A Journey Inside the Human Body
A New Software Creates Both Scientific and Artistic Images of the Body

Feb 29, 2016

A new type of visualization technology from Siemens Healthcare uses data from imaging systems to create photorealistic pictures and videos. It shows the inside of the body with such unprecedented clarity that patients can also understand the images.

Realistic-Looking Images

The new research visualization technology “cinematic rendering” provides a thrilling look inside the body thanks to three-dimensional data from X-ray, CT, and MRI. A physical rendering algorithm simulates the complex interaction of photons with the scanned anatomical image of a patient.


For Siemens Healthcare’s researchers, it all began with the idea of using the effects for producing realistic-looking computer animations that have become a standard procedure in the film industry. The realistic appearance of visual elements in blockbuster films can be attributed to the image-based technique of shading.


The Prerequisites

As an example: A spherical panorama is captured using a reflective sphere. It records the actual light environment of the sphere that is later applied to all the synthetic elements that are added. This technique is also the prerequisite for the images created by the cinematic rendering technology from Siemens. In short, cinematic rendering facilitates a photorealistic image with seemingly real-life ambient and light effects that suggest to the human eye that the image viewed is “real”.

Innovation Brings Benefits
Researchers at Siemens Healthcare see the technology’s main benefit in improving both the planning for surgery and also the communication between physicians and patients. The use of cinematic rendering is still not permitted as a technique for visualizing clinical findings. At present, however, a trial phase is in full swing involving customers and scientists across the globe. Access to the innovative cinematic rendering technology is available for research purposes via the Siemens imaging software platform syngo.via Frontier1. Here, researchers from Siemens and physicians around the world collaborate closely and share data so that actual user feedback and further requirements shape the technology’s further development. 


Professor Franz Fellner, Director of Radiology at Linz General Hospital, Austria, and President of the Upper Austria Medical Association was one of the first test users of the new software and reports on his experiences in this short interview.


Professor Fellner, how did you come to deploy cinematic rendering?
Fellner: Fortunately, the research team at Siemens Healthcare made cinematic rendering compatible with stereoscopics in a very short time. This allowed us to implement the software very quickly at the Deep Space showroom of the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria. This is where we show CT and MRI datasets produced using cinematic rendering on a 16 x 9 projection surface as part of our talks given to the general public or to healthcare professionals.

What experience have you had with cinematic rendering?
Fellner: I’ve had amazing experiences using this technique. Both healthcare specialists and the general public are excited by the events where we present cinematic rendering. The switch has happened very quickly between 2D presentations, where facts are provided in a concise manner, and the 3D view of corresponding CT and MRI datasets. Every one of these events is a sell-out. The feedback from audiences is brilliant.

What do you expect for the future?
Fellner: It will be interesting to see whether cinematic rendering has the potential to become a routine procedure in everyday clinical practice. Surgeons naturally prefer to have a 3D view of CT and MRI scans. This is particularly true for surgeons specializing in musculoskeletal disorders, who can get a better idea of the topography of more complex fractures from 3D images. It will also be very useful for planning vascular, neuro- and craniofacial surgery procedures and interventions. Other surgical disciplines would also be very happy to have the opportunity to look at CT and MRI scans in 3D before the procedure. In this respect, I think that cinematic rendering could possibly herald a new era. To achieve this, we still need a high rendering speed – preferably in real time – as well as suitable monitors to support stereoscopics. There will probably be further possibilities still that will emerge in the near future.

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1Research use only. Not intended for clinical use.

2CT images provided by Welwitschia Hospital, Walis Bay, Namibia

3CT images provided by Panshi City Hospital, Jilin, P.R. China

4CT images provided by Saveetha Medical College Hospital, Chennai, India