UCLA Department of Design|Media Arts Winter Quarter 2003

Design and Computation:
Introduction to Digital Image Creation and Manipulation

Visiting Professor Machiko Kusahara


The aim of this course is to present an overall view of digital imaging technology, with special emphasis on computer graphics. Our daily lives are surrounded by digital images to such an extent that we don't always even recognize them any more. Digitally generated or manipulated images are often invisible in films, if not used for certain amazing effects or scenes that cannot be true. Also, computer graphics has become a basic element in digital media technology and applications such as graphical user interface, the Internet, or mobile phones. Real time image generation is also important in interactive art and games. Image processing technologies are used not only for design tools such as Photoshop, but also for medical, astronomical, ecological, robotics and many other fields. By combining digital imaging technologies with various input/output technologies and devices sophisticated systems such as virtual reality and augmented realities have become available. Computer graphics, or digital images we usually recognize, are only a part of the big picture that digital imaging technology has enabled to realize. The impact of digital imaging technology has been changing our society, and the way we see the world.

The course will be given with ample visual examples from important historical works to the latest works, from the fields of design, art, entertainment, science, among others. These examples will show how the nature of computing is used in computer graphics, while artistic imagination has pushed the technical boundaries in its history. Current issues in computer graphics such as character animation, the convergence of art and science, 2D and 3D, will be focused. Hand-on experience and basic understanding on 3D computer graphics will be achieved through the use of a graphic software.


There is a midterm assignment and a final assignment. Midterm assignment will be a creation and analysis of a digital image. (It is subject to change.) The final assignment will be an essay. Detail will be given during the class in previous weeks. The final assignments will be presented to the class during the finals week.

Short comments or summaries by email on works shown at the class meetings, field trips or on specific topics will be asked occasionally.


The grading is based on the midterm assignment(25%), the final assignment(50%), comments, summaries and active participation during the class meetings (25%). More than two absences without the teacher's permission from the class meetings will have a negative impact on the overall grading. There will be a roll-call in the beginning of the each session. If the student arrives late, s/he should make sure that his/her name is included in the list by the end of the meeting.


A course reader will be available for purchase. A copy will be on reserve at the Art Library. List of recommended additional readings will be also distributed.

Class meetings:

Thursday from 2-5pm, EDA or Kinross South 101.


The T.A. is Shohreh Rashtian. You can meet her Tuesdays from 11:30-12:30 at 228 J Kinross North , or contact her by email: siavali@ucla.edu

Office Hours:

12-1pm on Friday at 228J, Kinross North. You can also reach me by email,


Course outline:

Week 1: Introduction to digital images for art, entertainment and design

Current states of 2D and 3D digital imaging technologies and applications will be introduced with examples. The latest examples will be shown in comparison to historical pieces to illustrate the trajectory of development. Roles of scientists and engineers as well as of artists and creators will be shown.

Week 2: 3D computer graphics: Theory and major issues

How a 3D image is created? How can it be animated? What are the major elements and algorithms behind a software package? What are the major differences between 2D and 3D?

Week 3: Hands-on experience: Understanding 3D computer graphics basics

By using a rather simple free software that based on a script language, one learns what are the elements and processes required in creating a 3D scene. It will be an effective experience in understanding computer graphics. Those who already have an experience with an off the shelf software will realize the difference between intuitive use of technology and computational method, and the role of graphic interface.

Week 4: Computation and creativity in visual effects

Scientific simulation and visualization are behind the digital entertainment scene we see today. Instead of mimicking how a phenomenon looks like, realistic images are created by simulating the cause of the effect.

Week 5: Presentation of midterm assignment

Week 6: Helping and expanding our senses: interface and environment

People with disability or medical problems might benefit from the use of digital imaging technologies. More intuitive, environmental, and multi-modal interface would be useful for most of us anyway. Research has been going on, not only by scientists and engineers but also by artists.

Week 7: Interactive art, virtual reality and augmented realities (mixed realities)

Multi-modal interface combined with real time image generation/processing leads to virtual reality and augmented realities (or mixed realities) environments. Scientists, engineers and artists use such systems for various purposes.

Week 8: History of computer graphics

Interactive technologies played a crucial role in the development of 2D and 3D computer graphics. Artists and creators contributed to the field not only with their creative powers but also with crucial ideas and algorithms.

Week 9: Animation

Animation has a long history. Great computer animators have learned a lot from traditional animation. It is important to know the variety of animation techniques and styles in pre-computer age, as well as knowing experimental animation and video works done by artists today mixing digital and non-digital techniques.

Week 10: Topics in digital imaging technologies

Character animation, A-life, games, mobile phones, etc.

Week 11: Presentation of works

Note: We will have guest lectures, details and date will be announced.