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Planar Geometric Projections and Viewing Transformations
Program in Computer Science, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912
Computervision Corporation, Bedford, Massachusetts 01730Illustrated by Thomas K. Stat, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
In computer graphics one is often concerned with representing three-dimensional objectson a two-dimensional display surface. The choice of such a
representation depends
onseveral factors, including the purpose for which the representation is intended, the visualeffects that are desired, and the shape of the object. This paper describes how two-dimensional views can be obtained using planar geometric projections such as perspectiveand parallel projections. It discusses how these projections can be generated from a three-dimensional representation of an object in a manner suitable for computer graphics systems.In particular, it shows how these projections can be generated using the viewing transfor-mations of the Core Graphics System. The factors that affect the choice of projection arealso discussed, and some guidelines for making such a choice are given.
Keywords and Phrases:
computer graphics, viewing transformations, descriptive geometry,engineering drawing, architectural drawing, planar geometric projections, perspective pro-jections, parallel projections.
CR Categories:
1.3, 3.20, 3.41, 5.0, 8.2
In computer graphics one is often con-cerned with representing three-dimensionalobjects on a two-dimensional display sur-face. Such a representation may attempteither to show the general appearance of anobject, as in a photograph, or to depict theobject so that its metric properties such asdistances and angles can easily be derived.These methods of representation, as well asthe representations themselves, are knownas projections.To produce a two-dimensional view of anobject, each point of the object must bemapped onto a plane. The kind of mappingthat is used distinguishes the types of pro-jection and the resulting visual effects. Thispaper describes how two-dimensional pro-jections can be generated from a three-di-mensional representation of an object, and
the visual advantages and disad-vantages of the various types ef projections.This paper also illustrates how these pro-jections can be generated with the viewingtransformations in the Core Graphics Sys-tem [GSPC77, BERG78].The projections treated in this paper areknown as planar geometric projections. Aplanar geometric projection of an object isobtained by passing lines called projectors,one through each point of the object, andfinding the image formed by the intersec-tions of these projectors with a plane ofprojection. The projectors emanate from asingle point called the center of projection.When this point is finite, a perspective pro-jection is obtained. When it is at infinity,that is, when the projectors are all parallel,a parallel projection is obtained. A
Permission to copy without fee
or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made ordistributed for direct commercial advantage, the ACM copyright notice and the title of the publication and itsdate appear, and notice is given that copying is by permission of the Association for Computing Machinery. Tocopy otherwise, or to republish, requires a fee and/or specific permission.© 1978 ACM 0010-4892/78/1200-0465 $00.75
I. Carlbom and J. Paciorek
INTRODUCTIONI. HISTORY OF PROJECTIONS2. APPLICATIONS OF PROJECTIONS2.1 Multiview rthographic rojections2.2 Axonometric Projections2.3 Oblique Projections2.4 Perspective rojections
2.5 Summary3. PLANAR GEOMETRIC PROJECTIONS3.1 Multiview Orthographic Projections3.2 Axonometric Projections3.3 Oblique Projections3.4 Perspective Projections4. SPECIFICATIONS OF VIEWING TRANSFORMATIONSIN A GRAPHICS SYSTEM4.1 Parallel Projections4.2 Perspective ProjectionsCONCLUSIONACKNOWLEDGMENTSAPPENDIXA.1 Homogeneous Coordinates and Matrix RepresentationsA.2 Dixection CosinesA.3 Spherical CoordinatesA.4 Constraining Equations for Axonometric ProjectionsA.5 Conditions That Determine an Axonometric ProjectionA.6 Conditions That Determine an Oblique ProjectionA.7 Conditions That Classify Perspective ProjectionsA,8 Projection MatricesA.9 Viewing Specification in the Core Graphics SystemREFERENCES
rive projection illustrates the general ap-pearance of an Object as it would be seenby the eye, whereas a parallel projectionprimarily attempts to represent its metricproperties. This paper discusses both per-spective and parallel projections with theirsubclassifications. The Core Graphics Sys-tem was designed to provide a set of viewingfunctions that can generate all planar geo-metric projections.There are many types of projections thatare beyond the scope of this paper. Theprojection of an object can be obtained bya method that does not use straight lineprojectors or that does not use a plane as aprojection surface. By proper choice of pro-jections, t is possible to preserve propertiesthat are generally not preserved by planargeometric projections, such as shape, scale,and area. Non-planar and non-geometricprojections are used extensively in cartog-raphy; for a discussion of these projections,the reader is referred to literature on mapprojections [KELL49, RmH72, STEE48].
The principles of planar geometric pro-jections (hereafter referred to as projec-tions) are found in descriptive geometry.This branch of geometry and its applica-tions in engineering and architectural de-sign are concerned both with drawingmathematically exact representations ofobjects, and with the properties of thesetwo-dimensional representations. Projec-tive geometry provides the theoretical basisfor descriptive geometry and deals withthose properties of objects that are invari-ant under projective transformations.This paper discusses the methods of pro-jection not in terms of two-dimensionaldrawing, but in terms of the position of theprojection plane and the center of projec-tion. It describes how these parameters de-termine the type of projection, and howthey relate to the mathematical and visualproperties of the two-dimensional represen-tations.For any given projection type, there aretwo approaches to obtaining a desired viewof an object. One is to transform the object;the other is to choose new projectionplanes. The first approach is to use a fixedcenter of projection and projection plane,and to position the object to get the desiredview. The second approach is to leave theobject stationary and to choose the centerof projection and projection plane so thatthe desired view is obtained. Although thefirst approach was long prevalent in de-scriptive geometry and its applications andhas been used by most computer graphicssystems, this paper uses the method ofchoosing projection planes. The methodsare mathematically equivalent, but themethod of choosing projection planes isbetter adapted to the approach taken bysome computer graphics systems, includingthe synthetic camera approach of the CoreGraphics System [NEWM78].The choice of projection used to illustratean object depends on a number of factors,including the purpose for which the repre-sentation is intended, the visual effects thatare desired, and the shape of the object.This paper explains how these factors affectthe choice of projection type and providessome guidelines for creating pleasing visual• effects with each type of projection.The first section below presents a short
Computing Surveys, Vol. 10, No. 4, December 1978
Planar Geometric Projections
FIGURE 1-1. Plan view of building, part of statue of Gudea, from Lagash, Mesopotamia,
c. 2150 B.C.
(Ernestde Sarzec,
D~couvertes en Chald~e,
1891, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University.)
history of the use of perspective and paral-lel projections in art, architecture, andengineering. The next section briefly intro-duces these projections and their subclas-sifications, and illustrates their use incurrent practice. In Section 3 the mathe-matical framework of the projections is de-veloped, and their visual advantages anddisadvantages are discussed. Section 4 in-troduces some viewing capabilities of theCore Graphics System and the use of thesecapabilities to specify the various types ofprojections. The Appendix contains math-ematical derivations of the conditions thatdetermine the different types of projectionsand some programming examples using theCore Graphics System, and illustrates asimple, straightforward way to implementthe projections using homogeneous coordi-nate transformations.
It is surmised that drawings have been usedsince early historic times to represent ob-jects which were to be constructed. Al-though no traces of these drawings areavailable today, it is not likely that early
J This section uses some terminology which is notdefined until later sections.
man could have built as accurately as hedid without the use of fairly accurate draw-ings. The earliest known technical drawingin existence is that of a plan view of abuilding from about 2150 B.C. It is engravedon a stone tablet that is part of a statuerepresenting Gudea, king of the city of La-gash in Mesopotamia: The engraving (Fig-ure 1-1) is similar in form to the plan draw-ings used by architects today.According to literary allusions, Greekpainters and geometers during classical an-tiquity were acquainted with the laws ofperspective. The painter Agatharchus (5thcentury B.C.) was the first to use perspec-tive on a large scale. (Vases from as earlyas the late 6th century B.C. show isolatedinstances of its use.) Agatharchus wrote abook on "scene painting" which inspiredthe philosophers Anaxagoras and Democri-tus to write on perspective. During the 3rdcentury B.C., Euclid, Archimedes, andApollonius studied the conic sections.Whereas Euclid and Archimedes investi-gated the metric properties of the conicsections, ApoUonius studied those proper-ties shared by all sections of a given cone.These properties, unlike the metric prop-erties, are invariant under projective trans-formations. Apollonins' work provided thefoundation for later work in projective ge-ometry.
Computing S~rv~ol. 10, No. 4, December 1978

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