I'm learning about subdivision surface algorithms. The "Catmull-Clark" algorithm seems to be one of the most widely-used classical algorithms.

The introduction of new face points and edges is straightforward, but I'm confused by the following formula for modifying the locations of original points

$$ \frac{F + 2R + (n-3)P}{n} $$


  • $P$ is the original point
  • $R$ is the average of all $n$ edges midpoints touching $P$
  • $F$ is the average of all $n$ face points touching $P$

I understand the result is a weighted average of three points $F$, $R$ and $P$, but where do the coefficients $1$, $2$, and $(n-3)$ come from? Why $2R$? Why not $2.01R$? Or $1R$ and $2F$?

All the introductions I've seen just present the formula without presenting a justification.


The derivation is presented in the original paper that introduced CC subdivisions as a generalisation of B-Spline patches: https://people.eecs.berkeley.edu/~sequin/CS284/PAPERS/CatmullClark_SDSurf.pdf

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I'm struggling to follow the derivation somewhat. If I'm not wrong, every entry of the $H_1$ matrix should be multiplied by a factor of $\frac{1}{8}$. $\endgroup$ – eigenchris Feb 15 '17 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the link, but in general link-only answers are discouraged on StackExchange. I'm not suggesting you paste the entire derivation in, but perhaps you could summarize the key points (e.g. assumptions that lead to the specific coefficients) in your answer? $\endgroup$ – Nathan Reed Feb 20 '17 at 16:00

I'm just going to add a few more details to the paper that Stefan linked to.

First of all, the matrix $H_1$ displayed in the paper is incorrect; every element should be multiplied by a factor of $\frac{1}{8}$.

$$ H_1 = \frac{1}{8} \begin{bmatrix} 4 & 4 & 0 & 0 \\ 1 & 6 & 1 & 0 \\ 0 & 4 & 4 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 & 6 & 1 \end{bmatrix}$$

Second, the derivation of the new face point formula for quads in the first half of the paper is confusing, so I will fill in some of the details.

The matrix $G_1 = HGH^T$ contains the 16 control points for one sub-quad of the original quad with control points $G$. The entries of $G_1$ are referred to with $q_{i,j}$. Of most interest are the elements $q_{1,1}$, $q_{1,2}$ and $q_{2,2}$, which represent control points for a corner, edge, and interior of the $4\times 4$ control point grid for the sub-quad. All the other elements have similar formulas due to the symmetry of the subdivision process.

By carrying out the matrix multiplication, we get:

$q_{2,2} = \frac{P_{1,1} +P_{3,1} +P_{3,1} +P_{3,3}}{64} + \frac{6(P_{1,2} +P_{2,1} +P_{3,2} +P_{2,3})}{64} + \frac{36P_{2,2}}{64}$

We can see from this formula that, when relocating a control point, its new location is determined by the $3\times 3$ grid of points surrounding it. Here we see that in this grid, corner points have $\frac{1}{64}$ influence, edge points have $\frac{6}{64} = \frac{3}{32}$ influence, and the center ("old") point has $\frac{36}{64} = \frac{9}{16}$ influence. These weights are consistent with the ones given at the bottom of this blog post.

With a bit of rearranging, we get:

$q_{2,2} = \frac{1}{4} \big[ \frac{1}{4}(\frac{P_{1,1} + P_{1,2} + P_{2,1} + P_{2,2}}{4} + \frac{P_{1,2} + P_{2,2} + P_{1,3} + P_{2,3}}{4} + \frac{P_{2,1} + P_{2,2} + P_{3,2} + P_{3,1}}{4} + \frac{P_{2,2} + P_{2,3} + P_{3,2} + P_{3,3}}{4}) + 2\frac{1}{4}(\frac{P_{1,2} + P_{2,2}}{2} + \frac{P_{2,1} + P_{2,2}}{2} + \frac{P_{2,3} + P_{2,2}}{2} + \frac{P_{3,2} + P_{2,2}}{2}) + P_{2,2}\big]$

The first term is merely the average of the four surrounding face points; in other words, it is $F$. The second term is the average of the four surrounding edge midpoints multiplied by $2$; in other words, it is $2R$. Finally, $P_{2,2}$ is simply the original control point $P$.

And so we see this is the same as the original formula for quads: $\frac{1}{4}(F + 2R + P)$.

The paper does not provide a derivation of the general case for an $n$-sided polygon, but it seems like a reasonable extension based on intuition.

As an aside, here is an explanation for the other points, and their meanings as seen on wikipedia:

$q_{1,1} = \frac{P_{1,1} +P_{1,2} +P_{2,1} +P_{2,2}}{4}$

This is simply the formula for adding a new control point at the center of an existing quad.

$q_{1,2} = \frac{P_{1,1} +P_{1,2} +P_{2,1} +P_{2,3}}{16} + \frac{6(P_{1,2} +P_{2,1})}{16}$

Rearranging this, we see it is just the average of the two neighbouring face points and the edge endpoints:

$q_{1,2} = \frac{1}{4}(\frac{P_{1,1} +P_{2,1} +P_{1,2} +P_{2,2}}{4} + \frac{P_{1,2} +P_{2,2} +P_{1,3} +P_{2,3}}{4} + P_{1,2} + P_{2,1})$


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