User-defined functions (UDFs)

A common case for analyzing big EM data sets is running a reduction operation on each individual detector frame or other small subsets of a data set and then combining the results of these reductions to form the complete result. This should cover a wide range of use cases, from simple mathematical operations, for example statistics, to complex image processing and analysis, like feature extraction.

The user-defined functions (UDF) interface of LiberTEM allows you to define and run your own reduction functions easily, without having to worry about parallelizing, I/O, or the details of buffer management. This corresponds to a simplified MapReduce programming model, where the intermediate re-keying and shuffling step is omitted.

LiberTEM ships with some utility UDFs that implement general functionality:

Also, LiberTEM includes ready-to-use application-specific UDFs.

It can be helpful to review some general concepts before reading the following sections.

Getting started

The easiest way of running a function over your data is using the map() method of the LiberTEM API. For example, to calculate the sum over the last signal axis:

import functools
import numpy as np

result =
   f=functools.partial(np.sum, axis=-1)
# access the result as NumPy array:
# or, alternatively:

The function specified via the f parameter is called for each frame / diffraction pattern. See Auto UDF for more details. This is most suited for simple functions; once you have parameters or want to re-use some data across function calls, you should create a UDF subclass instead.

functools.partial() is a higher-order function that allows to create a new function by wrapping an existing function and passing additional parameters to it. In this case, the resulting call to numpy.sum() within is numpy.sum(frame, axis=-1). See for more details.

How UDFs works


To allow for parallel processing, data is first divided into partitions along the navigation axes, which are worked on by different worker processes. Then, for each frame of a partition, a user-defined function process_frame() is called, which is free to do any imaginable processing.

As a result of splitting the data set into partitions, the results then need to be merged back together. This is accomplished by calling the merge() method after all frames of a partition are processed.

In pseudocode, data is processed in the following way:

result = empty
for partition in get_partitions(dataset):
   partition_result = empty
   for frame, frame_slice in get_frames(partition):
      frame_result = process_frame(frame)
      partition_result[frame_slice] = frame_result
   merge(dest=result, src=partition_result)

In reality, the loop over partitions is run in parallel using multiple worker processes, potentially on multiple computers. The loop over individual frames is run in the worker processes, and the merge function is run in the main process, accumulating the results, every time the results for a partition are available.

In addition to process_frame(), there are two more methods available for overriding, to work on larger/different units of data at the same time: process_tile() and process_partition(). They can be used for optimizing some operations, and are documented in the advanced topics section.