Penrose machines (from Sci. American)

FIT4012 : Procedural modelling, animation & artificial life in computer graphics

Course outline

  • Lecturer: Alan Dorin

    • Office: rm 135 (first floor, South wing), bldg. 63
    • Phone: ext. 5-3576, email:
    • Consultation: Anytime convenient, by appointment please!



Course Aims and Objectives

This unit covers the procedural specification of models for animation, their basic movements and high-level behaviour. Various means of giving Artificial Life to what are essentially sets of numbers are examined. These are utilized in an assignment which provides practical experience in the production of models for computer animation, as well as in the rendering of these models, or, for those students who prefer it, in agent-based modelling.

Successful completion of the course will give the student the necessary skills to undertake further research topics in computer graphics and artificial life.


While you may discuss solutions with your colleagues, your submitted assignment must be your own work - do not copy assignments from other students. Students detected doing this will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the faculty or university regulations.

Assignments are to be submitted electronically on or before the due date and time. There is a penalty for late submission. See the assignment link for details.

Your assignment should run in a standard UNIX environment (there are numerous types in the school), using OpenGL / GLUT for graphics. The submission of material which requires Microsoft products to operate is unacceptable.


Reading and Other External Materials

There is no prescribed text for this course, but there are a number of recommended books. References are given throughout the lecture notes. Below are some graphics-specific texts that are worth reading...

Recommended Reading:

Watt, A & M Watt (1992),
Advanced Animation and Rendering Techniques: theory and practice
ACM Press, New York NY. [Amazon ref]

Terzopoulos, D., (1999),
Artificial Life For Computer Graphics,
in Communications of the ACM
, Vol 42, No. 8, p32-42
[ACM Link] This article provides a good introduction to the application of Artificial Life to Computer Graphics.


OpenGL Architecure Review Board / Dave Shreiner, Mason Woo, Jackie Neider, Tom Davis (2005),
OpenGL Programming Guide, Version 2 (5th edition)
Addison-Wesley. [Amazon ref]

Recommended Watching

A relevant and interesting documentary on topics closely related to those in this course... The Secret Life of Chaos.

"Chaos theory has a bad name, conjuring up images of unpredictable weather, economic crashes and science gone wrong. But there is a fascinating and hidden side to Chaos, one that scientists are only now beginning to understand. It turns out that chaos theory answers a question that mankind has asked for millennia – how did we get here?

In this documentary, Professor Jim Al-Khalili sets out to uncover one of the great mysteries of science – how does a universe that starts off as dust end up with intelligent life? How does order emerge from disorder? It’s a mind-bending, counterintuitive and for many people a deeply troubling idea. But Professor Al-Khalili reveals the science behind much of beauty and structure in the natural world and discovers that far from it being magic or an act of God, it is in fact an intrinsic part of the laws of physics. Amazingly, it turns out that the mathematics of chaos can explain how and why the universe creates exquisite order and pattern. And the best thing is that one doesn’t need to be a scientist to understand it. The natural world is full of awe-inspiring examples of the way nature transforms simplicity into complexity. From trees to clouds to humans – after watching this film you’ll never be able to look at the world in the same way again."


last updated: July 19, 2012.