This tutorial aims at providing a concise and qualitatively modern perspective on time-dependent vector field visualization. A cross-section of relevant techniques – with a strong focus on modern methods – is presented and discussed in the context of selected real-world problems from different application domains such as fluid flow, astrophysics, magnetically confined fusion, electrodynamics, geodynamics, and earthquake modeling.

The tutorial is dedicated to an introduction of three major classes of techniques that are regarded as most important, useful, and forward-looking in the context of time-varying vector fields. First, the class of geometric visualization methods is discussed that offers tools that draw on the direct depiction and intuition about lines, surfaces, and volumes derived from trajectories of particles. Next, the focus shifts to the category of Lagrangian visualization methods. The latter are aimed at the analysis of the simultaneous behavior of many particles traversing a vector field, e.g. by means of so-called Lagrangian Coherent Structures or Lagrangian vortex criteria. Furthermore, an overview of texture-based visualization of two- and three-dimensional time-dependent vector fields is presented, including a discussion of theoretical and perceptual aspects. The tutorial also discusses the implementation of a subset of the presented techniques, focussing on GPU-accelerated implementations of geometric, Lagrangian and texture-based techniques. Finally, the topic of employing parallel visualization strategies on clusters and supercomputers is treated and a number of parallelization strategies that allow the visualization of very large data sets are introduced.

The tutorial was held during IEEE VisWeek 2009. The tutorial materials including presentation slides, links to available software and literature references, are available on the Materials page.

If you have any questions or comments, please email cgarth@ucdavis.edu.