CSCI 1290 Computational Photography and Image Manipulation

Fall 2018, TTh 14:30 to 16:00
Instructor: James Tompkin
General Course Policy

Signup Sheet

This will be a smaller class with around 40 students. As such, there is no pre-registration, instructor override is on, and the course has a signup sheet.

Please fill in this form to express your interest!

Computational Photography Montage

Course Description

Computational Photography is concerned with overcoming the limitations of traditional photography with computation: in optics, sensors, and geometry; and even in composition, style, and human interfaces. Image manipulation uses computational techniques to improve the way we process, manipulate, and interact with visual media. We will study algorithms and implement systems to consider these topics:

This course has its foundation in James Hays' computational photography course, previously taught at Brown as CS129. Significant thanks to him and his staff, across the years, for all their hard work.

Learning Objectives

Through this course, students will:

  1. Describe the foundation of image formation, measurement, and analysis;
  2. Understand the geometric relationships between 2D images and the 3D world;
  3. Consider the relationship between optical and computational processing;
  4. Experiment with how compute can overcome spatiotemporal undersampling and noise;
  5. Be familiar with both the theoretical and practical aspects of computing with images;
  6. Developed the practical skills necessary to build novel imaging systems.


Programming experience, plus a good knowledge of linear algebra, calculus, and probability. Knowledge of cameras will be helpful; likewise, knowledge of digital image formation will be helpful, e.g.:

Time Commitment

Task Hours
In class 40
Projects: 20 ×6
Office Hours/Piazza:    20
Total: 180

General Policy


Our intent is that this course provide a welcoming environment for all students who satisfy the prerequisites. Our TAs have undergone training in diversity and inclusion, and all members of the CS community, including faculty and staff, are expected to treat one another in a professional manner. If you feel you have not been treated in a professional manner by any of the course staff, please contact any of James (the instructor), Ugur Cetintemel (Dept. Chair), Tom Doeppner (Vice Chair) or Laura Dobler (diversity and inclusion staff member). We will take all complaints about unprofessional behavior seriously. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let James know of ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally, or for other students or student groups. To access student support services and resources, and to learn more about diversity and inclusion in CS, please visit

Prof. Krishnamurthi has good notes on this area.


The course aims to give you hands-on experience with cameras, and to allow you to experiment with their hardware and software. Cameras can be expensive, but you do not have to buy one to participate in this course. If you have a reasonably modern smartphone, then you can use that for the course with an application that allows you to use manual controls and save RAW images (e.g., Adobe Lightroom CC, as part of Brown's Adobe CC licence for students). If you have a point and shoot with manual controls and RAW output, or a DSLR, then these are good too, and we encourage you to use your own equipment. We can also provide you with images to process, but we'd rather you experimented and took your own.

On top of that, the course has a small pool of DSLRs, lenses, lights, and related equipment for you to use, plus some lab space for you to experiment. The funds for this were generously provided to the University by the Zern Endowment, which supports curricular innovation in the life and physical sciences. James will go over how to access and use this equipment at the beginning of the course.

Finally, if none of these options are suitable, then Brown University undergraduates with concerns about equipment costs may apply to the Dean of the College Academic Emergency Fund to determine options for course-related costs, while ensuring their privacy. This application form can be found in the Emergency Funds, Curricular & Co-curricular Gap (E-Gap) Funds section of UFunds. Information and procedures are available here.

Quiet Hours

This course runs quiet hours from 9pm to 9am every day. Please do not expect a response from us via any channel. Likewise, we won't ask you to do anything between these times, either, like hand in projects.

Academic Integrity, Collaboration, and Citation

Feel free to talk to your friends about the concepts in the projects, and work through the ideas behind problems together, but be sure to always write your own code and perform your own write up. You are expected to implement the core components of each project on your own, but the extra credit opportunties often build on third party data sets or code. Feel free to include results built on other software, as long as you credit correctly in your handin and clearly demark your own work. In general, if you use an idea, text, or code from elsewhere, then cite it.

Brown-wide, academic dishonesty is not tolerated. This includes cheating, lying about course matters, plagiarism, or helping others commit a violation. Plagiarism includes reproducing the words of others without both the use of quotation marks and citation. Students are reminded of the obligations and expectations associated with the Brown Academic and Student Conduct Codes.


Brown University is committed to full inclusion of all students. Please inform me if you have a disability or other condition that might require accommodations or modification of any of these course procedures. You may email me, come to office hours, or speak with me after class, and your confidentiality is respected. We will do whatever we can to support accommodations recommended by SEAS. For more information contact Student and Employee Accessibility Services (SEAS) at 401-863-9588 or . Students in need of short-term academic advice or support can contact one of the deans in the Dean of the College office.

Mental Health

Being a student can be very stressful. If you feel you are under too much pressure or there are psychological issues that are keeping you from performing well at Brown, we encourage you to contact Brown's Counseling and Psychological Services. They provide confidential counseling and can provide notes supporting extensions on assignments for health reasons.

Incomplete Policy

We expect everyone to complete the course on time. However, we certainly understand that there may be factors beyond your control, such as health problems and family crises, that prevent you from finishing the course on time. If you feel you cannot complete the course on time, please discuss with James Tompkin the possibility of being given a grade of Incomplete for the course and setting a schedule for completing the course in the upcoming year.

Electronic Etiquette

Laptops are discouraged, please, except for class-relevant activities, e.g., to help answer questions and show items relevant to discussion. No social media, email, etc., because it distracts not just you but other students as well. Read Shirky on this issue ("Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away"), or Rockmore ("The Case for Banning Laptops in the Classroom").

We will release course lecture material online. In considering laptop use for note taking, please be aware that research has shown note taking on paper to be more efficient than on a laptop keyboard (Mueller and Oppenheimer), as it pushes you to summarize the content instead of transcribe it.


The materials from this class rely heavily on slides prepared by other instructors. In particular, many materials are modified from those of Alexei A. Efros, who in turn uses materials from Steve Seitz, Rick Szeliski, Paul Debevec, Stephen Palmer, Paul Heckbert, David Forsyth, Steve Marschner and others, as noted in the slides. Feel free to use these slides for academic or research purposes, but please maintain all acknowledgements.

Thanks to Tom Doeppner and Laura Dobler for the text on accommodation, mental health, and incomplete policy.

Thank you to the TAs who helped to teach and improve this class. Previous course runs:

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