Similarity2DTransform moves image out of boundaries

I’m using Similarity2DTransform on binary image masks to pre-align the images before performing a B-spline registration step. In the majority of the images it works fine but there are a few examples where the Similarity2DTransform behaves weirdly.
Or better to say: the combination of image size, image spacing, optimizier parameters, interpolation and metric sometimes results in a complete mis-registration.
And it seems that everything is very sensitive to each of those parameters. In some cases there are only a very small range of parameters really working.
All the images are to some extend pre-aligned already and do overlap.

I could also create some test images to show the behaviour.
For example choosing some parameters results in a quite good registration

ConjugateGradientLineSearchOptimizerv4Template: Convergence checker passed at iteration 77.

But, If I change the parameters, for example setting the line search upper limit to 2.0, the rotation is gone:

ConjugateGradientLineSearchOptimizerv4Template: Convergence checker passed at iteration 14.

But it get’s even weirder if I set the metric sampling percentage to 100%:

ConjugateGradientLineSearchOptimizerv4Template: Convergence checker passed at iteration 19.

Now look at the iterations:

  0 = 3737.46839: (1.0104391011536373, 0.004580075860924656, 0.44180988995370674, 2.5672543179081515)
  1 = 3512.12638: (1.0256760248048011, 0.016888045821357972, -0.4908690733221168, 7.108722357737375)
  2 = 3079.65557: (1.0377559416905329, 0.026409155737540727, 0.06085124165679545, 7.933610519310132)
  3 = 3018.64212: (1.039017565704735, 0.02867894342305815, -0.3677363629374058, 7.768692210518939)
  4 = 3003.68458: (1.046396849846413, 0.035961462377881295, -0.3710404168595591, 7.373696771833709)
  5 = 2938.55579: (1.0921867088444825, 0.07992511998431093, 0.8597073404976727, 5.188299340115806)
  6 = 2529.65909: (1.0927813193235378, 0.08194908415601442, 0.4839814105969523, 5.023471729754752)
  7 = 2500.46065: (1.0969523810001807, 0.08862769994997295, 0.29607665009101825, 4.612666685477235)
  8 = 2466.73828: (1.14201708029425, 0.15413669464077112, 0.638943702784333, 1.0778375657601904)
  9 = 2106.82967: (1.252176088484689, 0.12782680993619894, 52.724672339883604, 17.03988508920688)
 10 =    0.00000: (1.252176088484689, 0.12782680993619894, 52.724672339883604, 17.03988508920688)
 11 =    0.00000: (1.252176088484689, 0.12782680993619894, 52.724672339883604, 17.03988508920688)
 12 =    0.00000: (1.252176088484689, 0.12782680993619894, 52.724672339883604, 17.03988508920688)
 13 =    0.00000: (1.252176088484689, 0.12782680993619894, 52.724672339883604, 17.03988508920688)
 14 =    0.00000: (1.252176088484689, 0.12782680993619894, 52.724672339883604, 17.03988508920688)
 15 =    0.00000: (1.252176088484689, 0.12782680993619894, 52.724672339883604, 17.03988508920688)
 16 =    0.00000: (1.252176088484689, 0.12782680993619894, 52.724672339883604, 17.03988508920688)
 17 =    0.00000: (1.252176088484689, 0.12782680993619894, 52.724672339883604, 17.03988508920688)
 18 =    0.00000: (1.252176088484689, 0.12782680993619894, 52.724672339883604, 17.03988508920688)

In the beginning everything seemed fine. However, something went wrong in iteration 9 and the image was moved out of the boundaries.
Now, setting the Upper Limit to 2.0, it does move the image to the oppsite direction:

  0 = 3737.46839: (1.0041671528397889, 0.0018283064652219257, 0.17636473777494874, 1.024814393871803)
  1 = 3629.39366: (1.0107770784283137, 0.006177979096732334, 0.07004986540472673, 2.816138032744643)
  2 = 3449.24781: (1.0246025518661466, 0.016771881321277125, -0.23374605322512992, 6.8002443859052)
  3 = 3075.17899: (1.0403193340035892, 0.030869198918167275, -0.27440774838637527, 8.05680912735824)
  4 = 2996.23216: (1.0485623645064288, 0.038808653864649115, -0.4024790191687574, 8.324957828392186)
  5 = 2959.73323: (1.066333755973519, 0.05634197231797608, -0.5136948195200061, 8.189624235524011)
  6 = 2918.05000: (1.1118821929339107, 0.10167926888790804, 0.020252426908466736, 6.266436226946532)
  7 = 2517.51989: (1.158774695166431, 0.15403474685102814, 1.7398572654977367, 0.43751608354740057)
  8 = 1754.47276: (1.2631504313988031, 0.2736329845260086, 7.6529750802519105, -5.239059105666371)
WARNING: In /tmp/SimpleITK-build/ITK-prefix/include/ITK-4.13/itkObjectToObjectMetric.hxx, line 529
MeanSquaresImageToImageMetricv4 (0x30e7090): No valid points were found during metric evaluation. For image metrics, verify that the images overlap appropriately. For instance, you can align the image centers by translation. For point-set metrics, verify that the fixed points, once transformed into the virtual domain space, actually lie within the virtual domain.

  9 =  935.00137: (1.221492711494796, 0.43658832317571805, -50.477604042183195, -9.305902149954402)
 10 =    0.00000: (1.221492711494796, 0.43658832317571805, -50.477604042183195, -9.305902149954402)
 11 =    0.00000: (1.221492711494796, 0.43658832317571805, -50.477604042183195, -9.305902149954402)
 12 =    0.00000: (1.221492711494796, 0.43658832317571805, -50.477604042183195, -9.305902149954402)
 13 =    0.00000: (1.221492711494796, 0.43658832317571805, -50.477604042183195, -9.305902149954402)
 14 =    0.00000: (1.221492711494796, 0.43658832317571805, -50.477604042183195, -9.305902149954402)
 15 =    0.00000: (1.221492711494796, 0.43658832317571805, -50.477604042183195, -9.305902149954402)
 16 =    0.00000: (1.221492711494796, 0.43658832317571805, -50.477604042183195, -9.305902149954402)
 17 =    0.00000: (1.221492711494796, 0.43658832317571805, -50.477604042183195, -9.305902149954402)
 18 =    0.00000: (1.221492711494796, 0.43658832317571805, -50.477604042183195, -9.305902149954402)

For some reason, I do even get a warning now, that the image is moved out of the image domain.

A few other things I already found out:

  • The registration seems to be sensitive to too much empty space in the images. The problem is, I need to register several images and do adjust the image size to the largest in the set. All my images contain a lot of background pixels.
  • For some obscure reason, I could make it work in some cases by removing or adding one pixel in the y direction - thus it looks like there is some influence of certain image sizes only
  • In some cases, a non-uniform pixel spacing makes the difference. For example when setting the spacing to (0.25, 0.5) it worked, while (1.0, 1.0) did not.
  • choosing between Correlation or MeanSquares metric has an influence
  • using different interpolators has an influence, however as I’m using usually binary masks, I use NearestNeighbor a lot.
  • Removing ScalesFromPhysicalShift and/or replacing with IndexShift has a huge negative effect

It would be interesting to debug this particular case and see why the optimizer behaves so weirdly. But I could not find a way to print out the optimizer’s internal state, i.e. which limits are reached etc.
Is there anything I can do? What would be a solution to register such binary images in a stable manner?

Attached is my code and the two test images.
moving_test (2.3 KB)

Hello @reox,

The sensitivity to the registration parameters is due to your input, sparse binary images. This leads to a non-smooth similarity metric in the parameter space. In the extreme your binary image becomes a sparse set of points, which will be all but impossible to register using an intensity based registration approach.

Luckily, creating a smooth and stable similarity metric landscape is simple (pun intended). Instead of registering your binary images directly, you should convert them into distance maps, SignedMaurerDistanceMapImageFilter, and register those. Then apply the resulting transformation to the original images.


@zivy actually I had the feeling that the sparseness of the image had some influence, however I was not able to express this in words to search for :smiley: Thanks for pointing me to the distance maps, I’ll test those!

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@reox to improve robustness, initialization with the CenteredTransformInitializer may help.


yes, I had this already in mind. I tried to center the images already in a previous step, however there were some samples were this did not worked correctly.
I’m currently also investigating if the CenteredTransformInitializer might work better.

I still have the problem in certain cases, that parts of the mask are moved outside the image boundary.
I found out, that in all cases so far it helps to use Correlation as a metric instead of MeanSquares.
However, Correlation seems to constrict itself to scaling a little bit - I mean the moving shape will usually stay inside the fixed shape, even if it could scaled more. MeanSquares seems to be a little bit more “aggressive” when it comes to scaling.

Right now I’m using the distance maps, centered transform initialzier with MOMENTS as well as 4 shrink levels for the similarity transform.
Is there any particular reason why correlation works better when it comes to moving the image out of bounds but behaves more “conservative”?

Maybe use of correlation somehow results in optimizer taking smaller steps than with mean squares?

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I also tried to adopt the linesearchupperlimit in both cases - for meansquares this usually has a huge effect. Correlation seems to be less affected by the limit.
I set learningrate estimation to every step.

What I found out the other day was, that given a very simple example where I move around a square on another fixed square with the same size, the meansquares metric has a much steeper gradient than correlation.
That would explain the behavior, maybe…

But there is no obvious reason why meansquares or correlation should perform better on a distance map?

I still have troubles with that and found out that if the images are not aligned at all, i.e. in both my masks, the image parts are always in the background of the other image, the Similarity transform will not work.
I have the CenteredTransformInitializer in there using MOMENTS, but it looks like it does not work unless the images are at least a little bit overlapping?
Is my observation correct or do I miss a crucial step?

Images do not need to even close to each other for CenteredTransformInitializer to work. Are you maybe forgetting to call InitializeTransform()?

I use it like so:

    R = sitk.ImageRegistrationMethod()
    init_tran = sitk.CenteredTransformInitializer(f_mask,

f_mask and m_mask are binary images with 0/1 voxels.
I guess that I do not have to call it in SimpleITK?
I can also see that the Rotation Center etc is set in the Similarity3DTransform().
Afterwards I use the Distance Transformed images of the binary masks in the Similarity registration.

I re-aligned now all images before passing them to the registration and it works now flawlessly.
I really don’t understand whats going on there… Obviously, the metric got somehow minimized during that. I guess that the Optimizer is doing the right thing, however the images are not well behaving?

I think this is the key reason that the registration was not working for you. Thank you letting us know the solution to your problem.

I think this is the key reason that the registration was not working for you.

How do you mean? I meant that, despite I see that the center of rotation is set (i.e. the CenteredTransformInitializer has worked), the image is moved outside the fixed image -> the translation in Similarity3DTransform is larger than the image boundaries.
I could only fix that by pre-aligning the images before even using CenteredTransformInitializer.