Plotting a Sequence of Graphs in Matplotlib 3D (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 30 May 2019

Plotting a Sequence of Graphs in Matplotlib 3D

A friend and I were talking about temperature curves: specifically, the way the temperature sinks in the evening but then frequently rises again before it really starts cooling off.

I thought it would be fun to plot the curve of temperature as a function of time over successive days, as a 3-D plot. I knew matplotlib had a way to do 3D plots, but I've never actually generated one.

Well, it turns out there are lots of examples, but they all start by generating mysterious data blobs, and none of them explain the structure of the data they're using, and the documentation has mysterious parameters like "zs" that aren't explained anywhere. So getting something that worked was a fiddly process. Creating a color version, to distinguish the graphs better, was even more fiddly.

[Plotting a series of graphs using matplotlib 3d] So I wrote an example that I hope will make it a little clearer for anyone trying to use this library. It can plot using just lines:

[Plotting a series of graphs using matplotlib 3d, color option] ... or it can plot in color, cycling colors manually because by default matplotlib makes adjacent colors similar, exactly the opposite of what you'd want:

Here's the demo: on GitHub.

... Except there's a Bug

All is not perfect. Axes3D gets a bit confused sometimes about which layer is supposed to be in front of which other layer. You can see that on the two plots: in both cases, the fourth and fifth layers from the front are reversed, so the fifth layer is drawn in front of the fourth layer. I haven't yet found anyone in the matplotlib organization who seems to know much about Axes3D; eventually I'll file a bug but I want to write a shorter, clearer test case to illustrate the problem. Still, even with the bugs it's a useful technique to know.

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[ 09:57 May 30, 2019    More programming | permalink to this entry | ]

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