Computer Animation

CS56: Fall 2019

About:     | Overview | Schedule | Goals | Grading | Resources |
Policies: | Late Work | Integrity | Accommodations |


Class Information

Professor: Aline Normoyle
Office:Science Center 252
Office hours:Thu 3-4:30, and by appointment

Class: TR: 9:55 - 11:10, Science Center 181
Lab A: T: 1:05 - 2:35, Science Center 240
Lab B: T: 2:45 - 4:15, Science Center 240

Course Piazza Page

Optional Text (available at the library):


Warning! This is subject to change!

Course Overview

The goal of this course is to give students a foundation for programming animated and interactive graphics.

In particular, we will "look under the hood" at the algorithms used by game engines and modeling tools to create authorable, interactive characters and special effects. Labs will give students hands on experience implementing algorithms in C++ as well as opportunities to derive their own unique animations. Topics will include mathematical foundations (coordinate systems, transformations, quaternions), interpolation techniques, keyframing, motion capture and procedural animation, and physically-based systems. Animation is hard work but nothing beats the joy and satisfaction of creating your own worlds and watching them come to life!

Prereqs: CS31, CS35, MATH15 or placement into MATH25

Course Learning Goals

As we mentioned above, we will be learning the fundamentals of computer animation.

But that is not all! As a side-effect, we will also be honing our engineering skills, namely,

In fact, mastering these skills will enable you to work with any animation environment, from manipulating splines in your browser's SVG to using game engines such as Unity or Unreal Engine.

Student Responsibilities


Grades will be weighted as follows: We will follow the terms and conditions of other CS courses at Swarthmore. Regarding exams, only conflicts for which you have no control, such as your participation in an athletic team competition or an orchestra performance will be accommodated (practices and rehearsals are not acceptable conflicts). Please read the Accommodations section if you need extra time for taking exams.

You must inform me of accommodations or conflicts at least 3 weeks prior to the exam.


The class participation grade is based on: Particpation is mandatory unless otherwise stated.


Most of the labs will be done with a parter. The programming labs will consist of implementing functions in C++ codebase. If it has been awhile since you've programmed in C++, please look at Tia Newhall's C++ programming references.

Assignments will be assigned most weeks. They will be submitted electronically by pushing to your assigned git repository. You may push your assignment multiple times, and a history of previous submissions will be saved. You are encouraged to push your work regularly.

About the CS Lab:

The CS labs (Sci Center 240, 256, 238, and Clothier basement) are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for you to use for CS course work. With the exception of during times when a class, or a class lab or ninja session is scheduled in a lab, you may work in one of the CS labs on your CS course work anytime. The overflow lab (238) is always available. The CS lab resources are for CS course work. Please review the CS Lab Rules and CS User Rules about appropriate use of CS labs.

Accessing the CS labs after hours:

use your OneCard to gain access to the computer labs and Science Center (near Cornell library) at nights and on the weekends. Contact public safety if you are not able to access these spaces with your OneCard.

Coding Resources

Tia Newhall's git and unix resources

Andy Danners's git and cmake resources

Late Lab Work Policy

To help with cases of minor illnesses, athletic conflicts, or other short-term time limitations, all students start the course with three "late assignment days" to be used at your discretion, with no questions asked. To use your extra time, you must email your professor after you have completed the lab and pushed to your repository. You do not need to inform anyone ahead of time. When you use late time, you should still expect to work on the newly-released lab during the following lab section meeting. The professor will always prioritize answering questions related to the current lab assignment.

Your late days will be counted at the granularity of full days and will be tracked on a per-partnership basis. That is, if you turn in an assignment five minutes after the deadline, it counts as using one day. For partnered labs, using a late day counts towards the late days for each partner. In the rare cases in which only one partner has unused late days, that partner's late days may be used, barring a consistent pattern of abuse.

You may only use up to 2 late days on any individual assignment. After you have used up your late days, I reserve the right to refuse any late work from you (you will receive a zero). Any work I do accept after this, will incur a significantly large penalty for every day it is late.

Absence/Assignment Extension Policy

Your three late days for lab assignments are intended to help when you need to miss a class due to a minor illness or to travel for a conference or interview, or when you have a lot of work to do in another class. Extensions are not granted for any of these reasons;

Use your late days if you feel that you need an extension on an assignment or that you are unable to attend class for two or more meetings due to a medical condition (e.g., extended illness, concussion, hospitalization) or family emergency, you must provide your instructors with official documentation from the dean's office or student health center. Their documentation will help us to provide the appropriate accommodations.

Academic Integrity

The CS Department Integrity Policy Statement:

Academic honesty is required in all your work. Under no circumstances may you hand in work done with (or by) someone else under your own name. Your code should never be shared with anyone; you may not examine or use code belonging to someone else, nor may you let anyone else look at or make a copy of your code. This includes, but is not limited to, obtaining solutions from students who previously took the course or code that can be found online. You may not share solutions after the due date of the assignment.

Discussing ideas and approaches to problems with others on a general level is fine (in fact, we encourage you to discuss general strategies with each other), but you should never read anyone else's code or let anyone else read your code. All code you submit must be your own with the following permissible exceptions: code distributed in class, code found in the course text book, and code worked on with an assigned partner. In these cases, you should always include detailed comments that indicates on which parts of the assignment you received help, and what your sources were.

Failure to abide by these rules constitutes academic dishonesty and will lead to a hearing of the College Judiciary Committee. According to the Faculty Handbook: "Because plagiarism is considered to be so serious a transgression, it is the opinion of the faculty that for the first offense, failure in the course and, as appropriate, suspension for a semester or deprivation of the degree in that year is suitable; for a second offense, the penalty should normally be expulsion."

The spirit of this policy applies to all course work, including code, homework solutions (e.g., proofs, analysis, written reports), and exams. Please contact me if you have any questions about what is permissible in this course.

For this course, it is fine to help each other with using utilities and tools (Unix, C++, Sqlite, man, git, make, ...), and with reading and understanding the assignments. However, you should avoid discussing the details of your solution with anyone other than your lab partner, and you should never look at anyone else's code for a solution to a lab (or to a similar project). In addition, there are many useful on-line resources of which you should take advantage. However, make sure that you do not use these resources in such a way that it violates the spirit of our Academic Integrity statement. For example, should you post questions to on-line forums or mailing lists seeking a solution to the specific problem you are asked to solve. Basically, the solution and code that you submit as your own should be your own. If you are unclear about what type of collaboration is okay and what type is not, ask me about your situation before proceeding.

Accommodations Statement

If you believe you need accommodations for a disability or a chronic medical condition, please contact Student Disability Services (Parrish 113W, 123W) via e-mail at to arrange an appointment to discuss your needs. As appropriate, the office will issue students with documented disabilities or medical conditions a formal Accommodations Letter. Since accommodations require early planning and are not retroactive, please contact Student Disability Services as soon as possible. For details about the accommodations process, visit the Student Disability Service Website. You are also welcome to contact me privately to discuss your academic needs. All disability-related accommodations must be arranged, in advance, through Student Disability Services.