implement a video game of your own design, in OpenGL. It will be impossible not to have fun on this project.

  1. Paint program - 24-bit painting program that includes a weighted mask-driven tinting brush.
  2. Scan converter - Polygon scan converter for interactively defined triangles. Supersampling will be used to provide antialiasing.
  3. Video game - an interactive 3D video game of your own design. You will use OpenGL for this project.

For projects #1 and #3, you will demo your program to myself or a teaching assistant. Demos will be held in the Sweet Hall basement graphics labs during university business hours. For project #3, you are permitted to work in teams. If you do, then all team members must be present at the demo. To keep the demos fair, you will also be required to freeze your executable at 10:00am on demo day and to give your demo from that executable. A commented copy of your source code and a brief (1-2 pages) description of the functionality implemented are due online by 2:00pm the following day for project #1 and two days later for project #3. Assignment #2 is due online at 2:00pm on the day stated. We will describe in a later handout how code freezings and on-line submissions will be handled.

Grading policies

Evaluation criteria: Projects #1 and #2 will each count as 15% of your grade, project #3's first critique as 10%, and project #3's final demo and writeup as 20%. The project #3 proposal will not be graded; its purpose is for you to get feedkback from us about your game idea. The midterm and final exams will each cover half of the material in the course, and will each count as 20%. Grading criteria on the projects will vary; typical criteria are correctness (40%), efficiency (20%), elegance (of your UI and your code) (20%), and originality (20%). Your grade in the course will not depend on whether you are taking it for 3, 4, or 5 credits.

Collaboration: You may discuss the first two projects with friends, but you are expected to implement your own solutions. On the third project (the video game), you are permitted (and encouraged) to form teams of two or three people and partition the work among the team members. The work expected from each teach will be proportional to the size of the team. Teams may discuss their project with other teams, but each team is expected to implement the project independently. In particular, code must not be shared between teams. The exams must be individual efforts.

Late projects: It is important that projects be completed on time. To allow for unforeseeable circumstances, you will be allowed one weekday of grace during the quarter for either a late demo or a late writeup. Beyond this, late demos or writeups will cause you to be penalized by 10% of your grade for that assignment per weekday that either is late. If both are late, you will only be penalized once, according to the maximum lateness among them. Late demos will be accommodated subject to the availability of the TAs. If the late demo slots for a particular day are full, you may be delayed another day, possibly incurring a penalty. On project #3, neither the demo nor the writeup may be late. Exceptions to these late policies will be made only in the case of a necessary (non-pleasure) trip approved in advance or severe illness. Incompletes in this course are given only in exceptional circumstances.

Hardware and software

Hardware: To do the projects you will have access to the Stanford Graphics Teaching Laboratory, located in two rooms in the basement of Sweet Hall. One room contains 15 Silicon Graphics Octane SIs (175 Mhz R10000 processor, 128 MB main memory, 400K polygons/sec, but no hardware texturing), and the other contains 15 Dell PCs (730 Mhz Pentium processor, 256 MB main memory, NVIDIA Quadro graphics boards). The Octanes are called raptor1 - raptor15, and they run IRIX 6.5. The PCs are called firebird1 - firebird15, and they run Red Hat Linux. Use ssh rather than rlogin or telnet for remote access. Students in CS 248 have non-exclusive priority access to the machines in these two rooms, whose doors are protected by card readers. Ignore the Sun workstations in the rooms.

Software: For the first two projects, we provide a support package that runs on most X-compatible workstations, including those on the second floor of Sweet Hall. To use the package, you must program in C or C++. The package provides sliders, buttons, a drawing canvas, some help with mouse and cursor interaction, and a few utilities for loading and storing images. If you are working on a 24-bit workstation (such as our SGIs and PCs), the package allows you to display your 24-bit images directly. If you are working on an 8-bit workstation, the package automatically dithers and gamma corrects your image prior to display. For the third project, you will program in OpenGL, which runs on all the workstations in Sweet Hall.

Using other platforms: Grading of projects (except #2) consists of face-to-face demos, which must be given in the basement of Sweet Hall. If you prefer working in another location, you may copy our support package (for the first two projects) and use it locally. All you need is X and Motif. For the last project, your machines needs to support OpenGL. Speaking of grading, for projects #1 and #3, you must make certain that your program runs on the Sweet Hall graphics lab SGIs or PCs prior to demo day. Moreover, to help us judge the performance of your program, your program must be displaying on the same machine it is executing during your demo. For project #2, we will rate the performance of everybody's programs. To make this comparison fair, you must make certain that your program runs on the Sweet Hall graphics lab PCs prior to submission day. The only exception to these rules is that for project #3 (the video game), you may demo on another platform (some people prefer Macs), but you'll need to physically bring it to the basement of Sweet Hall on demo day.

Online services

Student accounts: The Sweet Hall basement SGIs and PCs share accounts and file servers with the Sweet Hall machine cluster. All students with leland accounts automatically have accounts on these machines. Home directories on these machines are shared with other Stanford Computing Clusters using AFS. If you do not have a leland account, surf to

Course directory: Once your account is active, log in to one of these workstations and browse through the directory /usr/class/cs248. This will be your course directory. All software and data relevant to the course will be placed here. In particular, this is where you will find the front-end program and X support package for the first two projects. See the README file for more information. A copy of these tools will also be placed at the anonymous ftp site By the way, pay no attention to the contents of /usr/class/cs248/old. These are similar but not identical to the projects I will assign to you.

World Wide Web: All class handouts, project assignments, reading lists, and lecture notes will be available via the Web at URL Hardcopy of selected materials (but not lecture notes) will be made available in class. SITN no longer offers courier service for materials that are also online, but you can print them out from the Web. A few copies of materials made available in class will also be placed in the handout cabinet in Gates Hall, wing 3B, copy room, (room 377).

Newsgroup: A newsgroup has been set up for this course. It is called su.class.cs248. Feel free to post news to this group. It is intended for posting questions to your fellow students, looking for project partners, etc.

Emailing addresses: For questions directed to the TAs jointly and for other purposes that we will announce throughout the class, use To send email to the instructor or a particular TA, use the individual email addresses listed earlier in this handout. Do not send email to multiple primary recipients, except via cs248tas; choose one recipient as your "To:" and make the others "CC:". Otherwise, you might get no response, or you might get multiple responses, and we'll get annoyed.

Class emailing list: For items of urgent and universal importance such as clarifications in the project assignments or bugfixes related to the support package, your instructors will use an emailing list to contact you, so please make sure we know your email address, i.e. fill in the online student questionnaire at !!

SITN and Stanford Online: I teach because I enjoy interacting with students. This is one reason we use face-to-face grading in the projects. In addition, I would like everyone to attend class. I enjoy seeing your alert, smiling faces in the classroom and, like most teachers, I teach best to a live audience. If you cannot attend a particular class, the lectures will be videotaped by SITN and made available through the library system in the usual manner. They will also be digitized and made available via Stanford Online. However, I appeal to you not to abuse this system. If the only time I see you in person is during grading sessions, we have both lost something precious.

Video game competition

In case the delight of learning does not sufficiently motivate you to exert yourselves heroically on the projects, there will also be a video game competition. At 4:00pm on Wednesday, December 6, a judging will be held to select the best game made for project #3. While grades for the project are based mainly on "technical merit", the competition will be judged on both "technical merit" and "compelling game play." The jury, to be named later, will consist of computer graphics experts from both industry and academia. There will be several awards and one grand prize of "considerable value."
Copyright © 2000 Marc Levoy
Last update: November 14, 2000 02:16:03 PM