A scene encapsulates the information required to generate one or more images. To define a scene, the user specifies a collection of plots (e.g., volume or surface rendering) and associated parameters such as camera definitions, light positions, and annotations. The simplest plot description requires only a plot type and scalar field name. A scene defined in this way uses the default data source, which is all of the data published by the simulation, and default settings for camera position, image resolution, lighting, and annotations.


We current have support for two plot types: pseudocolor and volume. Both plots support node centered and zone centered scalar fields. Plots optionally consume the result of a pipeline, but if none is specified, then the plot input is the published mesh data. Each scene can contain one or more plots. The plot interface is simply:

  "type"   : "plot_name",
  "pipeline" : "pipeline_name",
    "field" : "field_name"

In c++, the equivalent declarations would be as follows:

conduit::Node plot;
plot["type"] = "plot_name";
plot["pipeline"] = "pipeline_name";
plot["params/field"] = "field_name";


A pseudocolor plot simply renders the mesh coloring by the provided scalar field. Below is an example of creating a scene with a single pseudocolor plot with the default pipeline:

conduit::Node scenes;
scenes["s1/plots/p1/type"]         = "pseudocolor";
scenes["s1/plots/p1/params/field"] = "braid";
scenes["s1/image_prefix"] = output_file_name;

conduit::Node actions;
conduit::Node &add_plots = actions.append();
add_plots["action"] = "add_scenes";
add_plots["scenes"] = scenes;

An example of creating a scene with a user defined pipeline:

conduit::Node pipelines;
// pipeline 1
pipelines["pl1/f1/type"] = "contour";
// filter knobs
conduit::Node &contour_params = pipelines["pl1/f1/params"];
contour_params["field"] = "braid";
contour_params["iso_values"] = 0.;

conduit::Node scenes;
scenes["s1/plots/p1/type"]         = "pseudocolor";
scenes["s1/plots/p1/params/field"] = "radial";
scenes["s1/plots/p1/pipeline"] = "pl1";
scenes["s1/image_prefix"] = output_file;

conduit::Node actions;
// add the pipeline
conduit::Node &add_pipelines= actions.append();
add_pipelines["action"] = "add_pipelines";
add_pipelines["pipelines"] = pipelines;
// add the scenes
conduit::Node &add_scenes= actions.append();
add_scenes["action"] = "add_scenes";
add_scenes["scenes"] = scenes;

Volume Plot

The volume plot produce a volume rendering of the provided scalar field. The code below creates a volume plot of the default pipeline.

conduit::Node scenes;
scenes["s1/plots/p1/type"]         = "volume";
scenes["s1/plots/p1/params/field"] = "braid";

conduit::Node actions;
conduit::Node &add_plots = actions.append();
add_plots["action"] = "add_scenes";
add_plots["scenes"] = scenes;

Renders (Optional)

Scenes contains a list of Renders that specify the parameters of a single image. If no render is specified, a default render is created automatically. Here is an example of creating a scene with render with some basic parameters:

conduit::Node scenes;
scenes["s1/plots/p1/type"]         = "pseudocolor";
scenes["s1/plots/p1/params/field"] = "braid";
scenes["s1/image_prefix"] = output_file;

scenes["s1/renders/r1/image_width"]  = 512;
scenes["s1/renders/r1/image_height"] = 512;
scenes["s1/renders/r1/image_name"]   = output_file;
scenes["s1/renders/r1/color_table/name"]   = "blue";

Now we add a second render to the same example using every available parameter:

scenes["s1/renders/r2/image_width"]  = 300;
scenes["s1/renders/r2/image_height"] = 400;
scenes["s1/renders/r2/image_name"]   = output_file2;
double vec3[3];
vec3[0] = 1.; vec3[1] = 1.; vec3[2] = 1.;
vec3[0] = 15.; vec3[1] = 17.; vec3[2] = 15.;
vec3[0] = 0.; vec3[1] = -1.; vec3[2] = 0.;
scenes["s1/renders/r2/camera/fov"] = 45.;
scenes["s1/renders/r2/camera/xpan"] = 1.;
scenes["s1/renders/r2/camera/ypan"] = 1.;
scenes["s1/renders/r2/camera/zoom"] = 3.2;
scenes["s1/renders/r2/camera/near_plane"] = 0.1;
scenes["s1/renders/r2/camera/far_plane"] = 33.1;

Color Tables

The color map translates normalized scalars to color values. Minimally, a color table name needs to be specified, but the color_table node allows you to specify RGB and Alpha (opacity) control points for complete customization of color maps. Alpha control points are used when rendering volumes. The built-in Color map names are: Cool to Warm, Black-Body Radiation, Samsel Fire, Inferno, Linear YGB, Cold and Hot, Rainbow Desaturated, Cool to Warm (Extended), X Ray, Black, Blue and White, Virdis, Linear Green, Jet, and Rainbow. Colors are three double precision values between 0 and 1. Alphas and positions are a single double precision values between 0 and 1.

Building on the previous example, we now add a custom color table to the render r2:

conduit::Node control_points;
conduit::Node &point1 = control_points.append();
point1["type"] = "rgb";
point1["position"] = 0.;
double color[3] = {1., 0., 0.};
point1["color"].set_float64_ptr(color, 3);

conduit::Node &point2 = control_points.append();
point2["type"] = "rgb";
point2["position"] = 0.5;
color[0] = 0;
color[1] = 1.;
point2["color"].set_float64_ptr(color, 3);

conduit::Node &point3 = control_points.append();
point3["type"] = "rgb";
point3["position"] = 1.0;
color[1] = 0;
color[2] = 1.;
point3["color"].set_float64_ptr(color, 3);

conduit::Node &point4 = control_points.append();
point4["type"] = "alpha";
point4["position"] = 0.;
point4["alpha"] = 0.;

conduit::Node &point5 = control_points.append();
point5["type"] = "alpha";
point5["position"] = 1.0;
point5["alpha"] = 1.;
scenes["s1/renders/r2/color_table/control_points"] = control_points;

Cinema Databases

The Cinema specification is a image-based solution for post-hoc exploration of simulation data. The idea behind Cinema is images take many orders of magnitude less disk space than that of the entire simulation data. By saving images instead of the full mesh, we can save data much more frequently, giving users access to more temporal fidelity than would be possible otherwise. For a complete overview, see the SC 14 paper. Other Cinema resources can be found at Cinema Science.

Ascent currently supports the creation of the Astaire specification (spec A) which captures images of the scene from positions on a spherical camera. The number of images are captured in the parameters phi and theta. phi specifies the number of divisions along the polar angle and theta specifies the number of divisions along the azimuth. For example, if phi = 4 and theta = 8 then the resulting database will contain 4 * 8 images per time step. The Cinema database can then be explored in a supported viewer. In the future we hope to integrate a web-based viewer to enable exploration of the Cinema database as the simulation is running.

conduit::Node scenes;
scenes["scene1/plots/plt1/type"]         = "pseudocolor";
scenes["scene1/plots/plt1/params/field"] = "braid";
// setup required cinema params
scenes["scene1/renders/r1/type"] = "cinema";
scenes["scene1/renders/r1/phi"] = 2;
scenes["scene1/renders/r1/theta"] = 2;
scenes["scene1/renders/r1/db_name"] = "example_db";

A full code example can be found in the test suite’s Cinema test.