projects honours projects 2000

The Projects

Cenotaph for Isaac Newton – model and reconstruct classic French Architecture
Granular Re-Synthesis – statistical sound generation.
Evolution of Forms – evolve complex 3D forms using graph grammars.
Panoramic Rendering – non-linear projections for computer graphics.
Self-Organizing Imagery – self assembling art.
Shader Madness
build non-realistic shaders for a commercial animation system.
A Model of Solar-System Formation – visualize a mathematical model of the solar system.

Please read some general information about these honours projects.

Musical Agents Supervisor Jon McCormack

Project Links

Cinema 4D (Animation Software)


Stokstad, M. Art History, Prentice Hal, New Jersey, 1995, pp. 950-51 has some brief information about the Cenotaph and the French neo-classical period in general.

Boullée's original drawings are kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Many other texts can be found in the main library that refer to Boullée's architecture.

This is an unusual type of honors project: the aim is to reconstruct a detailed model of French architect Boullée's classic building Cenotaph for Isaac Newton.

"Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728 –1799), like his contemporaries such as Ledoux, designed private residences in the Neoclassic style. He is chiefly remembered today, however, for drawings of visionary projects that were considerably beyond eighteenth-century technology. In these designs, made between 1780 and 1790 and rediscovered in the twentieth century, Boullée worked in an abstract style that seems ultra modern, even utopian. His Cenotaph for Isaac Newton, designed in 1784, is based on Roman monumental tombs, which were stepped and planted with trees. What would have been a hemispherical dome in a Roman tomb has been projected into a gigantic sphere. The interior was to have been empty, except for Newton's sarcophagus, with illumination provided by hundreds of small holes piercing the spheres fabric to represent the starry heavens" (From Stokstad, 1995).

Boullé's plans were too technologically complex to be realised at the time, but can today be reconstructed virtually using computer graphics technology. The aim of this project is to model the cenotaph using 3D computer modeling techniques. It is anticipated that a number of different techniques will be used to build the overall model (e.g. models of the stars, trees, smoke, and the building itself). The model must be accurate and highly detailed – faithful to Boullée's original plans. Students doing this project will have access to Cinema4D (commercial 3D software) and will be required to produce stills and an animation of the finished model.

Note: if you are interested in doing this project please contact Jon McCormack first.

Musical Agents Supervisor Jon McCormack

About Granular Synthesis

Digital Performer


Truax, B. 1994. "Discovering inner complexity: Time-shifting and transposition with a real-time granulation technique". Computer Music Journal, 18 (2): 38-48.

Behles, G. and S. Starke and A. Roebel. 1998. "Quasi-Synchronous and Pitch-Synchronus Granular Sound Processing with Stampede II". Computer Music Journal, 22(2).

Roads, C. The Computer Music Tutorial, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1995.

Granular Synthesis is a popular sound synthesis and processing technique for digital audio applications. A sampled waveform is broken up into discrete "grains" usually 2 to 20ms in duration. Each grain consists of a small set of samples that can then be processed by some function. After processing, the grains are re-assembled back into a continuously sampled waveform. On a reasonably fast machine processing can be performed in real-time.

Applications of granular synthesis include pitch-shifting, randomization, time-stretching, chorusing, and many weird and wonderful sound processing techniques unique to this particular process.

The aim of this project is to design and implement a granular re-synthesis tool. Sounds are fed into the system and broken into grains. Grains are then analyzed statistically and the results accumulated. Then, given a starting grain, it should be possible to re-synthesize a statistically similar sound using probabilistic methods.

Alternatively, one sound could be re-synthesized using the analysis from another sound. This would allow things like making a saxophone sample sound like someone talking, or a baby crying sound "statistically" like a steam train!

The project should be implemented in C or C++ and hopefully developed as a 'plug-in' for one of the popular audio editing programs (e.g. Digital Performer).

Web Architecture Supervisor Jon McCormack

Graph grammars are a simple but useful method for representing complex developing structures. This project has two parts. The first part is to construct a "three-dimensional form synthesizer" using graph grammars. Given a graph grammar as input, the system should output a three-dimensional structure that can be visualized using OpenGL or rendered using CEMA's rendering software Cinema4D.

The grammar may encode developmental aspects (time varying) as well. The second part of the project is to allow the user to specify certain physical conditions (e.g. volume/weight ratios) and have the grammar "evolve" to make a structure that best fits its environment.

This project will be co-supervised with Dr. David Dowe – you will need to take the honours unit CSE423 - Learning and prediction

What is a Graph Grammar?

Graph Grammar Bibliography


Open GL

Gruau, F. Automatic Definition of Sub neural networks, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Research Report No. 94-28 (October 1994).

Self-Organizing Imagery Supervisor Alan Dorin

Panoscope 360

Place Ruhr



Open GL


Standard computer graphics programs render images using perspective projection onto a flat image plane of finite dimensions. The ultimate aim is to create an image for a two-dimensional device such as a computer screen or film image.

The aim of this project is to construct non-linear rendering systems that facilitate panoramic projections of images. Rather than projecting onto a flat plane, the project will consider alternate projection surfaces such as spheres, cylinders and other unique surfaces. Please refer to some of the web sites to see how such projections may be realized physically.

Self-Organizing Imagery Supervisor Alan Dorin

The making of an original image is usually a task achieved by an artist or possibly a computer program with some form of representation of the work as a 'whole'. The purpose of this project is to develop animated and still imagery which is the result of the interactions between many individual agents acting under the instructions of their own internal rules.

A real-world example of such a collaborative work is the construction of an ant nest by a colony's workers. No single ant contains a blueprint for the whole nest, yet when they work together (following their own simple instructions and acting only on the simple input they receive from their immediate environment), they are able to create a nest of considerable intricacy.

The project will require the development of a system for specifying the elements of a picture and the agents responsible for maintaining/manipulating it. The end result will be a series of still images and a short animation demonstrating some results achieved using the new system.

Students wishing to apply for this project will need to have (or develop/research) the following areas: computer graphics & animation, procedural modelling, artificial life, and non-representational art. It is recommended that the student completing this project also take the course: Advanced Topics in Graphics (CSC415).

Watt, A. H. & Watt, M. Advanced Animation and Rendering Techniques, Addison-Wesley, New York, 1992

Levy, S. Artificial Life: A Report from the Frontier Where Computers Meet Biology, Vintage Books, 1993

Iconic Messenger Supervisor Alan Dorin

The aim of this project is implement a number of shaders for the Cinema 4D modelling, animation and rendering software. A shader is an interface between a programmer and a computer graphics renderer. During the rendering process, the shader may alter the light sources properties, surface reflectances or atmospheric effects...

"By writing an appropriate shader in the shading language, a programmer can extend old shading models or implement entirely new ones, light sources can be defined with any radiant distribution, and new and novel surface properties can be introduced easily." [Upstill, 1989]

It is anticipated that the student doing this project will produce shaders which simulate the images produced by a scanning electron microscope, perhaps also the colourized imagery of infra-red or ultra-violet photography, or even the characteristic patterns formed by the faceted surfaces of butterfly wings or within drops of oil. It is hoped also that the student will implement shaders to produce some new (and creative!) image styles and surface properties. The outcomes of the project will be visualized in various still images as well as in a short computer animation produced using the shaders and Cinema 4d.

Students wishing to apply for this project will need to have (or develop/research) a thorough understanding of the following areas: computer graphics (especially rendering & shading models) and procedural texturing.

It is highly recommended that the student completing this project take the course: Advanced Topics in Graphics (CSC415).

Project Links

Cinema 4D (Animation Software)

Bhondi Nut (Shaders)

Deepshade (More Shaders)


Reading List

Watt, A. H. & Watt, M., Advanced Animation and Rendering Techniques, Addison-Wesley, New York, 1992, Pts I-III (much of the book), especially pp322-336

Cook, R.L., "Shade Trees", Computer Graphics, 18(3), 223-231 (Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 1984)

Upstill, S., The Renderman Companion, Addison-Wesley, Reading MA, 1989 (flick through the relevant sections)

Iconic Messenger Supervisor Alan Dorin

Jointly supervised with Dr. Andrew Prentice (Mathematics/Astronomy)

This project will involve coding a mathematical model of the formation of the solar system from gaseous matter. The animated model will need to be displayed visually using OpenGL and/or rendered using off-the-shelf animation software (Cinema 4D or POV Ray). The availability of this project is not yet confirmed but students are encouraged to register their interest in the project with Alan.

Applicants will need a solid mathematical and computer graphics background. An active interest and enthusiasm for astronomy would also be of considerable benefit.