CS 448X
Math and Computer Science behind Special Effects (Spring 2011)

Course Announcements

March 29thCourse information updated.


This course will focus on a number of case studies of special effects work in feature films, with the aim of elucidating the underlying technical challenges from the standpoint of mathematics and computer science. As a project based class, individuals may more deeply focus on the individual aspects of most interest to them be it rendering, computational geometry, computer vision, physical simulation, or character animation. We will invite some guests from industry to speak about effects work they and their colleagues have been involved in as well as discuss some current challenges in the industry. Students will be asked to submit a case study style project either alone or in an appropriate group. Since the course may be taken multiple times for credit, and will be open to both undergraduate and graduate students with varied backgrounds and interests, grading will be based on individual effort relative to preparation. as such we are not currently enforcing any prerequisites.

A main goal of this course is to better connect interested Stanford students with people in the special effects industry. This can be accomplished in more ways than just inviting them out - for example I have discussed potentially having them be available for one on one and group interviews, having companies suggest ideas for projects and case studies, having people from the companies available to shepherd students through projects, etc. It is unclear how much of this will work out in this first offering, but the more participation I get from Stanford students, the easier this is to build momentum.

Anyone from freshman to advanced graduate students may take this class, and I will be expecting projects and participation appropriate to your level. You may also repeat the course for credit in subsequent years. In this first offering in the Spring 2010 we will also work to define the class in a way that helps people get the most out of it going forward.


Please refer all questions about course material and practices to the CAs before contacting Professor Fedkiw. If you have a question for the CAs, please make sure that it isn't answered on this webpage before contacting them. Also, please do not show up outside of scheduled office hours without first making an appointment. When emailing the CAs, make sure to include "CS448" somewhere in the subject of your message.

Meeting Times

Tentative Schedule

Date Lecture
March 29thIntroduction to CS448X
March 31stGuest Speaker: Industrial Light + Magic
April 5thIntroduction to PhysBAM
April 7thGuest Speaker: Weta Digital
April 12thRay Tracing (spring scene) (torus scene)
April 14thOpenGL
April 19thGuest Speaker: Digital Domain
April 21stSmoke Simulation
April 26thIntroduction to PhysBAM Geometry
April 28thGuest Speaker
May 3rdIntroduction to Levelsets
May 5thGuest Speaker
May 10thWater Simulation
May 12thGuest Speaker
May 17thThe Particle Levelset Method
May 19thGuest Speaker
May 24thParallelism
May 26thGuest Speaker


We have most issues of Cinefex available to borrow in Michael's office, Gates 206.
6 month licenses for both Maya and 3ds Max are available for free at http://students.autodesk.com/.


There are three categories of projects to work on for this quarter.

1) Free for All - This is an open project to be determined by the student
2) Term Paper - Write about a topic in special effects
3) PhysBAM - For this type of project the students will use PhysBAM to write a project.

Please make sure that each student emails the TAs about their project to make sure its ok before starting.

For examples of previous projects go here.


Course Project100%