View-independent Contour Culling of 3D Density Maps for Far-field Viewing of Iso-surfaces

Comput Graph. 2011 Jun;35(3):561-568. doi: 10.1016/j.cag.2011.03.035.


In many applications, iso-surface is the primary method for visualizing the structure of 3D density maps. We consider a common scenario where the user views the iso-surfaces from a distance and varies the level associated with the iso-surface as well as the view direction to gain a sense of the general 3D structure of the density map. For many types of density data, the iso-surfaces associated with a particular threshold may be nested and never visible during this type of viewing. In this paper, we discuss a simple, conservative culling method that avoids the generation of interior portions of iso-surfaces at the contouring stage. Unlike existing methods that perform culling based on the current view direction, our culling is performed once for all views and requires no additional computation as the view changes. By pre-computing a single visibility map, culling is done at any iso-value with little overhead in contouring. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the algorithm on a range of bio-medical data and discuss a practical application in online visualization.