General Information - Winter 2018

No 557? No 350? No Problem! Just send me an email!

COMP 350 is now officially no longer a prerequisite. While computer graphics (COMP 557) is useful for the course, given that 557 and 559 are scheduled for the same term, I will waive the prerequisite for anyone who has the graphics prerequisites and wants to take this course. See the prerequisites section of this web page for more information.

Lectures 2:35 PM - 3:55 PM, Tuesdays and Thursdays
Location ENGTR 1090
Credits 4
Instructor Paul Kry
Telephone 514 398 2577
Office McConnell 113N
Office Hours 2 PM Wednesdays, or by appointment (any time!)
Teaching Assistant TBA

Overview and Objectives

This course will provide an introduction to computational techniques for generating animation. Topics will include methods which have applications in the creation of movie effects, the development of video games, and training simulations. While the focus will largely be on physically based methods for the automatic generation of motion, part of the course will cover methods for user control of animation and reuse of captured motion data. See the schedule below for a list of topics.

The main objective of this course is to have students develop an understanding of fundamental techniques used for computer animation. At the end of the term, students will be able to identify the advantages and disadvantages of using simulation, procedural animation, motion capture, and hand designed animations, with respect to both online and offline applications. You will also be able to implement animation techniques, using common software languages and tools. Finally, in addition to an understanding of current practices in computer animation, a general objective is for students to better recognize current important challenges in computer animation.


Students taking this course should have good knowledge of linear algebra (linear systems, eigenvalues), calculus (basic differential equations, vector calculus, partial derivatives), and be comfortable programming in Java for assignments. Some review will be done in class when necessary or appropriate.

While a computer graphics background is an asset for studing computer animation, it is not critial given the material covered. Undergraduates who have taken the COMP 557 prerequisites (MATH 222, MATH 223, COMP 250, COMP 206) should have the necessary background to succeed.

If you are blocked from registering, please send me an email and I will request that your registration is unblocked. Please use your mcgill email, and include your student number, and indicate if you are an undergrad or a grad student. If you are an undergraduate student, please likewise let me know if you have taken the COMP 557 prerequisites.

Course format and evaluation

The class will be taught through a series of lectures. Grading will be largely based on assignments and a project. The intent is for students to get hands on experience with the material in the course. There are four components to the grading scheme.

  • 40% assignments (4 programming assignments)
  • 30% midterm exams (two in class tests, 10% for the first, 20% for the second)
  • 30% project (write up, presentation, and oral presentation)

Projects can be a significant extension of a previous assignment or something of your own choosing. This highlights reel from the 2009 offering of this course may give you some additional inspiration.


Here follows the list of tentative assignment topics. Note that there will only be 4 assignments and for each you will have two weeks to complete the objectives (you will have more than three weeks for the project).

  • Mass-spring particle system
  • Rigid body collision and response
  • Eulerian fluid simulation
  • Motion capture reuse and character simulation
  • Physics based character control
  • Continuous collision detection
  • Implicit simulation of cloth with constraints
  • Inverse kinematics

For additional fun, the assignments have achievements that can be unlocked while completing your assignment. Descriptions of the achievements that can be unlocked will appear on the leader board page once each assignmetn is posted.

Assignments must be all your own work. You are still encouraged to discuss material related to the assignments with your classmates, that is, discuss your assignments, problems, or solutions as a group, but you are ultimately responsible for understanding the material and the programming and write up must be all your own work. If you do talk with your classmates about the assignment, then you must list the names of everyone with which you discussed the assignment, or state that you discussed with nobody.

See below the section on things you should already know about academic integrity. Also note that you can submit work in French if you prefer. If ever you feel you can't complete the work, talk to me, or your advisor, and we can help you figure out what to do (i.e., don't wait until the end of the term).

Programming assignments must be submitted electronically (follow the instructions in the assignment specification). Package structure must be preserved in your zip file. Do not use any other archive type. Please check carefully the time at which assignments are due and do not leave it until the last minute to submit! Late assignments will be accepted up to three days after the deadline and will receive a penalty of 10%.

You should always check your submission by downloading your assignment from the server and checking that it is what you intended to submit. The written component of an assignment, if any, must be submitted as a PDF (i.e., a clear scan, or photo, or use latex or some other typesetting software). Readme files should always have a .txt ending.

Texts and Resources

Material in this course will come from a number of sources. All suggested and supplementary texts will be on reserve at the Schulich library. The CAAT book is recommended for students wanting an general resource and slightly gentler introduction to the material, while the PBA book is suggested as a good supplementary resource on the Physics-Based Animation topics. The course will also make use of a number of excellent free online resources (PBM, MLS), and additional notes on selected materials will be provided through out the term on MyCourses. Finally, assignments are typically based on recent and seminal publications, and links to online PDF files will be provided.

Tentative Schedule (consult MyCourses for updated version)

1 Introduction
2 Physics-based animation with ODEs, second order motion, springs, dampers, gravity
3 Implicit and explicit methods, solving sparse systems
4 Numerical vs exact solutions
5 Numerical solutions to ODEs, and absolute stability
6 Rigid body motion in 2D
7 Collision detection, BVs and hierarchies
8 Collision response, penalty forces and contact constraints
9 Constraints, energy formulation, Lagrange multipliers
10 Linear complementarity problem
11 Motion capture tech, capture reuse challenges
12 Control for character animation, ODE library
13 Midterm (in class)
14 Eulerian fluid simulation (guest lecture)
15 Eulerian fluid simulation review, and survey of alternative methods
16 Constraint stabilization, Baumgarte, manifold projection, post step
17 Rigid body motion, exponential map and Rodrigues' formula
18 Rigid body motion, logarithmic map
19 Rigid body motion, rotational relative veloctiy
20 Rigid body motion, adjoint transformation
21 Rigid body equations of motion
22 forward and inverse kinematics
23 FEM, Elastic solids
24 Corotational finite elements
25 Survey of other animation techniques (skinning, keyframe, spacetime optimization)
26 Midterm (in class)

In case you didn't already know...

McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore, all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures. See for more information, as well as with respect to student rights and responsibilities.

It should be noted that, in accordance with article 15 of the Charter of Students' Rights, students may submit examination answers in either French or English.

According to Senate regulations, instructors are not permitted to make special arrangements for final exams. Please consult the Calendar, section, General University Information and Regulations at Special arrangements in emergencies may be requested at your Student Affairs Office. If you have a disability, please advise the Office for Students with Disabilities (398-6009) as early in the term as possible so that we can provide appropriate accommodation to support your success.

In the event of circumstances beyond the instructor's control, the evaluation scheme as set out in this document might require change. In such a case, every effort will be made to obtain consensus agreement from the class.

Additional policies governing academic issues which affect students can be found in the Handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities.