Rendering & visualization

Visual elements

In OVITO, data objects are separated from visual elements responsible for producing a visual representation of the data objects. For example, a SimulationCell is a data object storing the simulation cell vectors and the periodic boundary flags. The corresponding visual element, a SimulationCellVis, takes this information to generate the actual geometry primitives to visualize the simulation cell in the viewports and in rendered pictures. A visual element typically has a set of parameters that control the visual appearance, for example, the line color of the simulation box.

A visual element is attached to the DataObject that it should visualize, and you access it through the vis attribute:

>>> data.cell                                # This is the data object
<SimulationCell at 0x7f9a414c8060>

>>> data.cell.vis                            # This is the attached visual element
<SimulationCellVis at 0x7fc3650a1c20>

>>> data.cell.vis.rendering_color = (1,0,0)  # Giving the simulation box a red color

All display objects are derived from the DataVis base class, which defines the enabled attribute turning the rendering of the data object on or off:

>>> data.cell.vis.enabled = False         # This hides the simulation cell

The visual display of particles is controlled by a ParticlesVis object, which is attached to the Particles data object. For example, to display cubic particles:

>>> data.particles.vis.shape = ParticlesVis.Shape.Square

Some modifiers in a data pipeline may produce new data objects, for example, as a result of a computation. The CalculateDisplacementsModifier generates a new particle Property that stores the computed displacement vectors. To support the visualization of displacement vectors as arrows, the CalculateDisplacementsModifier automatically attaches a VectorVis element to the new particle property. We can access this visual element in two ways: either directly through the vis field of the modifier:

>>> modifier = CalculateDisplacementsModifier()
>>> pipeline.modifiers.append(modifier)
>>> modifier.vis.enabled = True       # Enable the display of arrows
>>> modifier.vis.color = (0,0,1)      # Give arrows a blue color

or via the vis field of the particle Property

>>> data = pipeline.compute()
>>> data.particles.displacements.vis.enabled = True     # Enable the display of arrows
>>> data.particles.displacements.vis.color = (0,0,1)    # Give arrows a blue color


A Viewport defines a view of the three-dimensional scene, in which the visual representation of the data of a pipeline is generated. To render a picture of the scene, you typically create a new Viewport object and configure it by setting the camera position and orientation:

import math
from ovito.vis import Viewport

vp = Viewport()
vp.type = Viewport.Type.Perspective
vp.camera_pos = (-100, -150, 150)
vp.camera_dir = (2, 3, -3)
vp.fov = math.radians(60.0)

As known from the interactive OVITO program, there exist various standard viewport types such as TOP, FRONT, etc. The PERSPECTIVE and ORTHO viewport types allow you to freely orient the camera in space and are usually what you need in a Python script. Don’t forget to set the viewport type first before configuring any other camera-related parameters. That’s because changing the viewport type will reset the camera orientation to a default value.

The PERSPECTIVE viewport type selects a perspective projection, and you can control the vertical field of view by setting the fov parameter to the desired angle. The ORTHO viewport type uses a parallel projection; In this case, the fov parameter specifies the vertical size of the visible area in units of length. Optionally, you can call the Viewport.zoom_all() method to let OVITO automatically choose a reasonable camera zoom and position such that all objects become completely visible.


Rendering of images and movies is done using the Viewport.render_image() and Viewport.render_anim() methods:

vp.render_image(size=(800,600), filename="figure.png", background=(0,0,0), frame=8)
vp.render_anim(size=(800,600), filename="animation.avi", fps=20)

OVITO provides several different rendering engines, which differ in terms of speed and visual quality. The default rendering engine is the OpenGLRenderer, which implements a fast, hardware-accelerated OpenGL rendering method. See the ovito.vis module for the list of other available engines. To use them, you have to create an instance of the renderer class, configure its specific parameters, and pass the renderer to the viewport rendering function:

tachyon = TachyonRenderer(shadows=False, direct_light_intensity=1.1)
vp.render_image(filename="figure.png", background=(1,1,1), renderer=tachyon)