# Example: Animated illustration of the convolution of two functions.

Published 2010-03-31 | Author: Berteun Damman

A convolution is an operation on two functions that produces a third function, the result can be thought of as a blending, or weighted average of both functions. The result has various interpretations; this particular example can be seen as the convolution of two block waves, or for example, the convolution of two independent uniform probability density functions; the convolution represents the pdf of the sum.

Frame by frame the value of the convolution is computed; note that f*g is a function of t for every t we draw f(τ), g(t - τ), and the product f(τ)g(t - τ), this drawn in yellow. The area of this product, which can be thought of as ‘overlap’, is the outcome of the integral. The value of t is indicated by the dashed green line. Note however that in the top graph g is drawn as a function of τ for a certain value of t.

Do you have a question regarding this example, TikZ or LaTeX in general? Just ask in the LaTeX Forum.
Oder frag auf Deutsch auf TeXwelt.de. En français: TeXnique.fr.

% Animated illustration of the convolution of two functions.
% Author: Berteun Damman
%
% A convolution is an operation on two functions that produces a third
% function, the result can be thought of as a blending, or weighted
% average of both functions. The result has various interpretations; this
% particular example can be seen as the convolution of two block waves,
% or for example, the convolution of two independent uniform probability
% density functions; the convolution represents the pdf of their sum.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{tikz,animate}
\tikzset{overlap/.style={fill=yellow!30},
block wave/.style={thick},
function f/.style={block wave, red!50},
function g/.style={block wave, green!50},
convolution/.style={block wave, blue!50},
function g position/.style={function g, dashed, semithick},
major tick/.style={semithick},
axis label/.style={anchor=west},
x tick label/.style={anchor=north, minimum width=7mm},
y tick label/.style={anchor=east},
}
\pgfkeys{/pgf/number format/.cd,fixed,precision=1}

\pgfdeclarelayer{background}
\pgfdeclarelayer{foreground}
\pgfsetlayers{background,main,foreground}

\begin{document}
\newcommand{\mainaxis}{
% Main axis
\draw (-2, 0) -- (2, 0) (0, 0) -- (0, 1.15);

% Small tickmarks on the x axis
\foreach \x in {-2,-1.9,...,2} {
\draw (\x, 0) -- (\x, -0.8pt);
}

% Labels on the $x$ axis; the llap makes the label center on the
% number without the minus.
\foreach \x/\label in {-2/\llap{$-$}2,-1/\llap{$-$}1,0/0,1/1,2/2} {
\node[x tick label] at (\x, 0) {$\label$};
\draw[major tick] (\x, 0) -- (\x, -1.25pt);
}

% Y tick mark.
\draw[major tick] (-1.25pt,.5) -- (0,.5);

% Y labels.
\node[y tick label] at (0,.5) {$\frac{1}{2}$};
\node[y tick label] at (0,1) {$1$};
}

\def\yshift{-2cm} % Shift of the lower axis
\newcommand{\drawaxes}{
\mainaxis
\node[axis label] at (2,0) {$\tau$};

% Second axis, where the convultion will be drawn.
\begin{scope}[yshift=\yshift]
\foreach \y in {0.1,0.2,...,1.0}
\draw[black!20] (-2,\y) -- (2,\y);
\mainaxis
\node[axis label] at (2,0) {$t$};
\end{scope}

\begin{pgfonlayer}{foreground}
\node at (0,1.25) {$f$};
\node[anchor=base] at (0,-.55)
{$f*g =\!\!\displaystyle\int\limits_{-\infty}^{\infty} \!\!f(\tau)g(t-\tau)\,d\tau$};
\end{pgfonlayer}

\draw[major tick] (-1.25pt,.5) -- (0,.5) (-1.25pt,1) -- (0,1);

% f(\tau) is basically fixed.
\draw[function f] (-0.5, 0) -- +(0,1) -- +(1,1) -- +(1,0);
\clip (-2,-2) rectangle (2, 1.75);
}

\newcommand{\drawg}{
\draw[function g] (#1,0) ++(-0.5, 0) -- +(0,1) -- +(1,1) -- +(1,0);
\draw[function g position] (#1,1.4) -- (#1,\yshift);
\node[fill=white] at (#1, 1.25) {$g$};

% We now slightly abuse \ifdim to determine whether
% there's an overlap.
\ifdim#1pt>-1pt\ifdim#1pt<1.01pt
% Draw legend.
\fill[overlap] (-2,1.51) rectangle +(0.15,0.15);
% The right side of f overlaps with the left side of g:
% 'entering'
\ifdim#1pt<0pt
\node[anchor=west] at (-1.85, 1.575)
{$f(\tau)g(\pgfmathprintnumber{#1} - \tau$)};
\begin{pgfonlayer}{background}
\fill[overlap] (-.5,0) rectangle (#1+.5,1);
\end{pgfonlayer}
\draw[convolution] (-1,\yshift) -- (#1, \yshift+1cm+#1 cm);
\else
% The left side of f overlaps with the right side of g:
% 'leaving'
\node[anchor=west] at (-1.85, 1.575)
{$f(\tau)g(\pgfmathprintnumber{#1} - \tau$)};
\begin{pgfonlayer}{background}
\fill[overlap] (#1-.5,0) rectangle (.5,1);
\end{pgfonlayer}
\draw[convolution] (-1,\yshift) -- +(1, 1) --
(#1,\yshift+1cm-#1 cm);
\fi
\else
% 'g' is completely past 'f', draw the result.
\draw[convolution] (-1,\yshift) -- +(1,1) -- +(2,0);
\fi\fi
}

\begin{animateinline}[controls,
autoplay,buttonsize=1.2em,
buttonbg=0.6:0.6:1,buttonfg=0.2:0.2:1,
begin={\begin{tikzpicture}[scale=2]\drawaxes},
end={\end{tikzpicture}}]{8}

% Generate frames for -2 ... 2
\xdef\pos{-2}
\whiledo{\lengthtest{\pos pt < 2.1 pt}}{
\drawg{\pos}\newframe
\pgfmathsetmacro{\pos}{\pos + 0.1}
\xdef\pos{\pos}
}

\drawg{\pos}
\end{animateinline}
\end{document}


• #1 Cédric André, April 7, 2010 at 11:13 a.m.

Absolutely amazing ! Thank you !

• #2 Miguel Bazdresch, April 22, 2010 at 4:10 p.m.

I have tried opening the pdf in evince and xpdf, and I see the controls at the bottom, but I can't see the animation -- the buttons are not responsive. What do I need to do to see it?

• #3 Kjell Magne Fauske, April 22, 2010 at 5:30 p.m.

@Miguel: AFAIK you have to use Acrobat to view the animation.

• #4 Miguel Bazdresch, April 22, 2010 at 6:51 p.m.

Thanks for the information Kjell. I haven't been able to get acroread to run on my 64-bit linux, but I'll get there eventually.

• #5 Won, May 3, 2010 at 2:30 a.m.

Amazing! Any way to view the animation WITHOUT Adobe?

• #6 Thommy M. Malmström, July 15, 2010 at 3:43 p.m.

Works fine with AcroRead on 64-bit OpenSolaris 2009.06_134, but I get some errors building the pdf from TeX.

! Package pgfkeys Error: I do not know the key '/pgf/number format/fixed' and I am going to ignore it. Perhaps you misspelled it.

See the pgfkeys package documentation for explanation. Type H for immediate help. ...

l.58 ...{/pgf/number format/.cd,fixed,precision=1}

Any hints?

• #7 B.J. Muth, April 22, 2013 at 1:02 p.m.

As of today, the animation is still problematic with Acrobat on Windows, within or outside Mozilla, though it works fine with PDF-XChange Viewer. There's no better way to illustrate convolution, congratulations. 