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5 Volume Rendering a Cube


The <xray> programme is used to volume render cubes.


5.1 How the rendering is done

You can think of the way a data cube is rendered as lines of sight going from every pixel of the display through the data cube and the voxels (visualisation speak for volume element of the data cube) on a line of sight contribute in some way to the colour and intensity of the display pixel. To decide how every voxel contributes, a number of algorithms (called shaders) are available.

5.1.1 Shaders


Below are two lists with the shaders available. The first list contains simple shaders. The Voxel sum and the Maximum voxel shaders are useful for exploring the data cube, because they are relatively fast and give a reasonable display of the data.

The second kind of shaders uses an equation of radiative transfer to compute the images. These are called hot gas shaders.  

The contribution of a voxel to the pixel on the display is calculated using a simple equation of radiative transfer, where a voxel is partly absorbed by voxels that are in front of it:


where tex2html_wrap_inline4790 is the intensity along a line of sight after adding the tex2html_wrap_inline4792 voxel in front, tex2html_wrap_inline4794 the intensity of the voxel added, tex2html_wrap_inline4796 the intensity along the line of sight that is behind the tex2html_wrap_inline4792 voxel, and tex2html_wrap_inline4800 the opacity of the voxel i. This calculation is done `back-to-front', so voxels in the back of the cube are partly obscured by voxels in the front part of the cube.

If the opacity for a voxel is zero, that voxel becomes completely transparent but also invisible. This closely resembles the behaviour of a self-radiating cloud of hot gas, where gas particles both emit and absorb radiation. Regions with high gas particle density will have a higher surface brightness, but will also have a higher cross-sectional area of absorption.

The resulting rendered image appears like a cloud of glowing gas, which shows both internal and external structure.

You can use this to make features disappear (eg. noise). The disadvantage is that in order to make the data that you want to see transparent, you also make it barely visible. Consequently, the opacity of data you want to see has to be not too low and as a result one will tend to see only the surface of the emission regions.

There are a few versions of this implemented, differing in whether they do the rendering monochromatically or in colour.

5.2 Starting up the Volume Rendering Tool

To start the rendering software on any workstation type


5.2.1 Options

<xray> supports several command line options which are all documented in the manual page. The options of general interest are:

After starting up, many windows will appear:

Another window that you will see (after the first time you render the cube) is the image display. This window is similar to the display window in many of the other tools (see section 2.15).

5.3 Loading Data into xray

<xray> supports many data formats like any other Karma programme. For reasons of memory use and speed, the preferred data format used by <xray> is that the data is stored as bytes, with values ranging from -127 to 127 (the value -128 is used for blank or missing data). The values in your data cube will have to be scaled into this range.

If you load a non-byte data cube, <xray> will display a window showing the histogram of the data values in the cube. If you want to use the full range of values in the cube (good for a first look at the data), click (left) on the Full Range button. If you want to select a sub-range of the data, click (left) in the histogram window to define the lower bound and click (right) to define the upper bound. You then click (left) on Apply to tell <xray> to compress the cube to a byte cube. You will then be able to click (left) on the Save button, to save the compressed data cube. The default filename is ``scaled'', but you can change this prior to saving. Once you have saved a compressed cube, the next time you load it in <xray> it will load much faster.

The proper values for the scaling range of course depend on the data in the cube and on what you want to see in the data, but here are some hints. Normally, the histogram has a large peak around zero (The Noise). Unless you want to have a look at the noise in your data cube (eg. because you want to look at subtle calibration errors or errors in the continuum subtraction, errors that show up quite well with the rendering software), it may be a good idea to take the minimum such that most of this peak is excluded. Depending on which voxel algorithm you use in the rendering (see later), if you include data at the noise level, your rendered data cube will have a lot of noise `in front' of your object of interest and it may just be in the way. There are however also other ways (see below) to hide the noise.

Consider that with the rendering software you may see faint structures in your data that you were not aware of. So you may not want the minimum to be too high either otherwise you may miss interesting features in your data. Of course, when there is absorption in the data, the noise will have to be included.

Also consider that the because the data is scaled into [-127, 127], the dynamic range is limited, so in some cases it may be a good idea to choose the maximum not too high. You will be able to see more detail in the fainter emission.

5.4 The main control window

A screen snapshot is available here.

The following controls are available:

5.4.1 Rendering Modes

The following rendering modes are defined:

5.4.2 Rotating the cube

With the sliders Roll, Pitch and Yaw you can rotate the data cube by hand. The coordinate axes are defined such that the X-axis is horizontal, the Y-axis vertical and the Z-axis pointing into the display. The Roll rotation is around the X-axis, Pitch around the Y-axis and Yaw around the Z-axis. Since rotations do not commute, it is important to know that the order of the rotations is Roll first, then Pitch and then Yaw.

To see the cube in the orientation you specify, click (left) on Compute. Reset Orientation resets the orientation to face-on.

5.5 Making a Movie


The main problem with volume rendering data cubes is that one does not really get a three dimensional perception of the rendered cube. One can display a scene from daily life in a very crude way and still perceive it as a 3D scene. But this apparently is not true for data cubes. The brain does not recognize the object in the image and therefore it does not make a three dimensional perception. One way to get a three dimensional perception of the data is to make a movie in which the data cube is rotated while it is rendered.

For making such a movie, click (left) on Make Movie, and the movie control window will pop up. This window allows you to make a series of images where the data cube is rotated in steps. Use the sliders to set the increment in Roll, Pitch and Yaw, and the number of images you want. Start Movie then starts computing this sequence. To save a movie, type in a filename and click Save Movie. Once the movie has been generated an animation control window will appear, allowing you to view the movie.

One consideration is the size of the movie. If this is too large (i.e. larger than about 40 Mbyte on phoenix), playing the movie will be slow. An estimate of the size of a movie is


where x, y and z are the size of the axes of the data cube in pixels and tex2html_wrap_inline4856 the zoom factor. My experience is that rotating the cube in steps of 10 degrees (so the movie is 36 frames) is in general sufficient to get a smooth movie.

It may not be a good idea to make a movie of images with a large Image Expand Factor, depending on the sizes of the axes of the cube. You will find that when you play such a movie, it will be slow because it has to swap images in and out. You can always zoom afterwards when you play the movie by resizing the window, although the result may not be as good.

5.6 Filtering your data


Often, there will be problems with the data (too noisy, confusing or bright continuum sources) which make it difficult to see your data. To help, there are a few filtering alogorithms implemented which should help. Click on Filter in the main control window and a filtering control panel will pop up.

The following filtering algorithms are available:


5.6.1 Adaptive Filtering

One problem with volume rendering is that in order to see faint structures in the data cube, one has to set the opacities, intensity transformation and clips such that also the noise becomes bright. As a consequence, the emission is visible only through a thick fog of noise and this noise hides a lot of information.

One solution is to apply adaptive filtering to the data cube: the data is smoothed where the emission is faint and extended (or absent), while the data is left intact if it is stronger or more pointlike. There are several techniques to do this. At the moment two algorithms are implemented, but we are working on other filters.

The filters are based on work of J.-L. Starck, F. Murtagh and A. Bijaoui with a few extentions of our own. They consists of making a wavelet transform of each channel in the cube. This allows to consider the data locally at different resolutions and modify it such that the signal-to-noise is improved. For more information, have a look at Adaptive Filtering and Masking of HI Data Cubes, Tom Oosterloo, ESF workshop on Vision Modeling and Information Coding', Nice, 4-6 October 1995 Note that the wavelet transforms can be 3D and 2D (channel by channel).

The adaptive filtering algorithms available are:

There are two parameters to set for this filtering:

5.6.2 Contintuum Subtraction

Often when you observe a spectral-line source you may have a confusing continuum source in the field. Your data reduction package should have a programme to subtract the continuum (e.g. ``uvlin'' in Miriad). The problem with some of these programmes is that in order to compute a fit to the spectrum of the continuum source, you first have to tell the programme which channels contain the spectral-line emission so that it can ignore those channels when computing the fit. The problem is how to find out which channels contain the line emission?

An effective technique is to invert your UV data into a cube before subtracting the continuum and then using <xray> to render it. Of course, if the continuum source is brighter than your spectral-line source (it usually is), the spectral-line source will be washed out. This is where you can use the subtract continuum filter. This will subtract the average flux in a spectral profile, for every point on the sky image. This is a good continuum-subtraction algorithm, to first order: it should filter out more than 90% of the continuum source.

Once you have your first order continuum-subtracted cube, you can use <xray> to find the spectral-line emission. In particular, you should find the 3D slicing window very handy, since it will give you the 3D co-ordinates of a point. Be warned that Karma programmes count from 0, whereas most astronomical reduction packages count from 1. If you take a channel index from Karma and put it into Miriad, remember to add the value 1.

Now that you have identified the spectral-line emission, you can run a programme like ``uvlin'' to do a better job of subtracting the continuum.

5.6.3 Other Controls

To apply the filtering. click on Do Filter. The cube is rendered automatically.

To get back the original data without any filtering, click on Undo Filter.

You may also Save the filtered cube for later use.

5.7 Hot Gas Substances control panel

A screen snapshot is available here.

This controls the settings for the Hot Gas Substances. You should see a window with a histogram of the data values in the cube (actually the logarithm of the distribution), and in the bottom part you will see space for the colours of the substances. Each colour has a horizontal line on it. This is an indicator for the opacity of the substance.

To change the colour of a substances you have to click (left) on the space on the bottom of the window that is reserved for the substance. This selects the substance. To change the colour, move the mouse in the upper part of the window and drag (middle, not left!!) the mouse around until you have the colour you want. The saturation of the colour can be changed by moving the mouse around while you drag with the right button. To change the opacity, put the mouse on the substance and drag with the middle mouse button vertically.

To change the value ranges for the substances, drag (left) the mouse in the upper part of the window. In the upper part, there are a few symbols that help to orient yourself. The + is the setting for the value ranges, the O the setting for the substance you have selected, and the horizontal line on the left of the window is the saturation of that substance. With this window, one is only able to change the value ranges in a way similar to a normal colour table control.

To use the settings you have made, click (left) on Apply and a new image will be calculated.

The button Save brings up a window to save substances.

To load a substance table click on Load and select your file.

5.8 Hot Gas Mono control panel

A screen snapshot is available here.

The control window for this allows you to set the opacity law of the Hot Gas Mono shader, as well as the exponent for the intensity transformation. One can also set the range of voxel values that are set to blank.

The following controls are available:

In the display canvas under the controls you will see a log-histogram of your data (in white) as well as a red curve showing the transfer function between data value and intensity (see equation 5.3) and a yellow curve showing the transfer function between data value and intensity (see equation 5.2. The opacity curve also reflects the blanked range of values.

5.9 Hot Gas Continuous control panel

This shader is a cross between Hot Gas Substances and Hot Gas Mono. It has a similar control as the Hot Gas Mono shader in <xray>. Also here the exponent of the opacity law can be set, as well as the values range for valid data. The difference is that one can set the connection between voxel value and colour using a colourtable-like interface.

5.10 Hot Gas Three Colour control panel

This shader is an extension of the Hot Gas Continuous shader. It allows you to divide the data range into three regions, with independant opacity and colour transfer functions for each region. This shader is a little esoteric, and is designed for rendering data with two or three distinct populations of data values. This kind of data does not occur in radio astronomy. You may generate this data by combining two datacubes together. This shader would allow you to render one dataset in one colour and another dataset in another colour.

next up previous contents index Karma Home Page
Next: kpvslice: interactive position-velocity slicing Up: Karma User Manual Previous: 4 Viewing Images and

Richard Gooch
Mon Aug 14 22:25:04 PDT 2006