Skip to content


Repository files navigation

Discussion 1: C++ review via convolution


This coding exercise is meant give you a chance to apply the concepts of image filtering and convolution from lecture, as well as increase your familiarity with C++ before starting the first assignment.

You are responsible for filling in the member functions for the Filter and Image classes in C++.

After this discussion section, you should feel a little more comfortable with

  • cloning a git repo
  • using cmake and make
  • C++ command line, text file, and image file I/O
  • C++ program structure (.h and .cpp file organization)
  • declarations versus definitions in C++
  • structs versus classes in C++
  • C++ constructors
  • using the STL vector class in C++
  • passing by value versus passing by reference in C++
  • references versus pointers in C++
  • 2D array indexing
  • storing pixel colors as sets of 4 unsigned char variables (RGBA channels)
  • blurring images using filters
  • 2D discrete convolution

Feel free to ask for more detail on any of these concepts during section.

Some of our great TAs wrote a C++ primer to help you get familiarized with the language, we highly recommend taking a look at it if you've never used C++ before.

A great C++ resource is, which has a helpful C++ tutorial, as well as good documentation for referencing. For example, you can look up Standard Template Library (STL) classes and their member functions -- you might find their page on the vector class useful today.


Please clone the disc01 repository and navigate to its root directory.

git clone
cd disc01

From this folder, run

mkdir build; cd build

to create a build directory and enter it, then

cmake ..

to have CMake generate the appropriate Makefiles for your system. To actually compile the code, run


You should see an executable called convolve appear.

Like the other assignments in the class, this codebase uses a Makefile-creation system called cmake that greatly simplifies C++ compilation. After running cmake for the first time, you will simply run make to rebuild your program every time you change the source code. A nice thing about a build system using make and cmake is that they check file timestamps to determine which files really need to be recompiled.

Common C++ compilers include g++/gcc and clang.

C++ program structure

To run the program, use the command

./convolve some_img.png some_filter.filt

The convolve executable is the one we just compiled with the make command.

Read over main.cpp. Like C and Java, C++ always starts program execution at the main() function. It takes two parameters:

  1. int argc is the number of command line arguments, including the name of the program.
  2. char* argv[] provides pointers to the char* strings containing each space-separated argument. argv[0] here is "./convolve".

The filtered output image will be written to filtered.png for viewing.

main.cpp also contains some examples of text output in C++ (using the standard output stream), as well as the main body of the program:

Image image(argv[1]);
Filter filter(argv[2]);
Image filtered = image * filter;

Here the * operator is overloaded to convolve an Image with a Filter. The first two lines load an image and filter file, respectively, and the final line writes the filtered result to a file. Your job will be implementing the member functions of Image and Filter, found in other files.

Filter struct

Take a look at filter.h, a C++ header file. It contains the Filter struct and a declaration of its member functions and variables. Generally, declarations of structs and classes and their member functions and variables are placed in header files (filename.h), while their definitions are placed in corresponding cpp files (filename.cpp). This way, if we need to reference code in another file, we can simply #include its header file. The preprocessor will paste in the text of an #include-ed file wherever that macro is placed. Note that headers are never compiled alone -- only when they occur at the top of some .cpp file.

Also, notice the #ifndef guard in filter.h: this prevents the compiler from double-pasting the header in a single file, which could cause problems with multiple definitions (if anything is not only declared but also defined within the header). It is generally good practice not to define functions fully within a header, but exceptions can be made for short, self-explanatory functions.

Filter is a struct, which has a different meaning in C++ compared to C. In C++, structs and classes are nearly identical. The difference is only that data and functions are public by default in a struct, but private by default in a class. Semantically, people interpret a struct to be more like a bundle of public data (originating from its usage in C) and a class to be more like a fully responsive, protected object. Although Filter should perhaps ideally be a class, we've made it a struct so you can compare its difference in structure to the Image class.

The member function definitions for Filter reside in filter.cpp. The first two are constructors, which are only ever called upon creation of a new Filter. The one with no arguments is the default constructor, which creates a simple "identity filter" function. The second loads a filter from a file.

Your job

Implement the Filter::read function.

Filter files are stored in the following format:

w h
f f ... f
f f ... f
f f ... f

where w is the width and h is the height of the filter. The width is the number of columns and the height is the number of rows. Each f represents one entry in the rectangular filter kernel. NOTE: filters are not stored "normalized", so you need to add up all the f values and then divide each one by the sum so that your Filter's kernel adds up to one.

You may want to look up how to use an std::ifstream to read the data, and std::vector to store the data into the kernel member variable.

Hint: Here's a code snippet to read in ints.

int x, y;
std::ifstream mystream(filename);
mystream >> x >> y;

Implement the Filter::normalize function.

This function adds up all the numbers in the kernel and then divides each one by that sum, ensuring that the new values will add up to one.

Implement the Filter::at function.

This is a one line function that returns a reference to one entry of the Filter kernel. Note that references are somewhat unique to C++ and aren't present in C or Java, which are both exclusively pass-by-value. References act like a permanently dereferenced pointer -- like another name for the same variable. For example, this:

void square(int x, int& squared) {
    squared = x * x;

int y; 
square(4, y);

actually stores 16 in y. Or, if we did this:, 1) = .71f;

it would actually change the (3,1) entries in the kernel vector. However, since this is considered undesirable behavior for a vector, the compiler will complain and force you to ensure vector references are constant if possible.

Image class

Before getting started, please take a look at this guide that helps clarify the concept of an "image" in the realm of computer graphics and imaging. Fundamentally, an image is a 2D grid of pixels, or color values. In the case of this discussion, each of our pixels consist of 4 different channels - red, green, blue, and alpha. We sometimes discard the alpha channel, but not in this discussion.

With that in mind, now we can move on to the Image class. This class is fairly similar to the Filter struct except that it supports an additional convolution operator *.

Your job

Implement the Image::read and Image::write functions.

Look up how to use the lodepng lodepng::decode and lodepng::encode functions to do this.

Implement the Image::at function.

This is a one line function that returns the address of a pixel in the data vector of pixels. Each pixel takes up four bytes (a.k.a. unsigned chars or uint8_ts). The pixels are laid out such that the width pixels in the first row (where y=0) come first, then the y=1 row, and so on, until the y=height-1 row. This means that you need to use the y argument to "jump" up by y rows, or y * width pixels. Then you can access the x pixel in that row with

y * width + x

Finally, you need to multiply all of that by 4 to get the right pointer offset from the start of the data array, since each pixel is 4 unsigned chars.

Implement the Image::operator* (convolution) function.

This function is the most complicated. Wikipedia has an excellent article on the convolution operator which includes some animations that make understanding the operator a little easier.

You will need to:

  1. Create a new image (of the same size as the current image) that can hold the output.
  2. For each pixel location in the old image, compute a weighted sum of the neighboring colors, each weighted by the filter's value at that relative offset (where the center of the pixel is at the location of your current pixel in the image).
  3. Assign this weighted sum to the same location in the new image.
  4. Return the new image.

Now, you should be able to run the program from the command line and inspect your filtered output at filtered.png. Try running it with your own PNG image with any of the .filt files, or you can try making your own filter!


No releases published


No packages published