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Graphical Programming Courses and Education Options

Graphical programming, also called computer graphics or computer graphics design, deals primarily in using computer programs and algorithms to create visual virtual characters and environments. The coursework for these programs is extensive and involves various aspects of higher mathematics, creative design and computer technology. Keep reading to learn more about graphical programming courses.

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Essential Information

Courses covering graphical programming are available as part of associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in computer graphics technology, graphic design or similar fields. Some institutions may also offer research opportunities in the field, particularly at the graduate level. Most programs include hands-on sessions in computer labs.

Here are some of the most common concepts taught in graphical programming courses:

  • 3-D graphics design
  • Animation
  • Games
  • Color theory
  • Kinematics fundamentals
  • Modeling
  • Rendering

List of Common Courses

Introduction to Computer Graphics Course

This course offers undergraduate students a broad overview of graphical programming fundamentals, including basic techniques for animation and modeling, and an introduction to 3-D graphics design. Almost all other graphical programming courses are rooted in the skills learned here, making this course a vital prerequisite for continued education in the computer graphics field.

The curriculum for this introductory course covers an extremely wide range of subjects, including visual perception, color theory, typography and input technologies. Aside from 3-D graphics, the key emphasis is on programming, which primarily involves learning standard programming languages such as C++ and OpenGL.

Computer Animation Course

In this course, the basic animation techniques learned in the introductory class are expanded upon, and students are treated to a far more detailed examination of computer-generated animation. Emphasis is placed on the modeling, lighting and rendering of animated characters, along with the fundamentals of kinematics, dynamics and skeletal animation, also known as rigging.

Physical simulations and algorithms for shape and motion may be employed as part of the course curriculum. While computer animation often stands alone as a course, some graphics programs break it down into more specialized classes such as digital character animation, storyboarding, script writing and project management.

Computer Vision Course

A fairly common course in the graphical programming field, the computer vision course introduces students to the concept of analyzing digital images of the real world and translating them into a 3-D computer environment. Subjects such as motion estimation, object recognition and shape reconstruction help students determine how people and objects move in a three dimensional world. High-level programming mathematics, such as differential equations and vector calculus, assist in the translation of those dimensions to the world of computers.

Advanced Computer Graphics Course

This course, usually taken at the graduate level, deals in advanced applications of previously developed graphical programming skills. Depending on the program, advanced computer graphics can be one or two individual courses. For example, advanced concepts of geometric modeling are usually emphasized in the single course format, while in the dual course format, geometric modeling can be the focus on the entire first section.

Other subjects involved in advanced computer graphics can include advanced rendering, realistic character animation, homogeneous coordinates, and local and global methods for illumination. Like most graphical programming courses, this one involves the extensive use of programming mathematics, and usually requires knowledge of linear algebra.

Educational Options

While some schools offer an Associate of Science (AS) degree program in graphic design or computer graphics, the primary educational path for a career in this field is typically through a bachelor's degree program. A 4-year program provides students with a solid overview of the principles, applications and practices of graphics programming.

Those wishing to increase their knowledge of computer graphics programming and specialize in a certain aspect may consider pursuing a graduate degree. Specialization tracks include graphics in game technology, motion technology and interactive graphics.

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