COL865: Special Topics in Computer Applications:
Physics-Based Animation

General Information

Rahul Narain

Class times:
Mon 11–11:50am, Wed 11–11:50am, Thu 12–12:50pm
Bharti IIA-305

Office hours:
Mon–Wed 12–1pm
Bharti IIA-517

Course Description

Modern computer animation relies heavily on numerical simulation to create realistic and compelling depictions of complex physical phenomena, from solids like rigid, articulated, or deformable objects to fluids like smoke and water. This course will cover the mathematical and computational foundations used in physics-based animation which form the basis for state-of-the-art techniques in this area. Key ideas in numerical methods will also be introduced whenever relevant. Since this is a graduate-level course, many topics will be covered in a seminar style through presentation and discussion of research papers. Assignments and a final project will also give students the opportunity to implement and experiment with important simulation techniques.

A solid grasp of linear algebra and multivariable calculus is essential for success in this course. Familiarity with computer graphics (COL781) and numerical algorithms (COL726) is also highly recommended. If you are not sure you have the required background but are interested in taking this course, please talk to me first.

Content (tentative): Basic numerical analysis: root finding, numerical optimization, time integration. Simulation methods: finite differences, finite elements, particle-based (meshless) methods, position-based and projective dynamics. Animation problems: particle systems, rigid bodies, deformable solids, low-dimensional objects (hair and cloth), gases (smoke), liquids.


In this course, there will be three programming assignments, multiple paper presentations and discussions, and a final project. Your final grade will depend on your performance in the assignments and final project, your paper presentation(s), and your participation in class discussions.

Grading breakdown:

Attendance will be recorded starting Monday, 13 August. The attendance factor is 0 for 50% attendance or lower and 1 for 75% attendance or higher, with linear interpolation in between.

Late policy: You can use 10 free late days in total across 3 assignments. Any late submission after all 10 late days have been used will receive 0 points.

Audit policy: C or better grade, and at least 60% (21 out of 35) points in the “presentations & discussions” component.


Reading material will be posted on the course Moodle page.

Header image credits: Shinar et al. 2008, Pfaff et al. 2014, Irving et al. 2007, Narain et al. 2012, Daviet et al. 2011, Thürey et al. 2010.