Project Overview

VolVis is the culmination of several years of work developing visualization tools by the research group headed by Prof. Arie Kaufman. VolVis was developed primarily by Rick Avila and Lisa Sobierajski, while working here at Stony Brook. It was part of Rick’s MS project and Lisa’s PhD work. Other people involved in VolVis development are: Dirk Bartz, Taosong He, Lichan Hong, Hanspeter Pfister, Claudio Silva, and Pat Tonra.

The visualization of volumetric data has aided many scientific disciplines ranging from geophysics to the biomedical sciences. The diversity of these fields coupled with a growing reliance on visualization has spawned the creation of a number of specialized visualization systems. These systems are usually limited by machine and data dependencies and are typically not flexible or extensible. A few visualization systems have attempted to overcome these dependencies by taking a data-flow approach. However, the added computational costs associated with data-flow systems results in poor performance. In addition, these systems require that the scientist or engineer invest a large amount of time understanding the capabilities of each of the computational modules and how to effectively link them together.

VolVis is a volume visualization system that unites numerous visualization methods within a comprehensive visualization system, providing a flexible tool for the scientist and engineer as well as the visualization developer and researcher.




VolVis supplies a wide range of functionality with numerous methods provided within each functional component. For example, VolVis provides various projection methods including ray casting, ray tracing, radiosity, Marching Cubes, and splatting.

Ease of use:

The VolVis user interface is organized into functional components, providing an easy to use visualization system. One advantage of this approach over data-flow systems is that the user does not have to learn how to link numerous modules in order to perform a task.


The structure of the VolVis system is designed to allow a visualization programmer to easily add new representations and algorithms. For this purpose, an extensible and hierarchical abstract model was developed [Avila et al. 1992] which contains definitions for all objects in the system.


The VolVis system, written in C, is highly portable, running on most Unix workstations supporting X/Motif. The system has been tested on Silicon Graphics, Sun, Hewlett-Packard, Digital Equipment Corporation, and IBM workstations and PCs running Linux.

Freely available:

The high cost of most visualization systems and difficulties in obtaining their source code often lead researchers to write their own tools for specific visualization tasks. VolVis is freely available as source code to not-for-profit organizations. There is a small fee for for-profit organizations.

VolVis Future:

The VisLab is committed to continuing research and support of VolVis. Currently, we are doing research and development to extend VolVis funcionality, usability and stability. Lots of new features are expected to be incorporated within the next year: like support for irregular grids, parallel rendering, and flow visualization.

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