CSE 557 Computer Graphics Grail

Winter Quarter 2008


Project 3: Animator

Assigned Date : 2/20/2008
Project Due Date : 3/3/2008
Artifact Due Date : 3/6/2008

Help Session: 2/25/2008
Allen 303 at 3:30

Project Description

This project consists of three parts: (1) use a simple OpenGL modeling tool to create and animate the hierarchical models of your own design (2) compose them into a scene and implement a keyframe animation system and (3) implement a particle system and integrate it with the animation system. We have provided a nifty user interface to help you draw curves and animate your model. When finished with the coding part of the project, you will use your system to create an animation artifact.

Quick Links

Table of Contents

Hierarchical Modeling

A hierarchical model is a way of grouping together shapes and attributes to form a complex object. Parts of the object are defined in relationship to each other as opposed to their position in some absolute coordinate system. Think of each object as a tree, with nodes decreasing in complexity as you move from root to leaf. Each node can be treated as a single object, so that when you modify a node you end up modifying all its children together. Hierarchical modeling is a very common way to structure 3D scenes and objects, and is found in many other contexts. We provide a simple framework such that you can experiment your hierarchical model.

Requirements for Hierarchical Modeling

First of all, you must come up with a character. This character can be composed solely of primitive shapes (box, generalized cylinder, sphere, and triangle). It should use at least ten primitives and at least four levels of hierarchy. You must also use at least one each of the glTranslate(), glRotate() and glScale() calls to position these primitives in space (and you will probably use many of all of them!) You must also use glPushMatrix() and glPopMatrix() to nest your matrix transformations. The modeler skeleton provides functions for creating sliders and hooking them to different features of your model. You must add at least one of these as a control knob (slider, actually) for some joint/component of your model - have your character do some simple action as you scrub a slider back and forth. In addition, at least one of your controls must be tied to more than one joint/component; this knob will change the input to some function that determines how several parts of your model can move. For example, in a model of a human, you might have a slider that straightens a leg by extending both the knee and hip joints.

Keyframe Animation with Curves

Keyframe animation is one of the most common methods for controlling a hierarchical model. The idea is to pose the model at select moments in time and then smoothly interpolate between the poses (sometimes called "in-betweening"). The pose is determined by the control parameters (degrees of freedom) of the model, such as joint angles, and each parameter has a separate curve describing how it changes over time. In practice, you do not need to pose the whole model at each keyframe; you can adjust each curve independently, adding keyframes for that curve as needed. For this component of the project, you will implement a set of curve types for keyframe interpolation.

Requirements for Animation Curves

You will need to implement each of the following curve types:

Skeleton Code for Curves

The GraphWidget object owns a bunch of Curve objects. The Curve class is used to represent the time-varying splines associated with your model parameters. You don't need to worry about most of the existing code, which is used to handle the spiffy user interface. The one important thing to understand is the curve evaluation model. Each curve is represented by a vector of control points, and a vector of evaluated points.

mutable std::vector m_ptvCtrlPts;
mutable std::vector m_ptvEvaluatedCurvePts;

Control points define a curve; they are the ones that you can see and manipulate in the graph interface. The evaluated points are a sampled representation of the curve itself (i.e. the solid line that runs through or near the control points). At any given time t, the value of the curve is defined as the interpolated value between the two closest evaluated points (i.e. the two evaluated points on either side of t).

Since the user only specifies control points in the graph widget, the program must determine the actual shape of the curve. In other words, given a set of control points, the system figures out what the evaluated points are. This conversion process is handled by the CurveEvaluator member variable of each curve.

const CurveEvaluator* m_pceEvaluator;

In the skeleton, we've only implemented the LinearEvaluator. You should use this as a model to implement the other types of curve evaluators required: Bézier, B-Spline, and Catmull-Rom. The following section describes in greater detail what you need to do to add a curve.

Adding Curve Types

For each curve type, you must write a new class derived from CurveEvaluator. Inside the class, you should implement the evaluateCurve function. This function takes the following parameters: ptvCtrlPts--a collection of control points that you specify in the curve editor, ptvEvaluatedCurvePts--a collection of evaluated curve points that you return from the function calculated using the curve type's formulas, fAniLength (the maximum time that a curve is defined), and bWrap - a flag indicating whether or not the curve should be wrapped. To add a new curve type, you should look in the GraphWidget constructor and change the following lines to use your new set of evaluator classes.

m_ppceCurveEvaluators[CURVE_TYPE_BSPLINE] = new LinearCurveEvaluator();
m_ppceCurveEvaluators[CURVE_TYPE_BEZIER] = new LinearCurveEvaluator();
m_ppceCurveEvaluators[CURVE_TYPE_CATMULLROM] = new LinearCurveEvaluator();

For Bézier curves (and the splines based on them), it is sufficient to sample the curve at fixed intervals of time. The adaptive de Casteljau subdivision algorithm presented in class may be implemented for an extra bell.

You do not have to sort the control points or the evaluated curve points. This has been done for you. Note, however, that for an interpolating curve (Catmull-Rom), the fact that the control points are given to you sorted by x does not ensure that the curve itself will also monotonically increase in x. You should recognize and handle this case appropriately. One solution is to return only the evaluated points that are increasing monotonically in x.

Particle System Simulation

The skeleton code has a very high-level framework in place for running particle simulations that is based on Witkin's Particle System Dynamics paper in the course reader. In this model, there are three major components:

  1. Particle objects (which have physical properties such as mass, position and velocity)
  2. Forces
  3. An engine for simulating the effect of the forces acting on the particles that solves for the position and velocity of each particle at every time step

You are responsible for coming up with a representation for particles and forces.

Requirements for Particle System

Here are the specific requirements for the particle system:

  1. Implement the simulation solver using Euler's method
  2. Create a particle system with at least two types of forces acting on it simultaneously. One force should be gravity, and the other could be something such as drag or wind.
  3. The particle system needs to be tied to a feature of your model. For example, you can have a steam particle system that shoots particles up from the chimney of a moving train. Use robotarm.cpp as an example of how to do this.

Once you've completed these tasks, you should be able to run your particle system simulation by playing your animation with the "Simulate" button turned on. As you simulate, the position of the particles at each time step are baked so that you can replay your animation without re-simulating. When you disable simulation, normal animation continues. The gray region in the white indicator window above the time slider indicates the time for which the simulation has been "baked."

Skeleton Code for Particle System

The skeleton provides a very basic outline of a simulation engine, encapsulated by the ParticleSystem class. Currently, the header file (ParticleSystem.h) specifies an interface that must be supported in order for your particle system to interact correctly with the animator UI. Alternately, you can try to figure out how the UI works yourself by searching within the project files for all calls to the particle system's functions, and then re-organizing the code. This second option may provide you with more flexibility in doing some very ambitious particle systems with extra UI support. However, the framework seems general enough to support a wide range of particle systems. There is detailed documentation in the header file itself that indicates what each function you are required to write should do. Note that the ParticleSystem declaration is by no means complete. As mentioned above, you will have to figure out how you want to store and organize particles and forces, and as a result, you will need to add member variables and functions.

One of the functions you are required to implement is called computeForcesAndUpdateParticles:

virtual void computeForcesAndUpdateParticles(float t);

This function represents the meat of the simulation solver. Here you will compute the forces acting on each particle and update their positions and velocities based on these forces using Euler's method. As mentioned above, you are responsible for modeling particles and forces in some way that allows you to perform this update step at each frame.

Hooking Up Your Particle System

In the sample robotarm.cpp file, there is a comment in the main function that indicates where you should create your particle system and hook it up into the animator interface. After creating your ParticleSystem object, you should do the following:

ParticleSystem *ps = new ParticleSystem();
// do some more particle system setup

User Interface

The interface for this project consists of two components: a slider control interface and an animation curve interface. The slider control interface allows you to control each degree of freedom of your hierachical model with a slider. The animation curve interface allows you to specify how each degree of freedom behaves as a function of time. In addition, you can manipulate the viewpoint by interacting directly with the view of the 3D model.


In the skeleton code distribution, we've included the fluid file for the ModelerUIWindows class (modeleruiwindows.fl). In addition, we've included the binary for fluid so that you can (if you want) make additions to the UI.

Animation Curve Interface

After selecting a series of model parameters in the browser window, their corresponding animation curves are displayed in the graph. Each spline is evaluated as a simple piece-wise linear curve that linearly interpolates between control points. You can manipulate the curves as follows:


LEFT MOUSE Clicking anywhere in the graph creates a control point for the selected curve. Ctrl points can be moved by clicking on them and dragging.
CTRL LEFT MOUSE Selects the curve
SHIFT LEFT MOUSE Removes a control point
ALT LEFT MOUSE Rubber-band selection of control points
RIGHT MOUSE Zooms in X and Y dimensions
CTRL RIGHT MOUSE Zooms into the rubber-banded space region
SHIFT RIGHT MOUSE Pans the viewed region

Note that each of the displayed curves has a different scale. Based on the maximum and minimum values for each parameter that you specified in your model file, the curve is drawn to "fit" into the graph. You'll also notice that the other curve types in the drop-down menu are not working. One part of your requirements (outlined below) is to implement these other curves.

At the bottom of the window is a simple set of VCR-style controls and a time slider that let you view your animation. "Loop" will make the animation start over when it reaches the end. The "Simulate" button relates to the particle system which is discussed below. You can use the Camera keyframing controls to define some simple camera animations. When you hit "Set", the current camera position and orientation (pose) is saved as a keyframe. By moving the time slider and specifying different pose keyframes, the camera will linearly interpolate between these poses to figure out where it should be at any given time. You can snap to a keyframe by clicking on the blue indicator lines, and if you hit "Remove", the selected keyframe will be deleted. "Remove All" removes all keyframes.

Animation Artifact

You will eventually use the curve editor and the particle system simulator to produce an animated artifact for this project. Under the File menu of the program, there is a Save Movie As option, that will let you specify a base filename for a set of movie frames. Each frame is saved as a bitmap.

Each group should turn in their own artifact. We may give extra credit to those that are exceptionally clever or aesthetically pleasing. Try to use the ideas discussed in the John Lasseter article in your CoursePak. These include anticipation, follow-through, squash and stretch, and secondary motion.

Finally, please try to limit your animation to 30 seconds or less. This may seem like a short amount of time, but it really isn't. Frequently, animations that are longer than this time seem to be running in slow motion. Actions should be quick and to the point.

Bells and Whistles

Modeling and Rendering

[whistle] Render your particle system as something other than white points!

[whistle] Particles rendered as points or spheres may not look that realistic. You can achieve more spectacular effects with a simple technique called billboarding. A billboarded quad (aka "sprite") is a textured square that always faces the camera. See the sprites demo. For full credit, you should load a texture with transparency (sample textures), and turn on alpha blending (see this tutorial for more information). Hint: When rotating your particles to face the camera, it's helpful to know the camera's up and right vectors in world-coordinates.

[whistle] Use the billboarded quads you implemented above to render the following effects. Each of these effects is worth one whistle provided you have put in a whistle worth of effort making the effect look good.

[whistle] Render a mirror in your scene. As you may already know, OpenGL has no built-in reflection capabilities. You can simulate a mirror with the following steps: 1) Reflect the world about the mirror's plane, 2) Draw the reflected world, 3) Pop the reflection about the mirror plane from your matrix stack, 4) Draw your world as normal. After completing these steps, you may discover that some of the reflected geometry appears outside the surface of the mirror. For an extra whistle you can clip the reflected image to the mirror's surface, you need to use something called the stencil buffer. The stencil buffer is similar to a Z buffer and is used to restrict drawing to certain portions of the screen. See Scott Schaefer's site for more information. In addition, the NeHe game development site has a detailed tutorial

[whistle] Use environment mapping to simulate a reflective material. This technique is particularly effective at faking a metallic material or reflective, rippling water surface. Note that OpenGL provides some very useful functions for generating texture coordinates for spherical environment mapping. Part of the challenge of this whistle is to find these functions and understand how they work.

[whistle] Implement a motion blur effect (example). The easy way to implement motion blur is using an accumulation buffer - however, consumer grade graphics cards do not implement an accumulation buffer. You'll need to simulate an accumulation buffer by rendering individual frames to a texture, then combining those textures. See this tutorial for an example of rendering to a texture.

[bell] Use a texture map on all or part of your character. (The safest way to do this is to implement your own primitives inside your model file that do texture mapping.)

[bell] Build a complex shape as a set of polygonal faces, using triangles (either the provided primitive or straight OpenGL triangles) to render it. Examples of things that don't count as complex: a pentagon, a square, a circle. Examples of what does count: dodecahedron, 2D function plot (z = sin(x2 + y)), etc.

[bell+whistle] Heightfields are great ways to build complicated looking maps and terrains pretty easily.

[bell+whistle] Add a lens flare. This effect has components both in screen space and world space effect. For full credit, your lens flare should have at least 5 flare "drops", and the transparency of the drops should change depending on how far the light source is from the center of the screen. You do not have to handle the case where the light source is occluded by other geometry (but this is worth an extra whistle).

[bell+whistle]width="48" If you find something you don't like about the interface, or something you think you could do better, change it! Any really good changes will be incorporated into Animator 2.0. Credit varies with the quality of the improvement.

[bell] [bell] Add a function in your model file for drawing a new type of primitive. The following examples will definitely garner two bells; if you come up with your own primitive, you will be awarded one or two bells based on its coolness. Here are three examples:

  1. Surfaces of rotation - given a curve and an axis, draw the surface that results from sweeping the curve around the axis. This is really nice for making pottery :).
  2. Rail surfaces - see this link.
  3. Swept surfaces (this is worth 3 bells) -- given two curves, sweep one profile curve along the path defined by the other. These are also known as "generalized cylinders" when the profile curve is closed. This isn't quite as simple as it may first sound, as it requires the profile curve to change its orientation as it sweeps over the path curve. See this page for some uses of generalized cylinders. This document may be helpful as well, or see the parametric surfaces lecture from a previous offering of this class.

[bell] [bell] Use some sort of procedural modeling (such as an L-system) to generate all or part of your character or to create a new model for your scene. Have parameters of the procedural modeler controllable by the user via control widgets.

[bell] [bell] If you implemented a "twist" degree of freedom for some part of your model, applying the rotational degrees of freedom can give some unexpected results. For example, twist your the degree of freedom by 90 degrees. Now try to do rotations as normal. This effect is called gimbal lock. Implement Quaternions as a method for avoiding the gimbal lock.

[bell] [bell] Implement picking of a part in the model hierarchy. In other words, make it so that you can click on a part of your model to select its animation curve. To recognize which body part you're picking, you need to first render all body parts into a hidden buffer using only an emissive color that corresponds to an object ID. After modifying the mouse-ing UI to know about your new picking mode, you'll figure out which body part the user has picked by reading out the ID from your object ID buffer at the location where the mouse clicked. This should then trigger the GraphWidget to select the appropriate curve for editing. If you're thinking of doing either of the six-bell inverse kinematics (IK) extensions below, this kind of interface would be required.

[bell] [bell] [bell] Implement projected textures. Projected textures are used to simulate things like a slide projector, spotlight illumination, or casting shadows onto arbitrary geometry. Check out this demo and read details of the effect at glBase, and SGI.

[bell] [bell] [bell] One difficulty with hierarchical modeling using primitives is the difficulty of building "organic" shapes. It's difficult, for instance, to make a convincing looking human arm because you can't really show the bending of the skin and bulging of the muscle using cylinders and spheres. There has, however, been success in building organic shapes using metaballs. Implement your hierarchical model and "skin" it with metaballs. Hint: look up "marching cubes" and "marching tetrahedra" --these are two commonly used algorithms for volume rendering. For an additional bell, the placement of the metaballs should depend on some sort of interactically controllable hierarchy. Try out a demo application.

Metaball Demos:These demos show the use of metaballs within the modeler framework. The first demo allows you to play around with three metaballs just to see how they interact with one another. The second demo shows an application of metaballs to create a twisting snake-like tube. Both these demos were created using the metaball implementation from a past CSE 457 student's project.

Demo 1: Basic Texture Mapped Metaballs

Demo 2: Cool Metaball Snake

[bell] [bell] [bell] [bell] Another method to build organic shapes is subdivision surfaces. Implement these for use in your model. You may want to visit this to get some starter code.

[bell] [bell] [bell] [bell] [bell] [bell] Extend your system to support subdivision surfaces. Provide a simple interface for the user to edit a surface. The user should also be able to specify surface features that stay constant so that sharp creases can be formed. Tie your surface to the animation curves to demonstrate a dynamic scene. Look here for a collection of links. As mentioned above in the blurb for the subdivision curve bell, Caltech has a few nice applets here.


[whistle] The linear curve code provided in the skeleton can be "wrapped," which means that the curve has C0 continuity between the end of the animation and the beginning. As a result, looping the animation does not result in abrupt jumps. To get credit for wrapping, you must implement it for each curve type; for information on Bézier curve wrapping, please click here or for more information in general look here.

[whistle] Enhance the required spline options. Some of these will require alterations to the user interface, which is somewhat complicated to understand. If you want to access mouse events in the graph window, look at the handle function in the GraphWidget class. Also, look at the Curve class to see what control point manipulation functions are already provided. These could be helpful, and will likely give you a better understanding of how to modify or extend your program's behavior. A maximum of 3 whistles will be given out in this category.

[bell] Implement adaptive Bézier curve generation; i.e., use a recursive, divide-and-conquer, de Casteljau algorithm to produce Bézier curves, rather than just sampling them at some arbitrary interval. You are required to provide some way to change these variables, with a keystroke or mouse click. In addition, you should have some way of showing (a printf statement is fine) the number of points generated for a curve to demonstrate your adaptive algorithm at work. If you provide visual controls to toggle the feature, modify the flatness parameter (with a slider for e.g.) and show the number of points generated for each curve, you will get an extra whistle.

[bell] Implement a "general" subdivision curve, so the user can specify an arbitrary averaging mask. You will receive still more credit if you can generate, display, and apply the evaluation masks as well. There's a site at Caltech with a few interesting applets that may be useful.

[bell] [bell] Implement a C2-Interpolating curve. There is already an entry for it in the drop-down menu. See write-up from the Bartels, Beatty, and Barsky book (in the course reader).

[bell] [bell] Add the ability to edit Catmull-Rom curves using the two "inner" Bézier control points as "handles" on the interpolated "outer" Catmull-Rom control points. After the user tugs on handles, the curve will, in general, no longer be Catmull-Rom. In other words, the user starts by drawing a C1 continuous curve with the Catmull-Rom choice for the inner Bézier points, but can then be modified by selecting and editing the handles. The user should be allowed to drag the interpolated point in a manner that causes the inner Bézier points to be dragged along. See PowerPoint and Illustrator pencil-drawn curves for an example. Credit will vary depending on how much freedom the user is given to edit the inner control points; e.g., Powerpoint allows you to constrain the inner control points to make the curve C1 ("Smooth"), G1 ("Straight"), or C0/G0 ("Corner") around the interpolated point. More credit is available if you can make the curve C-1, which would allow you, for example, to do camera jump-cuts easily.

Particles and Animation

[whistle] Modify your particle system so that the particles' velocities gets initialized with the velocity of the hierarchy component from which they are emitted. The particles may still have their own inherent initial velocity. For example, if your model is a helicopter with a cannon launching packages out if it, each package's velocity will need to be initialized to the sum of the helicopter's velocity and the velocity imparted by the cannon.

[whistle] Euler's method is a very simple technique for solving the system of differential equations that defines particle motion. However, more powerful methods can be used to get better, more accurate results. Implement your simulation engine using a higher-order method such as the Runge-Kutta technique. ( Numerical Recipes, Sections 16.0, 16.1) has a description of Runge-Kutta and pseudo-code.

[whistle] Add baking to your particle system. For simulations that are expensive to process, some systems allow you to cache the results of a simulation. This is called "baking." After simulating once, the cached simulation can then be played back without having to recompute the particle properties at each time step. See this page for more information on how to implement particle baking.

[bell] Extend the particle system to handle springs. For example, a pony tail can be simulated with a simple spring system where one spring endpoint is attached to the character's head, while the others are floating in space. In the case of springs, the force acting on the particle is calculated at every step, and it depends on the distance between the two endpoints. For an extra bell, implement spring-based cloth.

[bell] Allow for particles to bounce off each other by detecting collisions when updating their positions and velocities. Although it is difficult to make this very robust, your system should behave reasonably.

[bell+whistle] Perform collision detection with more complicated shapes. For complex scenes, you can even use the accelerated ray tracer and ray casting to determine if a collision is going to occur. Credit will vary with the complexity shapes and the sophistication of the scheme used for collision detection.

[bell] [bell] Add flocking behaviors to your particles to simulate creatures moving in flocks, herds, or schools. A convincing way of doing this is called "boids" (see here for a demo and for more information). For full credit, use a model for your creatures that makes it easy to see their direction and orientation (for example, the yellow/green pyramids in the boids demo would be a minimum requirement). For up to one more bell, make realistic creature model and have it move realistically according to its motion path. For example, a bird model would flap its wings when it rises, and hold it's wings outstretched when turning.

[bell] [bell] [bell] An alternative way to do animations is to transform an already existing animation by way of motion warping (see example animations). Extend the animator to support this type of motion editing.

[bell] [bell] [bell] [bell] If you have a sufficiently complex model, you'll soon realize what a pain it is to have to play with all the sliders to pose your character correctly. Implement a method of adjusting the joint angles, etc., directly though the viewport. For instance, clicking on the shoulder of a human model might select it and activate a sphere around the joint. Click-dragging the sphere then should rotate the shoulder joint intuitively. For the elbow joint, however, a sphere would be quite unintuitive, as the elbow can only rotate about one axis. For ideas, you may want to play with the Maya 3D modeling/animation package, which is installed on the workstations in 228. Credit depends on quality of implementation.

[bell] [bell] [bell] [bell] Incorporate rigid-body simulation functionality into your program, so that you can correctly simulate collisions and response between rigid objects in your scene. You should be able to specify a set of objects in your model to be included in the simulation, and the user should have the ability to enable and disable the simulation either using the existing "Simulate" button, or with a new button.

[bell] [bell] [bell] [bell] [bell] [bell] You might notice after trying to come up with a good animation that it's difficult to have very "goal-oriented" motion. Given a model of a human, for instance, if the goal is to move the hand to a certain coordinate, we might have to animate the shoulder angle, elbow angle -- maybe even the angle of the knees if the feet are constrained to one position. Implement a method, given a set of position constraints like:

left foot is at (1,0,2)
right foot is at (3,0,4)
left hand is at (7,8,2)

that computes the intermediate angles necessary such that all constrains are satisfied (or, if the constraints can not be satisfied, the square of the distance violations is minimized). For an additional 4 bells, make sure that all angle constraints are satisfied as well. In your model, for instance, you might specify that the elbow angle should stay between 30 and 180 degrees. If you're planning on doing this bell, you should talk to the TA and/or the instructor. In addition, you can look here for some related material.

Monster Bells

Disclaimer: please consult the course staff before spending any serious time on these. They are quite difficult, and credit can vary depending on the quality of your method and implementation.

Inverse kinematics

The hierarchical model that you created is controlled by forward kinematics; that is, the positions of the parts vary as a function of joint angles. More mathematically stated, the positions of the joints are computed as a function of the degrees of freedom (these DOFs are most often rotations). The problem of inverse kinematics is to determine the DOFs of a model to satisfy a set of positional constraints, subject to the DOF constraints of the model (a knee on a human model, for instance, should not bend backwards).

This is a significantly harder problem than forward kinematics. Aside from the complicated math involved, many inverse kinematics problems do not have unique solutions. Imagine a human model, with the feet constrained to the ground. Now we wish to place the hand, say, about five feet off the ground. We need to figure out the value of every joint angle in the body to achieve the desired pose. Clearly, there are an infinite number of solutions. Which one is "best"?

Now imagine that we wish to place the hand 15 feet off the ground. It's fairly unlikely that a realistic human model can do this with its feet still planted on the ground. But inverse kinematics must provide a good solution anyway. How is a good solution defined?

Your solver should be fully general and not rely on your specific model (although you can assume that the degrees of freedom are all rotational). Additionally, you should modify your user interface to allow interactive control of your model though the inverse kinematics solver. The solver should run quickly enough to respond to mouse movement.

If you're interested in implementing this, you will probably want to consult the CSE558 lecture notes.

Interactive Control of Physically-Based Animation

Create a character whose physics can be controlled by moving a mouse or pressing keys on the keyboard. For example, moving the mouse up or down may make the knees bend or extend the knees (so your character can jump), while moving it the left or right could control the waist angle (so your character can lean forward or backward). Rather than have these controls change joint angles directly, as was done in the modeler project, the controls should create torques on the joints so that the character moves in very realistic ways. This monster bell requires components of the rigid body simulation extension above, but you will receive credit for both extensions as long as both are fully implemented. For this extension, you will create a hierarchical character composed of several rigid bodies. Next, devise a way user interactively control your character.

This technique can produce some organic looking movements that are a lot of fun to control. For example, you could create a little Luxo Jr. that hops around and kicks a ball. Or, you could create a downhill skier that can jump over gaps and perform backflips (see the Ski Stunt example below).

SIGGRAPH paper - http://www.dgp.toronto.edu/~jflaszlo/papers/sig2000.pdf

Several movie examples - http://www.dgp.toronto.edu/~jflaszlo/interactive-control.html

Ski Stunt - a fun game that implements this monster bell - Information and Java applet demo - Complete Game (win32)

If you want, you can do it in 2D, like the examples shown in this paper (in this case you will get full monster bell credit, but half credit for the rigid body component).

View-dependent adaptive polygon meshes

The primitives that you are using in your model are all built from simple two dimensional polygons. That's how most everything is handled in the OpenGL graphics world. Everything ends up getting reduced to triangles.

Building a highly detailed polygonal model often requires millions of triangles. This can be a huge burden on the graphics hardware. One approach to alleviating this problem is to draw the model using varying levels of detail. In the modeler application, this can be done by specifying the quality (poor, low, medium, high). This unfortunately is a fairly hacky solution to a more general problem.

First, implement a method for controlling the level of detail of an arbitrary polygonal model. You will probably want to devise some way of representing the model in a file. Ideally, you should not need to load the entire file into memory if you're drawing a low-detail representation.

Now the question arises: how much detail do we need to make a visually nice image? This depends on a lot of factors. Farther objects can be drawn with fewer polygons, since they're smaller on screen. See Hugues Hoppe's work on View-dependent refinement of progressive meshes for some cool demos of this. Implement this or a similar method, making sure that your user interface supplies enough information to demonstrate the benefits of using your method. There are many other criteria to consider that you may want to use, such as lighting and shading (dark objects require less detail than light ones; objects with matte finishes require less detail than shiny objects).

Hierarchical models from polygon meshes

Many 3D models come in the form of static polygon meshes. That is, all the geometry is there, but there is no inherent hierarchy. These models may come from various sources, for instance 3D scans. Implement a system to easily give the model some sort of hierarchical structure. This may be through the user interface, or perhaps by fitting an model with a known hierarchical structure to the polygon mesh (see this for one way you might do this). If you choose to have a manual user interface, it should be very intuitive.

Through your implementation, you should be able to specify how the deformations at the joints should be done. On a model of a human, for instance, a bending elbow should result in the appropriate deformation of the mesh around the elbow (and, if you're really ambitious, some bulging in the biceps).