CS 488/688: Introduction to Computer Graphics

Spring 2023

Welcome to the home page for CS488/688, the introductory computer graphics course in the School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. This course focuses on 3D graphics and relevant topics in computer graphics.


This course gives students a solid background in 3D graphics techniques as a tool for implementing practical applications of computer graphics. A major part of the course involves hands-on programming activities.
At the end of the course, students should be able to
  • Explain the algorithmic and mathematical concepts used in computer graphics.
  • Write interactive programs that display and manipulate 3D geometry.
  • Write programs for realistic image synthesis.
This course mostly focuses on topics related to rendering (rasterization and ray tracing), but also touches on physics animation (particles, rigid bodies, and deformables). The topics covered in this course include, rasterization, sampling and reconstruction, transformations, graphics pipeline, triangle meshes, textures, real-time rendering techniques, ray-object intersections, cameras, colors and shading models, acceleration data structures, Monte Carlo integration, theory of light transport, path tracing, photon density estimation, particles, collisions, multi-body dynamics, rigid bodies, and deformables. Note that the topics in CS 488/688 vary at the discretion of the instructor for each term.


Times and Locations
Lectures will be on Tuesday and Thursday, from 2:30 PM – 3:50 PM, at MC 4063.
Toshiya Hachisuka: toshiya.hachisuka@uwaterloo.ca
Teaching Assistants
Weijie Zhou: w239zhou@uwaterloo.ca
Wenyou Wang: w576wang@uwaterloo.ca
Office Hours
See the Piazza page for more details.
The lab is available to use at MC 3007. There are no scheduled lab times. The lab is available for students enrolled in CS 488/688. The code to open the lab is provided in the Piazza page.
Announcements and Discussions
We are using Piazza for announcements, questions, and discussions of class-related material. Be sure to sign up as soon as you can. The registration link will be provided on the LEARN web page. You are encouraged to ask and answer questions in Piazza or in person during lectures. Use email only for issues pertaining to you (e.g., remarking request). Post other questions publicly in Piazza so that other students can also benefit from your questions. Do not post solutions to the assignments anywhere, not just within Piazza.
Additional resources
There is no required textbook, but the following resources may provide good supplementary material.
  • The website realtimerendering.com lists a bunch of books that are free online. Among others, for ray tracing, we recommend the pbrt book as a general reference and Peter Shirley's e-books as a good supplementary material for ray tracing.
  • Ten Minute Physics by Matthias Muller provides a very good overview of theory and practice regarding physics-based animation.
  • The graphics codex can serve as a reference to the topics and tools used in graphics.
  • The website of linalg.h for coding vector math.
  • The website of GLFW in case you want to look at how it is used in the base code.
  • Shadertoy and GLSL Sandbox showcase interesting (fragment) shader programs.
  • Inigo Quilez has several articles explaining practical solutions to many problems in graphics.
  • The course note of CS 488/688 from the previous terms is also available here, mainly just for your information.
If you know other resources that you have found useful in this course, please let us know!


Lectures are not everything
The lectures are designed to give you a solid understanding of the basic concepts of computer graphics, but they do not cover everything you need to know to complete the assignments. For example, I will not be talking about the specifics of APIs, libraries, or coding environments, so you will need to find them out by yourself. Such specifics will become obsolete in several years, so we focus more on fundamental ideas that will be relevant for many more years. The instructor designed the assignments such that you do not need to deal with those as much as possible. We cannot cover all the technical details in the lectures in order to convey the most important fundamental ideas in a limited time. If you want to understand in more detail, we recommend asking questions or referring to the additional resources.
While there is no hard requirement (besides the prerequisite courses as specified), generally speaking, we except students to be comfortable with probability, linear algebra, and calculus. Since this course involves quite a bit of coding tasks, you are also expected to be somewhat comfortable with algorithms and data structures, coding environment, debugging, and trouble-shooting in programming (especially in C++). You will need to have access to a coding environment (e.g., Visual Studio).
Marking scheme
Students are evaluated based only on the coding assignments. Your score relies on the successful completion of the programming tasks as described in each assignment. Each assignment contributes toward the final score as
  • A0: 0%
  • A1: 20%
  • A2: 20%
  • A3: 20%
  • Project proposal: 10%
  • Project: 30%
We have no midterm and final exams. Students should contact the TAs about concerns about the marking of submitted work within a week of the date it was first returned to the students. If the issues cannot be resolved between the TA and the student, the TA will inform the instructor, who will make the final decision. Note that graduate students in 688 will have additional tasks in the final project and will generally be assessed more strictly than undergraduate students. The instructor reserves the right to adjust the grades after the score is calculated above, but typically there will be no adjustment. Due to the varying nature of assignments between terms in this course, there will usually be no INC grade.
Group work
Group work is NOT allowed in this course. Your code should be written entirely by yourself. We will be able to detect if you copied code from other students. However, discussions among students are highly encouraged. A rule of thumb is that you should fully understand what you are doing and submit the code you wrote only by yourself.
Use of other resources
You may not copy code from previous offers of this or a similar course, solutions by other students, or other resources. If you are in doubt, please consult the instructor first before you write your code. The same rule applies to machine-learning assisted coding tools (e.g., ChatGPT), though our experience is that it usually does not work well for complicated tasks or quite misleading in some cases, at least as of May 2023.
Late submissions
Each student is allotted a total of FOUR late-day integer points. Use your late-day points to accommodate unexpected situations, such as your internet connection being down right before the deadline or forgetting or missing the deadline. No questions will be asked. Late-day points work as follows;
  • You can extend an assignment deadline by one day using one point. You can do this multiple times for one assignment, if needed, by using multiple points.
  • If you have no remaining late-day points, late submissions will incur 10% penalty per day for up to three days.
  • No submissions will be accepted more than three days after the deadline. This is true whether or not the student has late-day points remaining.
Assignments whose marking requires any corrective action from the course staff to address student's submission mistakes (e.g., missing files, files with incorrect names and/or permissions, problems with makefiles etc.) will be treated as three days late (i.e., 30% penalty). In some extreme cases, such as missing all the files (at the instructor's discretion), it will not be accepted and receive zero points. If you notice such a mistake after the deadline, you may use your late-day point to recover your mistake. Read the instructions carefully to avoid losing any points!
Extensions, Solutions, and Absences
We do not extend deadlines under normal circumstances based on students' requests. Do not even try to ask for it. The instructor may, however, decide to extend the deadlines at his or her discretion when it makes sense (again, not based on students' requests). Follow the formal procedure if the university's policy covers your situation. We will not provide source code solutions for assignments. It's your responsibility to make sure that your code runs correctly. You may not publish your code at any point during and after the course. The deadlines for assignments are posted below. If you have planned absences, start work early to avoid missing deadlines. We will not extend or move deadlines to accommodate such planned absences.

Interested in graphics research?

If you are a student enrolled in this course, I will be happy to discuss options for you to participate in research projects on various aspects of computer graphics. There are multiple official options available in the school (URF, USRA, MURA, URA, and honours thesis), or just unofficially working with me on something interesting. Please take a look at my web page to find out more information regarding my research.



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