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Computer Graphics

(By "computer graphics", I mean the Real Stuff: Color and three-dimensional.)

There are a bazillion mediocre books on this that all look about the same. The standard text on the field is still:

Fundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics, Second Edition, by Foley, Van Dam, Feiner and Hughes. Addison-Wesley 1987, ISBN 201-12110-7.

(When I took the course, the text was Newman and Sproull; My copy of the above is actually the first edition. There may be a third edition of it out by now.)

Photo-realistic computer graphics is a separate subfield these days: The datastructures and techniques are almost completely different from those used in interactive computer graphics.

This doesn't mean that photo-realistic computer graphics is harder than interactive computer graphics: A basic ray-tracer that produces spectacular looking images is actually amazingly easy to write. It is more work to support a wide range of geometry types, and much more work to try and produce images as quickly as practical.

I recommend:

An Introduction To Ray Tracing, edited by Andrew S Glassner. Academic Press 1989, ISBN 0-12-286160-4.

Andy just happens to be one of the folks who coordinate the annual American computer graphics shindig (SIGGRAPH): He knows and loves the topic, and has put together a good practical introduction to the subject.

I have a long shelf full of more specialized books on splines, image processing and such, but there doesn't seem much point in reviewing them here: By the time you need them, you'll know what you want and where to find it. But this demands mention:

Graphics Gems, edited by Andrew S Glassner. Academic Press 1990, ISBN 0-12-286165-5

This book was intended to make available lots of little tricks of the trade in one handy volume. The first intention worked pretty well, the latter ambition has been a miserable flop: The series is now up to four volumes and going strong:

Graphics Gems II, edited by James Arvo. Academic Press 1991, ISBN 0-12-064480-0.

Graphics Gems III, edited by David Kirk. Academic Press 1992, ISBN 0-12-409670-0.

Graphics Gems IV, edited by Paul Heckbert. Academic Press 1994, ISBN 0-12-336155-9.

The bad news is that, as a collection of contributions from dozens of authors, the quality is rather uneven, ranging from great to perhaps somewhat dubious.

The good news is that all the code has been placed in the public domain and made available via the internet, complete with improvements and bugfixes: Ftp (or whatever) to princeton.edu and look in pub/Graphics/GraphicsGems.

(Incidentally, I learned the above by consulting the comp.graphics Frequently Asked Questions posting on rtfm.mit.edu, a resource you should not neglect.)

Here's one more reference just to avoid being thought non-trendy grin:

The Science of Fractal Images, edited by Peitgen and Saupe: Springer-Verlag 1988, ISBN 3-540-96608-0.

A nice practical manual to making those cool fractal images, complete with Pascal code snippets for the central algorithms. Fractals are still treated as a niche sort of thing in computer graphics, but I expect to see them becoming steadily more mainstream over time.

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