The Visual Computer

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 2–7 | Cite as

Volume rendering by adaptive refinement

  • Marc Levoy


Volume rendering is a technique for visualizing sampled scalar functions of three spatial dimensions by computing 2D projections of a colored semi-transparent gel. This paper presents a volume-rendering algorithm, in which image quality is adaptively refined over time. An initial image is generated by casting a small number of rays into the data, less than one ray per pixel, and interpolating between the resulting colors. Subsequent images are generated by alternately casting more rays and interpolating. The usefulness of these rays is maximized by distributing them according to measures of local image complexity. Examples from two applications are given: molecular graphics and medical imaging.

Key words

Volume rendering Voxel Adaptive refinement Adaptive sampling Ray tracing 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bergman, L, Fuchs H, Grant E, Spach S (1986) Image rendering by adaptive refinement. Computer Graphics 20(4):29–37Google Scholar
  2. Cook RL (1986) Stochastic sampling in computer graphics. ACM Trans Graph 5(1):51–72Google Scholar
  3. Dippe MAZ, Wold EH (1985) Antialiasing through stochastic sampling. Computer Graphics 19(3):69–78Google Scholar
  4. Drebin RA, Carpenter I, Hanrahan P (1988) Volume rendering. Computer Graphics 22(4):65–74Google Scholar
  5. Glusker PJ, Trueblood KN (1985) Crystal structure analysis. Oxford Univ Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  6. Herman GT (1980) Image reconstruction from projections. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Kajiya JT (1986) The rendering equation. Computer Graphics 20(4):143–150Google Scholar
  8. Lee ME, Redner RA, Uselton SP (1985) Statistically optimized sampling for distributed ray tracing. Computer Graphics 19(3):61–67Google Scholar
  9. Levoy M (1988a) Display of surfaces from volume data. IEEE Comput Graph Appl 8(3):29–37Google Scholar
  10. Levoy M (1990) Efficient ray tracing of volume data. ACM Transactions on Graphics (in press)Google Scholar
  11. Reynolds A (1989) Letter to the editor. IEEE. Computer Graph Appl, vol 9, no 2Google Scholar
  12. Sabella P (1988) A rendering algorithm for visualizing 3D scalar fields. Computer Graphics 22(4):51–58Google Scholar
  13. Upson C (1986) The visual simulation of amorphous phenomena. The Visual Computer 2:321–326Google Scholar
  14. Upson C, Keeler M (1988) VBUFFER: Visible volume rendering. Computer Graphics 22(4):59–64Google Scholar
  15. Whitted T (1980) an improved illumination model for shaded display. Commun ACM 23(6):343–349Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc Levoy
    • 1
  1. 1.Computer Science DepartmentUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

Personalised recommendations