Tips for scaling annotation rendering

Image analysis algorithms and humans can generate large numbers of annotations. HistomicsUI is implemented for scalable rendering of annotations, and if you follow some basic principles you can avoid performance problems in rendering large numbers of elements and vertices.

The maximum number of annotation documents that HistomicsUI can display is 5,000

HistomicsUK imposes this limit to avoid crashing the browser. If a slide contains more than 5,000 documents then HistomicsUI will sample 5,000 of these to display.

The maximum number of elements that HistomicsUI can display is 2,000,000.

This limit applies to the combined elements in all documents in the slide. If more than 2,000,000 elements are present then the smallest elements are displayed as circles (as determined by bounding box diagonal).

Which element types are more efficient to render?

The key types of elements include: point, rectangle, polygon, and line. The most efficient elements to render are, in order of increasing render efficiency:

Filled polygon Unfilled polygon (no opacity) Rectangle Line Point

Obviously, the more vertices of the polygon the less is the rendering efficiency.

What end-user operations can lead to performance issues?

  • Rendering thousands of filled polygons or complex polygons with many vertices.

  • Using the transparency slider. Each step of the slider causes the polygons to be re-rendered which can be slow when thousands of filled polygons are present.

  • Right click editing of an element when thousands of elements are being rendered. For example, say the slide is associated with 500 annotation documents, each of which contains 2,000 annotation elements. If the user clicks the ‘eye’ icon to render all 500 x 2000 = 100,000 elements, then right clicking on any single element to edit will be very slow. If the user just chooses to render a couple of documents (i.e. only 1,000 elements) at a time, then there is no performance issue.

How can I improve rendering performance with large numbers of elements?

  • Distribute your elements over several annotation documents

    This helps improve server communication in several way

    • Reducing likelihood of request timeouts when pushing annotation data using POST or editing data using PUT.

    • Minimizing communication volume when editing annotations via HistomicsUI. Users can right click edit an individual element which triggers a PUT endpoint to send the updated document back to the DSA instance. In the future we will improve how edits are communicated but for now keep this in mind.

    • Allows the user to selectively display groups of elements and maintain rendering performance when the slide contains very large numbers of elements.

  • Consider which elements should be grouped into the same documents

    Organizing elements by region can help users control rendering more easily. For example, given multiple pieces of tissue in a slide, you could assign a document to each tissue piece, allowing users to control the rendering on each piece independently. Alternatively, you may assign elements of conceptual styles (e.g. tumor) to the same document for simplicity. If you elect to do this, you may need multiple documents per group to maintain performance.

  • Minimize the use of polygon fills

    Any polygon fills are rendered on the GPU and is re-rendered with the interactive mode, transparency slider, right click, multi-select, lasso select, etc.

  • Minimize vertices per polygon

    If your polygons represent algorithmic outputs then consider how you can minimize the number of vertices. If they were originally generated from a mask image at high magnification 20x or above, consider resizing the source mask to a smaller magnification before extracting . Post processing of polygonal coordinates can also be done to remove redundant collinear vertices or to simplify vertices.

  • Make your end-users aware of efficiency bottlenecks

    If your end user needs to edit elements in a slide with hundreds of thousands of elements, make sure to let them know which things to do and not to do. The user should not be viewing all annotations simultaneously unless the number is sufficiently small or there’s a specific reason to do so. They should be made aware that right clicking and editing annotations and using the transparency slider are performance bottlenecks when there are thousands of rendered annotations.