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deform is an implementation of an efficient graph-cut based method for dense deformable image registration. If you find this useful, please cite

The method can be used either as a module through Python (recommended) or a standalone executable. Currently no pre-built binaries for the standalone executable are provided, but the Python module (excluding GPU support) can be installed through pip.


To download and install the pre-compiled Python module from pip:

pip install pydeform

Note: to enable GPU-supported registration you're required to compile the software yourself. See the section below.





Retrieve the repository and associated dependencies by running

$ git clone
$ cd deform
$ git submodule update --init --recursive


# python install

Flags accepted by

  • --use-cuda: build with CUDA support
  • --use-ispc: build with ISPC support
  • --use-itk: build with ITK support
  • --debug: build with debug symbols

Additional flags starting with -D are also recognised and forwarded to CMake. See C++ section for available build options.


Use CMake (>=3.8) to generate build options of your own choosing.

If CMake cannot find the ISPC executable on your installation, it is possible to hint the installation directory with -DISPC_DIR_HINTS, or to specify the full path to the executable with -DISPC_EXECUTABLE.

Build options

The build can be configured with the following CMake boolean options:

  • DF_BUILD_TESTS: Build unit tests (default: OFF)
  • DF_BUILD_DOCS: Build Sphinx docs (default: OFF)
  • DF_BUILD_EXECUTABLE: Build registration executable (default: ON)
  • DF_BUILD_PYTHON_WRAPPER: Build Python wrapper (default: OFF)
  • DF_USE_CUDA: Enable CUDA support (default: OFF)
  • DF_USE_ISPC: Enable ISPC support (default: OFF)
  • DF_WARNINGS_ARE_ERRORS: Warnings are treated as errors (default: OFF)
  • DF_BUILD_WITH_DEBUG_INFO: Include debug info in release builds (default: OFF)
  • DF_ENABLE_FAST_MATH: Enable fast math (default: OFF)
  • DF_ITK_BRIDGE: Add support to interoperate with ITK (default: OFF)
  • DF_STACK_TRACE: Print a stack trace on errors (default: OFF)
  • DF_ENABLE_MICROPROFILE: Enable microprofile profiler (default: OFF)
  • DF_ENABLE_NVTOOLSEXT: Enable nvtoolsext profiler (default: OFF)



Examples on how to run the registration can be found in the examples subfolder.


Everything needed for a simple registration setup is located in the pydeform package. The package provides two APIs; first uses pydeform.Volume for handling images and the second uses SimpleITK.

pydeform API

This API uses pydeform.Volume which is a direct wrapper around the internal Volume class used within deform.

import pydeform

fixed = pydeform.read_volume('fixed_file.nrrd')
moving = pydeform.read_volume('moving_file.nrrd')
affine_transform = pydeform.read_affine_transform('affine.txt')

settings = {
  'pyramid_levels': 4

df = pydeform.register(
pydeform.write_volume('result.nrrd', df)


SimpleITK is a simplified layer built on top of ITK that provides a wide array of different filters and supports a larger variety of image formats compared to the pydeform API.

The API itself is similar to the pydeform API with the exception that it takes SimpleITK.Image as input for images and SimpleITK.AffineTransform as input for affine transforms. To use this API simply use import pydeform.sitk_api as pydeform.

import SimpleITK as sitk
import pydeform.sitk_api as pydeform

fixed = sitk.ReadImage('fixed_file.nrrd')
moving = sitk.ReadImage('moving_file.nrrd')
affine_transform = sitk.ReadTransform('affine.txt')

settings = {
  'pyramid_levels': 4

df = pydeform.register(
sitk.WriteImage(df, 'result.nrrd')


The Python API provides the same parameters as the command-line interface. However, rather the specifying the parameters in a YAML-document, the parameters are set by passing a dict object to the registration.

settings = {
  'pyramid_levels': 4,

  'levels': {
    '0': {'max_iteration_count': 20}

  'image_slots': [
    {'cost_function': 'ncc'}
pydeform.register(fixed, moving, settings=settings)


To perform a registration using the standalone executable

deform registration -p <param file> -f0 <fixed_0> ... -f<i> <fixed_i> -m0 <moving_0> ... -m<i> <moving_i>

-f<i> <file> Filename of the i:th fixed image.†
-m<i> <file> Filename of the i:th moving image.†
-fm <file> Filename of the fixed mask.‡
-mm <file> Filename of the moving mask.‡
-fp <file> Filename for the fixed landmarks.
-mp <file> Filename for the moving landmarks.
-d0 <file> Filename for initial deformation field.
-a <file> Filename for initial affine transformation
-constraint_mask <file> Filename for constraint mask.
-constraint_values <file> Filename for constraint values.
-rm <file> Filename for regularization weight map
-p <file> Filename of the parameter file.
-o <file> Filename of the resulting deformation field
-j <file> Filename of the resulting jacobian map
-t <file> Filename of the transformed moving volume
--gpu Enables GPU assisted registration.

† Requires a matching number of fixed and moving images.

‡ Fuzzy masks in floating point format, whose values denote the confidence on the image intensity at each point.

Parameter file example

pyramid_levels: 6
pyramid_stop_level: 0
solver: gco
update_rule: additive
constraints_weight: 1000.0
landmarks_weight: 1.0
landmarks_decay: 2.0
landmarks_stop_level: 0
block_size: [16, 16, 16]
block_energy_epsilon: 1e-7
max_iteration_count: -1
step_size: 0.5
regularization_weight: 0.1
regularization_scale: 1.0
regularization_exponent: 2.0

    regularization_weight: 0.1
    regularization_weight: 0.2
    step_size: 0.01


  # water
  - resampler: gaussian
    normalize: true
      - function: ssd
        weight: 0.3
      - function: ncc
        weight: 0.4
        radius: 2
        window: cube
      - function: mi
        weight: 0.6
        sigma: 4.5
        bins: 256
        update_interval: 1
        interpolator: nearest
      - function: gradient_ssd
        weight: 0.7
        sigma: 1.0

  # sfcm
  - resampler: gaussian
    normalize: true
    cost_function: ssd

First two parameters, pyramid_levels and pyramid_stop_level, defines the size of the pyramid and at which level to stop the registration. Each level halves the resolution of the input volumes. Setting pyramid_stop_level to > 0 specifies that the registration should not be run on the original resolution (level 0).

solver selects which solver to use for the energy minimization. Available solvers are gco, gridcut, and icm. Note: deform needs to be compiled with DF_ENABLE_GCO and DF_ENABLE_GRIDCUT for gco and gridcut to be enabled.

update_rule specifies the update rule for updating the displacement field. This can be either additive or compositive. The first option updates the displacement field according to u(x) = u(x) + delta, while the second uses composition, i.e., u(x) = u(x+delta) + delta. Compositive updates should produce a more diffeomorphic transformation. Note: compositive updates are still considered an experimental feature.

constraints_weight sets the weight that is applied for constrained voxels. A really high value means hard constraints while a lower value may allow constraints to move a certain amount. Cost for constrained voxels are applied as constraint_weight * squared_distance, where squared_distance is the distance from the constraint target. See cost function for more info.

landmarks_weight sets the weight for the landmark cost term when performing landmark-based registration. In order to perform landmark-based registration, a set of fixed and moving landmarks must be supplied. The implementation of the landmark-based unary energy term is inspired to [2], but the cost in each term of the sum is also proportional to the distance between the current displacement and the landmark displacement. It is possible to limit the usage of the landmarks up to a certain height of the resolution pyramid by assigning to landmarks_stop_level a value greater than zero. landmarks_decay controls the exponential decay of the landmarks effect with respect to distance in image space: higher values correspond to faster decay.

block_size size of the block (in voxels) for the block-wise solver. A block size of (0,0,0) will result in a single block for the whole volume.

block_energy_epsilon, minimum percentage decrease of the block energy required to accept a solution. Higher epsilon will result in lower run time but also lower quality.

max_iteration_count, maximum number of iterations run on each registration level. Setting this to -1 (default) allows an unlimited number of iterations.

step_size, this is the step size in mm that the solver will use. Can be a single float value, in that case the same step size will be used in all directions, or a sequence [sx, sy, sz] of three float specifying the size for each direction.

regularization_weight, regularization_scale, and regularization_exponent control the importance of the regularization term. The cost function is specified as cost = D + a*((b*R)^c), where D = Σw_i*C_i is the data term given by the cost functions C_i with weights w_i, R is the regularization term, a is the regularization weight, b the regularization scale, and c the regularization exponent.

levels, specifies parameters on a per-level basis. The key indicates which level the parameters apply to, where 0 is the bottom of the resolution pyramid (last level). The level identifier can not exceed pyramid_levels. Parameters available on a per-level basis are: constraints_weight, landmarks_weight, block_size, block_energy_epsilon, max_iteration_count, step_size, and regularization_weight.

image_slots, specifies how to use the input images. resampler only supports gaussian for now, normalize specifies whether the volumes should be normalized before the registration, and cost_function allows to provide one or more cost functions to use. Its value can be the name of a single function (ssd for squared distance, ncc for normalized cross correlation, mi for mutual information, gradient_ssd for squared distance of the gradients), in which case its weight is assumed to be 1.0, otherwise one or multiple weighted components can be specified by listing each function and its weight. Each function can accept a set of parameters.

The parameters available for each function are:

  • ssd: no parameters available
  • ncc:
    • window (string): shape of the correlation window, either sphere or cube (default: spere). Note that cube is available only if the program is built with ISPC support. For a given number of samples, the sphere has a better spatial distribution of the samples, yielding a slightly superior quality. When running on the CPU, for the same number of samples (e.g., roughly, a sphere of radius 2 and a cube of radius 1) the cube can be significantly faster to compute.
    • radius (int): radius of the cross-correlation kernel (default: 2). For window=sphere, given a point where NCC is evaluated, samples are taken in all the voxels such that the Euclidean distance of each sample from the point is lesser or equal to radius. For window=cube, samples are taken on all voxels within a cube centred on the point and with side 2×radius + 1.
  • mi:
    • bins (int): number of histogram bins used in the approximation of probability densities (default: 255)
    • sigma (float): standard deviation of the Gaussian kernel used to approximate probability densities (default: 4.5)
    • update_interval (int): interval (in iterations) between updates of the entropy estimates (default: 1). If 0, updates are disabled.
    • interpolator ('linear' or 'nearest'): interpolator used in the update the entropy estimates (default: 'nearest')
  • gradient_ssd:
    • sigma (float): Gaussian smoothing applied to the images before computing the Sobel operator (default: 0.0)


GPU assisted registration is supported on newer CUDA supported hardware. First step to enable GPU registration is to compile with the DF_USE_CUDA=1 flag, this is set when generating the project with CMake. When both these prerequisites are met, you simply add the --gpu flag to the command-line.

As for now the GPU implementation is considered a pre-release and not all cost functions and features from the original registration implementation are supported. Currently the only two supported cost functions are ssd and ncc.


The file name for the log file can be specified through the environment variable DF_LOG_FILE. The minimum level for log messages to be reported can be set through the environment variable DF_LOG_LEVEL, and the possible values are Verbose, Info, Warning, Error, and Fatal.


It is possible to optionally specify fuzzy masks for the fixed and moving image space. The two masks can be set independently, and it is possible to use no mask, only one of the two (either fixed or moving) or both. The masks should be given in floating point format, and they denote the level of confidence on image intensity at each voxel. If the mask value m(x, y, z) at a certain location (x, y, z) is lesser than or equal to zero, then samples taken at that location will not contribute to the matching cost. If m(x, y, z) is greater than zero, then the sample will contribute and its cost given at that location by the image metric will by multiplied by m(x, y, z).

The fixed mask allows to denote a ROI in reference space, formed by all voxels with strictly positive mask values; for all samples outside such ROI the cost function will not be computed at all, having the side effect of making the registration process faster. If a sample belongs to a valid region, then its mapping through the displacement will be computed and, if a mask for the moving image is specified, the sample will contribute only if it falls within a valid ROI in the moving image space, otherwise it will be discarded. The regularisation term is not weighted by the masks, and it will be always computed over all the volume, regardless of the mask values.

The moving mask should be used carefully because it can affect the quality of the result, since there is no penalty for mapping from valid samples in reference space to regions outside of the moving image mask.

Regularization weight maps

It is possible to impose voxel-wise regularization weights in the registration by providing a regularization weight map. This is a map of scalar values the same size as the fixed image. In the standard case the binary term is computed a a|u(v)-u(w)|, where a is the regularization weight. Using a regularization weight map, the weight a is computed as a = 0.5*(W(v) - W(w)), where W is the weight map.


  • [1] Junhwan Kim, Vladimir Kolmogorov, Ramin Zabih: Visual correspondence using energy minimization and mutual information. Proceedings of the Ninth IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision, 1033-1040, 2003.

  • [2] Herve Lombaert, Yiyong Sun, Farida Cheriet: Landmark-based non-rigid registration via graph cuts, International Conference Image Analysis and Recognition, 166–175, 2007

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