Here's some stuff you may find helpful for doing the assignments and the final project.
For high-quality images and movies, we will use RenderMan. One renderer which you can use is Pixie, which I have also installed on the cs-grad Linux machines: it is run with the command rndr.
Some links that may help with learning and using RenderMan:
You can use ffmpeg to encode separate frames of animations into MPEG-4 movies, and then ffplay, mplayer, QuickTime, etc. to play them back. (I have installed ffmpeg and ffplay on the cs-grad Linux machines, and mplayer is usually available too.) Note that ffmpeg does not accept tiff files as input: you must first use convert to convert each tiff file into, say, a ppm file.
As an example, suppose you have a directory full of RIB files, one per frame of your animation (frame0000.rib, frame0001.rib, ...), that generate similarly named tiff files. Then the following csh script will produce an MPEG-4 movie from them:
Note: for temporary data and image files, you will want to work in a subdirectory of /tmp so you don't overflow your quota on the regular file system. Files in /tmp may be deleted at any time, though it would be courteous to remove your temporary files after you've made an animation. Also: files in /tmp are generally local to the specific machine you are logged into.