Archive for May, 1998

Introduction to Computer Graphics

Posted on the May 8th, 1998 under Classwork,Software by

Intro to Computer Graphics was a cool computer class I took at Boston University in 1998 with Prof. Stan Sclaroff.  We used C and OpenGL on Silicon Graphics workstations/IRIX to develop the following projects:

  • A program implementing scanfill to shade arbitrary polygons.
  • A polygon editor. My editor had a floating, draggable toolbar, a color selector, multiple selection/deselection, and a keyframe animator and interpolator for objects in the scene. One could also choose to rotate, move, or scale the objects, their local coordinate systems, or, similarly, the global coordinate system.
  • 2D Vivarium: a virtual “fish tank” of sorts where animated creatures with rudimentary AI interacted in interesting ways. In my case, I modeled a bunch of prairie dogs which got hungry, chased each other, jumped in excitement when the chase was successful, dug holes, slept in holes, and ate vegetation (which swayed in the wind). The AI used a finite state machine which modeled hunger, fatigue, and excitement. I used display lists and hierarchical animations to draw and animate the creatures and the vegetation.
  • B-Spline worm: allowed the used to define, modify, and manipulate a 3D B-Spline (i.e. smooth curve) loop. There are a number of tough mathematical problems mostly having to maintain consistent basis vectors given just the direction in which each section of the worm is pointing.
  • Shading, lighting, and stereo vision: a program which allows to create and modify various solid shapes, and then change material properties, change lighting conditions, change the lighting conditions. I also implemented 3D picking of objects (i.e. selecting them by simply clicking on them, regardless of camera position and view). The coolest feature I added was ability to use red/blue stereo glasses with a regular RGB monitor to simulate stereo 3D vision.

The source code for the assignments, which should still compile and run under Linux with GLUT, is available to download below.

Download: Polygon editor source code

Download: 2D Vivarium source code

Download: B-Spline Worm source code

Download: Shading, lighting and stereo vision

Polygon editor: manipulating the local coordinate system

The Club of The Jolly and Resourceful

Posted on the May 7th, 1998 under Comedy,KVN,Performances by

How can KVN stand for The Club of The Jolly and Resourceful?  Well, it can, if it is transliterated from Russian:  КВН stands for “Клуб Веселых и Находчивых.”  It is a Russian collegiate cultural tradition that began in the 1960s.  It is a game of competitive comedy played by teams, each typically representing a college or a town.  Each game follows a theme (such as Medicine, Politics or Gambling), consists of  performance numbers, and is judged by humorists and cultural celebrities.  The performance numbers are typically a blend of jokes, song and dance, and improvisation.  The game was really big in the Soviet Union and continues to be popular in Russia, with regular broadcasts on central television channels.  KVN also follows a tournament structure, with qualifying rounds, 1/8th, quarter-, semi- and finals that determine the year’s champions.

In the late 1990s, KVN has crossed over the Atlantic ocean together with immigrants from the former Soviet Union.  It first appeared in Boston, with student teams from MIT, Harvard, New York, Boston University, Berkeley etc. squaring off against each other in on-campus auditoriums.  Since then, it has seen a tremendous rise in popularity, attracting tens of thousands of fans, followed by a lull during the economically unstable 2000’s. The American KaBH league is currently dormant, and I fear the days of brilliant teams from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and Brandeis may never return.

This ain’t your father’s stale comedy. КVN is as dynamic and powerful as comedy can get, and that is why the tickets are sold out months before the competition takes place no matter how large an auditorium is rented. It is also a big cultural celebration for Russian emigres, and a chance to reconnect with the community.

I played on the Boston University KVN team for about four years, and it was so much fun. KVN is hard work. For every competitive event, the writers have to write a funny script, which turned out to be damned difficult to do. Then, the director and the actors on the team have to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse; for two months, three times a week, in four-hour sessions. This level of commitment requires minor and sometimes major sacrifices, but usually the rehearsals and the ongoing contributions to the evolving script make it a lot of fun. And when, after sleepless months and exhausting rehearsals, you stand before the bright lights and thousands of people, and deliver silly jokes that shatter the auditorium with avalanches of laughter, it all seems well worth it. Not to mention the after-game parties, famous for their shenanigans.

None of us were professional actors or comedians, but all of us certainly got a lot better in the process.

These pictures are taken during the final rehearsal on the 4th of April, 1998, just before the finals of 1998. We were about to play in the year’s final game against the “Gangsters of Chicago,” “Ladies of New York” and the Harvard University team. For those fluent in Russian and attuned to jokes tailored to a Russiant immigrant community, I also include a link to the full recording of the game.

Video of the American League KVN Final Game of 1998 (4:33, Russian)

BU KVN team in 1998

Good times

Misha, me and Max

Lodrion, Leonich and Misha after a crazy three-hour long rehearsal

Me, Misha and Arthur picking work assignments in prison