7. Advanced Object properties

7.1. Fidelity

SPIERSview can reduce the number of triangles in an object (referred to as its fidelity) using one of two algorithms (see below). Reducing triangle-count enables objects to display effectively on lower powered systems, and may also help when exporting geometries to other software. Fidelity reduction is however computationally expensive, ‘lossy’ (resultant geometries will not be exactly the same as the original), and may require a large amount of system memory to perform successfully. To change fidelity select the objects to be affected, and use the ‘Set Fidelity’ command in the Objects menu to enter a new value – a fidelity of 100% represents the original triangle count (no fidelity reduction). Objects will then need to be resurfaced (see below).

By default fidelity-reduction uses a relatively fast and ‘safe’ algorithm that is normally only able to reduce fidelity by up to 50% - settings lower than this will not always result in smaller models. Alternatively, a ‘Quadric’ fidelity-reduction algorithm is available, selected by ticking the so-named menu item in the Objects menu. This alternative algorithm is slower and more memory hungry (it may fail and crash for some very complex objects on systems with limited memory), but normally produces better results, especially at low fidelities.

Fidelity reduction is not available in Finalised/VAXML mode.

Fidelity reduction is performed before Island Removal or Smoothing

7.2. Transparency

SPIERSview can display objects in a translucent form; transparency is by default off, but can be set to one of four preset levels by selecting object(s) and using the Transparency commands in the Objects menu or their keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-1 is ‘transparency off’, ctrl-2 through ctrl-5 are increasingly high levels of translucency). A facility is also provided, on the Transparency sub-menu of the Objects menu, to set a custom transparency level (0 is opaque, 99, almost transparent).

Transparency is not easy to implement perfectly, and in all software the method used is a trade-off between speed and ‘correctness’. SPIERSview provides a relatively fast implementation that is normally sufficient, but can in some cases produce unexpected results, especially when viewing translucent objects through other translucent objects. If ‘true’ transparency is required for publication-quality images, export of the model to another rendering package (e.g. a ray-tracer) is recommended.

Changes to transparency do not require objects to be resurfaced (see below).

7.3. Shininess

As of version 2.20, SPIERSview renders objects using a ‘phong’ shading model, which approximates highlights and reflections from objects. These are visually appealing, and can assist in visualizing surface morphology. The shininess of objects can be set to one of four preset levels by selecting object(s) and using the Shininess sub-menu in the Objects menu; levels are ‘Off’, ‘Less’, ‘Default’ and ‘Full’. If more precise control is required, a custom shininess level can also be set using the appropriate command in the Shininess sub-menu ; values range from 0 (Matte, Off) to 100 (equivalent to ‘Full’).

Changes to shininess do not require objects to be resurfaced (see below).

7.4. Island Removal

SPIERSview provides a filter to remove ‘islands’ from data – islands are groups of triangles not connected with the main object, which often represent noise. Island removal level is set using the commands of the Island removal sub-menu on the Objects menu. It can either be off (the default), ‘all’ (where all islands of triangles not connected to the largest object are removed), or one of four intermediate settings where increasingly large islands are removed. A custom island-removal level can also be specified using the appropriate command on the Island removal sub-menu; here the user specifies a minimum size (in triangles) for islands; all smaller are removed. Note that it is possible to remove all islands, including the largest, by specifying too high a threshold.

Island removal can be slow and memory hungry; it may fail for some very complex objects on systems with limited memory. Note that the remove ‘all’ option is usually faster and less demanding on the system than the intermediate options. Objects will need to be resurfaced (see below) after changes are made to Island Removal settings.

Island removal is not available in Finalised/VAXML mode.

Island removal is performed after fidelity reduction but before smoothing.

7.5. Smoothing

Surfaces created by SPIERSview as isosurface from slice-based (tomographic) data may be rather ‘blocky’. A smoothing filter may be applied to smooth out blockiness artefacts and other fine-scale noise, providing what is hopefully a better approximation to an original biological surface; excessive smoothing can however modify the geometry in unhelpful ways, and hence it should always be used with care. Smoothing is by default off for all objects, but the degree applied is set using the commands of the Smoothing sub-menu on the Objects menu. Seven levels, from ‘off’ to ‘strongest’ are available; the stronger the smoothing the slower the process will be. A custom smoothing level can also be specified using the appropriate command on the Smoothing sub-menu; here the user specifies the number of iterations of the smoothing algorithm; the equivalent to ‘strongest’ is 100, but higher values can be specified if desired.

Smoothing is not available in Finalised/VAXML mode.

Smoothing is performed after both fidelity reduction and island removal.

7.6. Resurfacing

Changes to smoothing, island removal or fidelity can be time consuming, and are hence not applied immediately. To manually apply changes and force recalculation of objects with new settings, use the Resurface Now command on the View menu (F5). This approach is used to save time; resurfacing can be slow, and typically a user will want to change several settings before triggering a resurface. Alternatively, an Auto-Resurface mode is provided (Mode Menu, Shift-F5), turned off by default; with this mode enabled resurfacing is triggered after every change to smoothing, island removal or fidelity.