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Seismic Artworks to Brighten your Office

In this first post I begin by talking about the visual, almost ethereal nature of my early virtual seismic reality images and why their artistic nature drew me into the field of seismic visualization. I end with three examples of modern Stratiscape VSR images that you can print online and use to brighten your office as much as they brighten mine.

The first Virtual Seismic Reality display

More than 20 years ago, I sat alone in my office and stared in fascination at this first ever virtual seismic reality image.

Two things struck me right away. The first is that I could see details in this image that I had not seen in the conventional seismic displays of the same data.

This surprised me because by then, I had worked with conventional seismic displays for more than 20 years and I had used this data as an example for more than 10 years.

I thought that I knew it by heart but everywhere I looked there were details that I had never seen before.

Admittedly, as you can plainly see, most of those details were migration artifacts and other coherent noise trains. But that was irrelevant because whether or not the newly observed signals were geologically relevant, they were still clearly present in the data. They were real and I should have known that they were there. The fact that I didn't know made me wonder what else, what other more subtle signals, I might be missing.

The second thing that struck me was that the image had a certain ethereal quality that was lacking in its conventional equivalents.

The variable density counterpart

This is its all too familiar variable density counterpart. Notice how lifeless and dispassionate it seems to be when compared to the VR image.

These two images show exactly the same data but the VR image, as primitive as it was, was a completely different animal. And the visual difference between the two images got my attention.

At the time, I knew nothing about visualization or the biophysiological aspects of vision and I had even less interest in the subjects. But curiosity, that great obsessive demon and driver of discovery, demanded that I should learn.

At the time, I was a classically trained geophysicist and was fully and interestingly engaged in subjects like migration, modeling, spectral enhancement etc. I tried to forget these images because I could not rationalize visualization as being a valid field of study for a geophysicist. But as much as I tried to forget them, curiosity always drew me back.

The images were just too fascinating and engaging to ignore. Seismic, in my extensive experience with it, had been a lot of things but it had never been beautiful. Now it was and I had to figure out why.

As an example of the type of images I was producing, look at the next two images. They are modern versions of images that I produced in the year 2000, at the very start of my visualization research.

The first is easy to look at. It is visually engaging and intellectually stimulating. Even though the display is unfamiliar, it still looks real, as if you know it from somewhere but can't put your finger on where it is.

The second line I displayed in VR. The image is reproduced using Stratiscape.

But what about this image. It is by far the more familiar to you. It uses a standard seismic color palette that you see in journals all the time. But compared to the VR image above, there is something missing in it, isn't there. It lacks any sense that what you are looking at is a real object. It is as if you are seeing the colors but can't see the seismic.

Yes, you can see the colors but where is the seismic?

I confess that I did not initially want to study visualization. It was not my field and as beautiful as the VR images were, producing artistic seismic displays hardly seemed the point of exploration. Seismic is a tool, and from a strictly functional point of view, how pretty it looks is irrelevant.

But the more I looked, the more I came to realize that there was something fundamental about the displays that went far beyond the ethereal nature of the images. Seismic in virtual reality, even at that early stage, was something new and it suggested that I did not know seismic anywhere near as well as I thought I did.

Curiosity overwhelmed me and so in the year 2000, drawn in by art but seeking science, I set out to discover what seismic is truly capable of. Today, more that 20 years later, I have seen brief glimpses of the answer but to get those glimpses, I had to ignore what drew me in, in the first place. Along the way I had to learn how to ignore and suppress the ethereal nature of the displays because as I said earlier, seismic is a tool and how pretty it looks is, from an exploration point of view, irrelevant and distracting.

But today, as I begin this blog and start my critically important task of proving to the exploration industry as a whole that seismic is far more capable than anyone has ever imagined, I think it would be a disservice not to pay homage to VSR's artistic origins.

What I have discovered is pure science. What motivated me to go looking for the science was pure art. Today, for just this one moment, I will forget functionality and science and go back to VSR's roots. Seismic may be capable of far more than you ever imagined but for today, it is just beautiful.

I have created a website where you can order framed prints of selected Stratiscape images. The first three images are all from Line 30 from the UK OGA's Mid North Sea High project. Clicking on each image will take you to the relevant page on the website.


Stratiscape Images from the UK OGA's Mid North Sea High Project


This is the first post in my new blog on exploration geoscience, life and the meaning of everything. I will close it with an appeal for you to order one of the images and display it in your office where you can see it while you work. There is a reason.

There is a problem with seismic. Our perception of what it is and what it is capable of was formed decades ago based upon displays developed in what is now technological antiquity. Those displays, despite their venerable familiarity, are holding us back. They have only ever supplied us with vague hints of what the underlying seismic really is.

It is time to move beyond them and these images will, I believe, get the journey started. It is my hope that they, and the ones to follow, with their artistic nature, will draw you in and make you as curious about seismic as their precursors did for me.

Because seismic, when you finally perceive it, is truly amazing.

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