Final Project
By zdevito and mmp

Dates and Deadlines

Proposal due: Tuesday May 28, 11:59pm

Rendering competition: Tuesday June 11, 3-6pm, Gates 104

Final writeup due: Wednesday June 12, noon.

Late days may not be used for the final project.

If you need a partner, post a note in this Piazza post.


For your final project we ask you to either:

  • Produce a realistic image of a real object or scene. The scene or object should be challenging enough to require you to design and implement an advanced rendering algorithm. ("Rendering track").
  • Or, either substantially improve the performance of an existing implementation of a rendering algorithm, or implement a new high-performance rendering algorithm from scratch, analyzing the performance characteristics of prior and new algorithms. ("Systems track").

The final project is your chance to investigate an area that interests you in more depth, and to showcase your creativity. To get an idea of our expectations, check out these descriptions of projects from past course participants (pay special attention to projects from the past 2-3 years). Note that in previous years, a "systems track" option for the final project hasn't been an option, so previous projects will all be of the "rendering track" type.

On Tuesday June 11th, you will present your project to an independent panel of judges as part of the CS348b 2012 rendering competition. Teams creating the best projects (as determined by the judges) will receive exciting prizes! As extra incentive, we are offering a grand prize that includes a free trip to SIGGRAPH 2013 in Anaheim in August. Here are some things to think about following when choosing a project:

  • What are your goals? Try and phrase this as specific questions that you would like to know the answers to, e.g. How do I model reflection from surfaces with fine geometric structure, such as fur?
  • Rendering track: What unique imagery would convincingly demonstrate that you have accomplished your goals? Try and keep this in mind throughout your project, since in computer graphics our work is often judged by the images we make.
  • Systems track: What measurements can you make that will illumunate the performance characteristics of your implementation (memory use, running time, etc.)? Can you quantify how close your implementation is to an ideal one? How does the performance vary with different input scenes with different characteristics?
  • What has already been done in this area? You probably won't have time to completely investigate this, but you should definitely spend some time reading research papers. We can help you with finding appropriate references. When you read a paper, look for what has not been done as well as what is already understood; think about new things that you could try.
  • Depending on the scope of your goals, you may want to work in a group. We encourage two person groups; larger groups will only be allowed to take on very, very challenging projects. Does your project split naturally into several pieces? Look for projects where each person's work is separable, and yet everyone contributes toward a shared goal that could not be accomplished individually.

Project Ideas

Try to find a project idea that you're passionate about; you'll be spending a lot of time working on it, so it's good to be excited about it!

You may find inspiration from some of the assigned reading as well as from some of the more complex exercises in Physically Based Rendering. Also see the "Further Reading" section at the end of chapters that are about topics that may interest you for your final project.

Here are some ideas that you may find interesting or may spark ideas about other projects.

Project Proposal

As a first step you should write a one page project proposal and submit it as a PDF on the assignment submission page. Only one student per group needs to submit the proposal.The proposal should contain a picture of a real object or scene that you intend to reproduce. We suggest that you first pick something that you would like to simulate, and then investigate what techniques need to be used. A real object that you can carry around with you is best, but a good photograph or painting is almost as good. In addition to having illustrative pictures, your proposal should state the goal of your project, motivate why it is interesting, identify the key technical challenges you will face, and outline briefly your approach. If you are implementing an algorithm described in a particular paper, provide the reference to the paper. Please list all group member's names clearly at the top of the page, and if you plan on collaborating with others, briefly describe how each person's piece relates to the others.

Here is a good example of a project proposal.

The purpose of the proposal is to get everyone organized early, and it will give us the opportunity to provide feedback as to whether we think your idea is reasonable, and to offer some technical guidance, e.g. papers you might be interested in reading.

Rendering Competition

On the day of the rendering competition (see dates at the top of the page), each group will be given 15 minutes to demonstrate their system to the class and rendering competition judges and show some images that they produced. You can show off your images on any machine you see fit. Remember to bring the object/images that you are modeling and reproducing. The goals and technology that you developed should be obvious from the image itself. After all, this is graphics. Keep in mind that you absolutely need to have your rendering done by this date. Late days are not allowed on the final project.

As there is a tendency for these presentations to go long, here's some guidelines on how to prepare for the final presentation so everyone remains entertained and the judges get an adequate impression of your work.

  • 1 minute -- Motivation: describe the image you were trying to create, and why the image you are trying to create is both cool and technically challenging
  • 9 minutes -- Technical: give a brief description of the algorithms/techniques you implemented in your project. You can assume that the judges probably have heard of the techniques before, and thus want to brief, precise summary of how they were incorporated into your project (how you used to technique to meet your needs). It is often helpful if you can display images contrived to demonstrate that your algorithms indeed work as claimed (test shots, etc). This is also a good time to let the audience know if a technique was tried, and didn't work (again, test images work great here)
  • 1 minute -- Show off your final image that you are entering into the rendering competition. Each project may enter only a single image into the rendering competition.
  • 4 minutes -- Allow 4 minutes for questions

It is useful (but not required) to get a web page or slide deck prepared to keep your presentation organized.

Final Writeup

Your final project writeup should be submitted as a PDF to the assignment submission page page by NOON on Wednesday, June 12th (no late days allowed). The writeup should be roughly 3-4 pages, and contain the following:

  • A 2-3 page summary of the algorithms/techniques used to produce your images (use references to academic papers for extra detail). Please highlight how your implementation differed (was a subset of, augmented) the technique described in your references.
  • A description of problems encountered (techniques that did not work?) and how they were overcome
  • A clear description of what work each team member performed
  • A results/conclusions section containing your final images, additional images you didn't have a chance to show on demo day that might be especially cool or good illustrations of your technique

Please take the time to create a high quality writeup for your project (think about it as writing a tech report you'd like to keep permanently on the web). We will be archiving the final project pages and they will be viewed for years to come.

Example final writeups from recent years:


The final project will count 40% (or more, if based on our judgment, we consider the project truly outstanding) towards your final grade in the course. We will consider strongly the novelty of the idea (if it's never been done before, you get lots of credit), your technical skill in implementing the idea, and the quality of the pictures you produce. Tons of coding does not make a project good. When you are finished with your project you should post the source for your system and any test scenes and images that you have created. As stated above, you are permitted to work in small groups, but each person will be graded individually. A good group project is a system consisting of a collection of well defined subsystems. Each subsystem should be the responsibility of one person and be clearly identified as their project. A good criteria for whether you should work in a group is whether the system as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts!

The final project can be a lot of fun. Good luck!