Description of the Tools

In this course we will be using tools based on a very large software library called the Visualization Toolkit (VTK). ParaView is an application that allows users to graphically load data sets and visualize them with a commonly used subset of VTK components. VolView is another program that provides a simple interface to VTK's 3D scalar field (volume) visualization components. Each student may find one tool more useful than another for a given task.

Download and install ParaView for Windows

The ParaView web page at is a portal to all sorts of information about ParaView, which is a 3D viewing program that is built on top of VTK. Don't let the Para in the name (which stands for parallel) throw you: it works just fine on single-processor machines. Click on the Resources -> Download link on the toolbar at the top of the page and then select v4.1 (release candidates) from the Version of ParaView pull-down. Pick the one for release candidate 2 that matches your architecture and download it.

Save the file in your favorite folder. Open that folder and run the executable to install ParaView, using the default options for installation. The installer will create a new ParaView entry in your Start/All Programs menu.

Select the Data, Documentation, and Tutorials type of download and save it where you saved the ParaView installer.

The Paraview User's Guide is now included with the main program installer.

Getting started with ParaView

Run the ParaView application from the Start/All Programs/ParaView 4.1.0-RC2 entry (Windows). Click the left mouse button in the large gray interaction region and drag the mouse, which will tumble the set of red, green, and yellow axes. The right mouse button will zoom in and out, and the middle one will translate the axes. A second set of axes (red, green, and blue) tumble in the corner; they are labeled with X, Y, and Z to indicate the orientation of the object you are viewing.

Select File/Open from the pull-down menu at the upper-left corner of the application. Browse into the directory where you extracted the ParaView data set and go into the Data directory, selecting the file bluntfin.vts. Click on the Apply button under the Properties. This will bring up a white wire-frame outline of the data set. In the Display section of the Properties tab in the control panel to the left of the 3D View window, on the menu labeled Representation in the Style panel and select Points from the list that appears. Click on the menu labeled Color by in the Color panel and select Density from the list. Adjust the Point size by selecting its value and typing a new one.

ParaView tutorial

Go to the ParaView tutorial and follow along. It will be easiest to follow if you quit and restart ParaView. Remember to look on the Properties tab for instructions that are listed on the Display tab.

Download and Install VolView for Windows

Go to the product website at Click on the link in the Download button. Select the link to download the version for your platform. Also download the User's Guide (by right-clicking on the link and selecting 'Save link target as'.

Save the files in the same place you saved the ParaView installer. Open that folder and run the executable to install VolView. You do not need to check for an upgrade during the installation process.

This will create a new VolView3.4 entry in your Start/All Programs menu. The first time you run the program it may ask you to register in one of two modes. Select the choice to Get or extend a trial license. You will need to put in an email address to get the license (even thought it says that you do not have to). If you do not want to use yours, try

Getting Started with VolView

Start VolView from the Start/All Programs/VolView3.4 menu. Open the IronProtein.vtk data set, which you get by downloading this ZIP file.. A dialog box will open asking about units, but you can safely ignore this and click Next several times and then Finish. You will see one window containing a (colorful) direct volume rendering of the iron protein data set as well as a number of other windows showing slices of the data at different orientations. You can left-click and drag on the volume window to rotate the data.

This type of image is called a Direct Volume Rendering. We will be discussing this in more detail later on in the semester.

VolView Tutorial

Section 4 of the user manual walks you through how to use VolView to display different characteristics of a volume data set.