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About this site: 

CyberOutreach and High-end Visualization

The CyberOutreach and High-end visualization group is dedicated to communicating scientific knowledge and data-driven scientific visualizations to large, non-expert audiences for outreach and education.  The work involves developing and using advanced computer graphics techniques to aesthetically design data-driven scientific visualization.  In the process of “making a production” for digital planetaria, IMAX movies, or public outreach television, the team develops expert-user visualization tools.  This site is a composite of visualization tool and project descriptions.  We have both new and old projects described here to provide historical context for the current projects.

The Virtual Director™ is a virtual reality interface that enables gestural motion capture and voice control of navigation, editing, and recording in the CAVE, ImmersaDesk™, and Infinity Wall™.  Originally, Virtual Director was created by Donna Cox, Bob Patterson and Marcus Thiebaux.  The software was further developed by Cox, Patterson, and Stuart Levy.  The Virtual Director provides virtual choreography of multiple applications including Cave5D and Partiview/.   Matthew Hall developed Virtual Director into an Application Programming Interface and Library:  VirDir2.   This API operates with a variety of screen display renderers such as Partiview and VMaya (Virtual Maya).  Alex Betts developed VMaya enabling VirDir2 choreography capabilities within Maya animation scene files.

Virtual Director provides remote virtual collaboration capabilities, linking together VR devices and people represented as customized avatars. Virtual Director was supported by NSF through a planning grant.  Major development was funded by “Cosmic Voyage” IMAX movie through Motorola Foundation.  It was patented November 28, 2000, No. 6,154,723:  Virtual Reality 3D Interface System for Data Creation, Viewing and Editing, D.J Cox, R Patterson, M. Thiebaux,  Ref. T96137, December 5, 1997; initially disclosed with the Research and Technology Management Office, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).  VirDir2 provides current choreography and scientific visualization on inexpensive passive stereo display technology.

The CyberOutreach and High-end Visualization is an initiative at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, UIUC. 

The following images and captions provide early reference material.

the CAVE

Standing in the CAVE virtual environment, Bob Patterson and Donna Cox use the Virtual Director to previsualize a galaxy collision choreography for the Cosmic Voyage IMAX film. They use a wireless microphone to enter over 50 voice commands and a magnetically tracked wand to navigate around the simulation and position the camera.


The virtual camera and its path is shown in the 3D space of the colliding galaxies. Vectors on the path represent the camera's orientation along the spline. The red shape highlights the current camera keyframe. This view is created from a secondary virtual camera inside the CAVE using Marcus Thiebaux's Virtual Director renderer.

virtual camera


VirtualDirector front wall

This image represents the Virtual Director's CAVE front wall display. The display includes the realtime rendering of the 3D galaxy collision scene with the virtual camera and spline (shown here in mono mode). Other components of the display are the Xwindow command line input, virtual monitor, optional source and navigation information, menu bar with pop-up options, current status line (in yellow) and scrolling text feedback. The status line provides information to the user such as the current: path (P:1), keyframe (K:3), frame (F:225), simulation time (T:42.47), and current input source (WAND).


This batch mode rendered image represents the frame displayed in the virtual monitor of the previous CAVE wall image. After saving the camera path, this image (frame 225) was re-rendered with Pixar's custom Star Renderer. This image represents 250,000 star and gas particles and was rendered in two minutes on an SGI r10000 processor.

collidinggalaxies in the CAVE


AMR datarendering

This image represents a projection of the dark matter density based on an Adaptive Mesh Refinement Simulation of an X-ray Cluster by Greg L. Bryan and Michael L. Norman.


This image displays the AMR grid hierarchy of the previous image by Greg L. Bryan and Michael L. Norman. Grid distrubution represents the refinement domains of the simulation.

AMR griddistribution

Virtual Director Desktop Tutorial
Virtual Director Desktop Commands