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Computer Graphics

  • Generally speaking, computer graphics are images created by a computer
  • One important aspect is the generation of images from a given mathematical model: Rendering
mathematical 3D model
generated image
Source: 3ds Max 2010; interior sample scene; Mental Ray renderer

Application: Design, Planning

Source: 3D model: Turbosquid; Renderer: V-Ray for 3ds Max

Application: Medical imaging

  • Presentation of data from imaging techniques (CT, MRI, ultrasound)
  • Volume rendering
  • 3D reconstruction
  • Application in the diagnosis, planning, and documentation
Functional magnetic resonance imaging

Application: Computer Games

  • In computer games, graphics play an important role and can look back on a long history.
Arcade game machines from the 80s

Application: Computer Games

Here is a subjective and incomplete list of important milestones:

1972: Pong by Atari
1980: Pac-Man by Namco
1985: Tetris
1991: Civilization by MicroProse
1993: Doom by id Software (Ego-Shooter)
1998: Half-Life by Valve Corporation
2000: The Sims by EA Maxis
2005: World of Warcraft by Blizzard/Activison (MMORPG)
2006: Wii Sports by Nintendo
2007: Crysis by Crytek
2010: Kinect Sports by Rare/Microsoft
2016: The Lab (HTC Vive) by Valve Corporation
2020: Super Cable Boy Sørb Games

Application: Computer Games

  • In order to achieve interactivity, the images have to be generated in a fast succession
  • The objective is to achieve a refresh rate (frame rate) between 30 to 60 Hz
  • Starting from refresh rate of 15 Hz, the human visual perception perceives the display as continuous
  • The refresh rate is often expressed in FPS (Frames per Second)
  • Computer games have contributed significantly to the development of specialized graphics hardware (GPU = Graphics Processing Unit)

Application: Computer Games

Computing power of GPUs compared to CPUs
Source: based on CUDA C Programming Guide Version 10.1

Application: Film Industry

  • In 1995 Pixar created the first feature film that was completely generated with a computer: Toy Story
  • Today: Detailed virtual characters with sophisticated materials and surfaces
  • Relative current examples are: Pixar's Up or Rango

Application: Film Industry

  • In contrast to graphics in computer games, the individual frames of a movie (≥ 24 FPS) can be pre-computed
  • "Offline" Rendering
  • Reduction of the computation time is not the primary goal, but realism and details
  • Special effects companies are running large computational clusters (e.g. Weta Digital, Cluster with approx. 6000 CPUs)

Application: Film Industry

Application: Film Industry

  • Besides fully computer-generated movies, real footage and computer-generated content are also frequently mixed
  • To place and display the virtual objects properly, the motion of the real camera, the real lighting conditions, and the real 3D geometry of the scene must be determined
  • A well-known example is the movie Jurassic_Park (1993)

Application: Mixing virtual and real content

  • Example: "Utopia" by Oliver Perfumo
Source: Courtesy of Oliver Perfumo

Uncanny Valley

  • The familiarity does not increase continuously with the human likeness of a figure, instead one can observe an uncanny valley that has to be passed.
human likeness
industrial robot
humanoid robot
stuffed animal
prosthetic hand
healthy person
bunraku puppet
Source: The Uncanny Valley, Masahiro Mori, 1970, Energy, 7(4), pp. 33-35

Uncanny Valley crossed already?

  • In previous computer-generated movies such as Disney's Toy Story, the "uncanny valley" was avoided because the characters were not very human-like.
  • Since about 2008 special effects companies created computer-generated facial animations that are almost indistinguishable from the face of a real actor, such as:
  • Digital Emily Project (2008): Photo-realistic virtual actress
  • The Curious Life of Benjamin Button (2008) : Brad Pitt is shown older
  • Tron Legacy (2010): Jeff Bridges is shown younger


  • As a summary, here is the Blender Demo-Reel showing various applications of Computer Graphics


  • As a summary, here is the Blender Demo-Reel 2021 showing various applications of Computer Graphics

Intersection with other disciplines

Computer Graphics
image synthesis, optics
Computer Vision:
analysis and synthesis

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