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CollisionWatch is a visualization of traffic fatalities over one year across the United States.  The data is, to say the least, sad, but putting these statistics into the context of when and where can lead to a better understanding of geographic, timely, and causal patterns.  An increased understanding, and perhaps the revelation of predictable patterns and trouble spots can lead the way to better questions.

The data comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, used with permission, and denotes instances of automobile collisions in the year 2007 (US) where one of more fatality occurred, and what conditions were involved.

Because this data was rich with attributes, we were able to set up a filter set that could return some very specific results.  For example, I can set the time of day and day of week to isolate workday commute times, or weekend nights, to see the picture change.  Seasonal trends can be identified as well; cities encased in ice during the winter months have different patterns than you might expect –and each city is different.

The use of the “tri-state” filter enables the user to ask some very specific questions about factors that contributed to the incidents.  For example: show me incidents where speeding was a factor but alcohol was not.

The basemap tiles are provided via the Bing Map Service and assembled within IDV’s VFX front end.  The “Cartographic” map style is an interesting inverted treatment of the regular old road style, and invention of the clever folks at SoulSolutions, which we became aware of after we thought we had invented it.  This darker, more muted basemap provides a much better foundation over which to drape data, showcasing the data as much more vibrant and identifiable.

This visualization uses Visual Fusion’s map viewer, timeline, and filter control.  Incidents are shown as interactive objects on the map and in the timeline.  Clicking any incident pulls up a basic report on the incident including contributing factors.  The incidents are also represented as a hot-spot analysis map overlay.  The hot-spot analysis, or heatmap, gives an immediate visual impression of clustered incidents and trouble spots where heavily stacked points may not.  The combination of these visualization methods provides the benefits of insightful visualization and deep-dive reporting interaction.


Heatmap of incidents over the Eastern United States.


Incidents near downtown Chicago.


Incidents in the Bay Area.

Illustrates the visual interaction link between events in the map and the timeline.


Incidents within the Los Angeles basin occurring in the midday hours and where speeding was a factor.


Incidents within the Los Angeles basin occurring on weekends in the nighttime hours and where alcohol was a factor.


Zooming to the street level can uncover physical risk areas correlated to an incident or cluster of incidents.


Incidents within the Los Angeles basin occurring on weekdays in the morning and evening commuting hours.




John Nelson / IDV Solutions / john.nelson@idvsolutions.com


Hurricane Watch in VFX4.5






Ok, it’s out.  Go check out 50 years of Atlantic hurricanes in the VFX
map/time viewer. The data comes from NOAA.  Each hurricane is
shown as a time span in the timeline which corresponds to it’s
geographic track on the map.  Along they way the individual alerts
indicate relative ferocity.  The timeline doubles as a charting element
to give an indication of frequency; it’s a histo-time-o-gram.
Anyways, check it out; live richly.

And, since I’ve already posted it before, here is the tiniest ever video
of HurricaneWatch in action (extreme squinting required)!




John Nelson / IDV Solutions / john.nelson@idvsolutions.com

How To: Fake-a-roo Spinning Globe

So from time to time you may want to have some kind of globe-like thing spinning on a web page –and you don’t want to go full-on 3D (expense, plug-in, weight, budget, whatever); just something to get the job done.  One way is the circle mask.  This is an old trick and can have a tendency to look pretty cheesy unless you are careful with your tomfoolery.  

Source Map
Go out and get yourself a map of the world.  Nerd alert: your life will be easier if it’s a cylindrical map projection.  Since this is a repeating animation, you’ll need to have some overlap (add at least one-half-again the original image) so there is no skipping.  The oceans should be transparent.  I’ve also made the equator the most opaque, and increased transparency approaching the poles –this will help make the flat images bulge more when it’s time to Columbus-ize them.

Map of the world for the foreground animation.  Note that an additional half of a world has been added to the width so it can loop without jumping.

And a reversed world to use in the background animation.  Note that it is fainter so it will visually recede.

This globe is made for Silverlight, so I am using Microsoft Expression Blend to create the storyboard animation.  Using the images described above, I translate the X position of the foreground map from right to left and the background map from left to right.  The use of a reversed Earth animating in the opposite direction as the foreground Earth animation goes a long way toward the illusion of a rotating sphere with depth.  Loop this animation so it rotates forever, or for however long you need it to rotate.

Then mask (clip) the image group so that only a circle is visible at any time.  The result is a really flat looking globe animation.  Not there yet.

Animating the two maps in opposite directions within a circular mask.


Adding Depth
Let’s get this squirrely animation looking less like a disk and more like a sphere.  It’s going to take gratuitous static decoration: tons of layers of radial gradients give the illusion of depth and material.  Here they are…



Circular base with a general background color and a fuzz around the edge
(the fuzz is optional, as you’ll add more later).


Add a layer with a radial gradient who’s darker center tends near the bottom


A squished ellipse at the bottom will give the illusion of a reflection on the back
wall of what is starting to look suspiciously like a sphere.

Pile onto that another semi-transparent layer who’s darker center of radial gradient
tends near the top.  When you add the foreground reflection (in the last step) this
layer will really pop.

Now you’ve got the background gradients in place and are ready to englobalize…

Now throw in your circularly-clipped earth animation.  This animation is the sole visual
cue for rotation, and within the context of the unmoving depth decoration, goes a long
way in making this totally 2D thing look like it is spinning in space. 

But, see how the side of Africa is immediately peeling over to the foreground? Illusion busted.
If you watch the animation at this point it will still just look kind of like a deflated beach ball
flat-rolling along a track.


Maybe a happy little atmoshere lives around the edges of this globe -a 600 year old optical
illusion: atmospheric perspective!

See how there is an inner haze around the perimeter
that obscures some of the geography around the edges?  This is a double win: not only
would Leonardo De Vinci be proud of you, but you are also covering the biggest
weakness of the animation: the clip edge where the flat masked content immediately
peels from background to foreground.

The foreground reflection (semi-transparent white radial gradated ellipse near the top) is the last
element to connote a glassy sphere.  Now you’ve got the next best thing to an actual 3D globe.



Here’s a short recap video to get a sense for how it looks…



John Nelson / IDV Solutions / john.nelson@idvsolutions.com

VFX Demo in a Minute: Heatmaps

One of the sassy new features of Visual Fusion (VFX 4.5) is native heatmapping.  Understand your data in a more visual and communicative way with the hot-spot visualizations that our frequency heatmapping provides.  I’ve been proclaiming my love for heatmaps for a while now, so here is some extremely high production-value video proof…

VFX Demo in a Minute: Heatmaps

The data comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Thanks for watching and feel free to give us some feedback.


John Nelson / IDV Solutions / john.nelson@idvsolutions.com

Piracy Watch in VFX4.5



We at IDV Solutions have just released the first of a series of demos of Visual Fusion Experience (VFX 4.5 to drop November 10); this one focuses on piracy data.  Every week, the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (formerly NIMA and more formerly Defense Mapping) releases reports of "anti shipping activity" in an effort to increase awareness and prevent future events of hostile activity.  Oh, and if you have the time, read some of the incident descriptions…wow.

We put this data into VFX 4.5 where, along with good ol’ dots-on-a-map, piracy events are given the treatment in a historical (30 year) frequency heatmap and the new interactive timeline.

The map and the timeline work together to set the rules of what data will appear.  Zoom in to a smaller geographic location to reduce the points in the timeline.  Likewise, zooming in on a smaller time range will reduce the points you see on the map.  More on this AND relationship and others (like OR) here.

Ok, have at it.  My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who thinks you’ll find it pretty fun.  Tell us what you think!



John Nelson / IDV Solutions / john.nelson@idvsolutions.com

VFX Demo In A Minute: Atlantic Hurricanes

Here is a sneak peak at a Visual Fusion demo coming up around the corner (it’s since been released: http://vfdemo.idvsolutions.com/hurricanes/).  It takes Atlantic Hurricane data from data.gov and splats them in place and time, where it makes sense to see them.  We’ve all seen maps of hurricanes before, but when the map dipped into a piping hot timeline then there is no telling what can happen. 

We got the data from data.gov, which, is pretty sweet.   You won’t see Hurricane Ida in there, but they had hurricane tracks in there dating back to the mid 1800’s (Really?  Really?); we trimmed it to 1950-on.  Anyways, get ready to live.
Now it’s live, check it out at http://vfdemo.idvsolutions.com/hurricanes/.

VFX Demo In A Minute: Timeline

Zip around in place and time in this edge of your seat demonstration of IDV Solutions’ new Timeline in Visual Fusion (VFX 4.5). Get ready to live…to truly live.

VFX Demo In A Minute: Timeline


John Nelson / IDV Solutions / john.nelson@idvsolutions.com