Image Transitions with D3 and Primitive
15 Apr 2017

D3.js does magic with svgs, and Primitive transforms images into svgs. Put them together and you can turn Kevin Bacon into Francis Bacon (click the page):

To help others produce image transitions like this, I put together a quick proof of concept repository. The general approach is to transform each image from a raster object to an SVG object using Primitive. Here’s a simple Python function that accomplishes this goal:

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import json, sys, os, glob, subprocess, shlex

def img_to_svg(img):
  '''Read in the path to an image and use tfogelman/primitive
  to transform that image into an svg'''
  basename = os.path.basename(img)
  new_name = os.path.splitext(basename)[0] + '.svg'
  out_file = os.path.join(output_directory, new_name)
  call =  'primitive -i ' + img 
  call += ' -o ' + out_file
  call += ' -r ' + str(size)
  call += ' -s ' + str(size)
  call += ' -n 300' 
  call += ' -m 4'

  print(' * running', call)
  return out_file

From there, one can transform the svg file to JSON for consumption within D3. Using BeautifulSoup installed via pip install beautifulsoup4 makes it relatively to parse out each attribute from the elements in the SVG and transform them into a JSON object:

def svg_to_json(svg):
  '''Read in the path to an svg and write json for that svg to disk'''
  filename = os.path.basename(svg)
  data = {
    'svg': {},
    'group': {},
    'rect': {},
    'points': [],
    'name': filename

  with open(svg) as f:
    f =
    soup = BeautifulSoup(f, 'lxml')

    svg_elem = soup.find('svg')
    data['svg'] = {
      'width': svg_elem['width'],
      'height': svg_elem['height']

    group = soup.find('g')
    data['group'] = {
      'transform': group['transform']

    rect = soup.find('rect')
    data['rect'] = {
      'x': rect['x'],
      'y': rect['y'],
      'width': rect['width'],
      'height': rect['height'],
      'fill': rect['fill']

    point_attributes = ['fill', 'fill-opacity', 'cx', 'cy', 'rx', 'ry']
    points = soup.find_all('ellipse')
    for i in points:
      observation = {}
      for a in point_attributes:
        observation[a] = i[a]

  output_filename = filename.replace('.svg', '.json')
  outfile = os.path.join(output_directory, output_filename)
  with open(outfile, 'w') as out:
    json.dump(data, out)

Once that JSON is ready, one can load that data into D3 and use the general update pattern to transition between images. Here is the JS code used to generate the transition seen above. If you load that into a browser, fire up a web server, open your page and trigger a few click events, you should see a fun image transition.

For the complete code used in this post, feel free to visit the full repository and raise any questions or issues you might have. Happy coding!