On Perception of Semi-Transparent Streamlines for Three-Dimensional Flow Visualization



One of the standard techniques to visualize three-dimensional flow is to use geometry primitives. This solution, when opaque primitives are used, results in high levels of occlusion, especially with dense streamline seeding. Using semi-transparent geometry primitives can alleviate the problem of occlusion. However, with semi-transparency some parts of the data set become too vague and blurry, while others are still heavily occluded. We conducted a user study that provided us with results on perceptual limits of using semi-transparent geometry primitives for flow visualization. Texture models for semi-transparent streamlines were introduced. Test subjects were shown multiple overlaying layers of streamlines and recorded how many different flow directions they were able to perceive. The user study allowed us to identify a set of top scoring textures. We discuss the results of the user study, provide guidelines on using semi-transparency for three-dimensional flow visualization and show how varying textures for different streamlines can further enhance the perception of dense streamlines. We also discuss the strategies for dealing with very high levels of occlusion. The strategies are per-pixel filtering of flow directions, when only some of the streamlines are rendered at a particular pixel, and opacity normalization, a way of altering the opacity of overlapping streamlines with the same direction. We illustrate our results with a variety of visualizations.