B-Spline curves are piecewise Bézier curves. To develop B-splines, and to do so in a continuous smooth way, we must discover the conditions on which two Bézier curves can be pieced together. To examine this process, we will first consider a single cubic curve and show how to construct the many Bézier control polygons that represent the curve. These control polygons, and their geometric constraints, are paramount in the definition of the B-spline curve.
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A Matrix Equation for a Cubic Curve
A cubic polynomial curve can be written as a Bézier curve. If we let be the control points of the curve, then it can be written as
The representation of the curve can be written in a matrix form by
Reparameterization using the Matrix Form
The control polygon defines the unique cubic curve , and is most frequently used to represent the curve between and , where and . However, given an interval , there exists a unique control polygon defining a Bézier curve , such that and . These control polygons, called Bézier polygons can be generated by reparameterization and by manipulating the matrix representation above.
Suppose that we wish to find the Bézier polygon for the portion of the curve where . If we define this new curve as , then we can define . It is straightforward to check that both and are cubic curves, and represent the same curve. We can calculate the control points for by using our matrix form, that is
A Specific Example
An example of this which will be useful to us in learning how to piece together two Bézier curves is to find the control polygon for the curve when its parameter ranges from to . In this case, we have
Working with some algebra, and defining new temporary points and , we see that
By equation (2), lies on an extension of the line where the distance between and , and between and are equal.
By equation (4), lies on an extension of the line , where the lengths defined by and are equal - and as a result of this fact and equation (6), lies on an extension of the line , where the lengths defined by and are equal. This enables us to construct .
Similarly, using equations (3), (4), (5), and (7), we can construct as in the the following illustration
The result of this exercise is that we can construct the control points of the curve directly from the original control points for . These two functions represent the same curve.
An interesting exercise for the reader is to calculate the portion of the curve as ranges from 0 to . In this case, the new curve can be defined as , and by substituting this into the matrix form, the resulting Bézier polygon should be . Try it out.
A Expanded Example
The example above illustrated the fact that there are many Bézier polygons that can represent a cubic curve. However the geometric construction process generated by this example did not quite illustrate the fine details of the algorithm. To see the necessary characteristics of the algorithm, we will use the following example: Find the control polygon for the portion of the curve when ranges between and , for an arbitrary value of . In this case, we define the curve , where and use our matrix representation to calculate
These new control points can again be analyzed geometrically and as a result each can be calculated by a simple geometric process using only the initial control polygon . To accomplish this, we first write
The important factor here is the term. Each of these points is on an extension of a line of the original control polygon, or the extension of a constructed line. The factor determines how much to extend. The following illustration shows the construction for our previous Bézier curve with , giving the portion of the where ranges from to .
We have shown here that for a cubic curve, there are many control polygons that can define the curve. Using our matrix representation, we have shown how to determine the control polygon that covers an arbitary interval of the original curve. Our examples will be very useful when we discuss how to piece two or more Bézier curves together.