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// This example demonstrates how to access the source object
// (e.g. vtkSphereSource) from the actor reversely.
// some standard vtk headers
#include <vtkSphereSource.h>
#include <vtkPolyDataMapper.h>
#include <vtkRenderWindow.h>
#include <vtkCamera.h>
#include <vtkActor.h>
#include <vtkRenderer.h>
#include <vtkSmartPointer.h>
#include <vtkMath.h>
// additionally needed vtk header for this example
#include <vtkAlgorithmOutput.h>
int main(int, char *[])
  // source
  vtkSmartPointer<vtkSphereSource> sphere =
  sphere->SetRadius( 0.5 );
  // mapper
  vtkSmartPointer<vtkPolyDataMapper> sphereMapper =
  sphereMapper->SetInputConnection( sphere->GetOutputPort() );
  // actor
  vtkSmartPointer<vtkActor> sphereActor =
  sphereActor->SetMapper( sphereMapper );
  vtkSmartPointer<vtkRenderer> ren1 =
  ren1->SetBackground( 0.1, 0.2, 0.4 );
  vtkSmartPointer<vtkRenderWindow> renWin =
  renWin->AddRenderer( ren1 );
  renWin->SetSize( 300, 300 );
  // add actor to the renderer
  ren1->AddActor( sphereActor );
  // Now we retrieve the source object from vtkActor reversely, 
  // meaning we don't use the spheresource object we instantiated
  // above directly, 
  // instead we retrieve a reference to the spheresource through the
  // actor.
  // An advantage of this concept might be that we don't need to
  // maintain the source object anymore 
  // in a more complex application.
  // To demonstrate that we can modify properties of the spheresource
  // through this reference
  // beside changing some properties of the actor (in this example we
  // change actor's x-position), 
  // we change the radius of the spheresource as well.
  // next two lines are the core lines for reverse access
  vtkSmartPointer<vtkAlgorithm> algorithm =
    sphereActor->GetMapper()->GetInputConnection(0, 0)->GetProducer();
  vtkSmartPointer<vtkSphereSource> srcReference =
  float origRadius = srcReference->GetRadius();
  for (int i = 0; i < 360; ++i)
    // change radius of the spheresource
    srcReference->SetRadius(origRadius * (1 + sin((float)i/180.0 * vtkMath::Pi())));
    // change x-position of the actor
    sphereActor->SetPosition(sin((float)i/45.0 * vtkMath::Pi())*0.5, 0, 0);
  // Thanks to the usage of vtkSmartPointer there is no explicit need
  // to free any objects at this point.
  return EXIT_SUCCESS;

Please try the new VTKExamples website.


cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 2.8)


find_package(VTK REQUIRED)

add_executable(ReverseAccess MACOSX_BUNDLE ReverseAccess.cxx)

  target_link_libraries(ReverseAccess ${VTK_LIBRARIES})
  target_link_libraries(ReverseAccess vtkHybrid vtkWidgets)

Download and Build ReverseAccess

Click here to download ReverseAccess. and its CMakeLists.txt file.

Once the tarball ReverseAccess.tar has been downloaded and extracted,

cd ReverseAccess/build 
  • If VTK is installed:
cmake ..
  • If VTK is not installed but compiled on your system, you will need to specify the path to your VTK build:
cmake -DVTK_DIR:PATH=/home/me/vtk_build ..

Build the project:


and run it:


WINDOWS USERS PLEASE NOTE: Be sure to add the VTK bin directory to your path. This will resolve the VTK dll's at run time.