A DSP Quiz Question

Rick LyonsDecember 5, 202110 comments

Here's a DSP Quiz Question that I hope you find mildly interesting


Due to the periodic natures an N-point discrete Fourier transform (DFT) sequence and that sequence’s inverse DFT, it is occasionally reasonable to graphically plot either of those sequences as a 3-dimensional (3D) circular plot. For example, Figure 1(a) shows a length-32 x(n) sequence with its 3D circular plot given in Figure 1(b).

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I was reading a paper by an audio DSP engineer where the author presented the 3D plot of a well-known time-domain window sequence as shown in Figure 2.

The Quiz Question is: What’s the name of that well-known Figure 2 window sequence?



Scroll down to see the question’s answer.








When I first saw what appeared to be a linearly increasing nature of the circular Figure 2 sequence I hastily assumed it was a 3D plot of a triangular window sequence. I was wrong! The Figure 2 sequence is a 32-point hanning (hann) window sequence defined by:

   $$w(n) = 0.5 -0.5*cos(2*\pi*n/N)$$

as shown in Figure 3.

That figure illustrates the misleading visual distortion that takes place when converting 2D planar plots to 3D circular plots. I further illustrate that visual distortion in Figure 4 where we notice the very linear nature of a 64-sample triangular window sequence in the Figure 4(a) plot and the curvaceous nature of the window’s 3D circular plot in Figure 4(b).

By the way, the samples in the Figure 3(a) hanning window plot lie in a plane, as indicated by the red lines along the ‘y’ axis in Figure 5.


At your dinner table tonight you can impress your family by stating, “The slope along the y-axis of the plane of a hanning window’s 3D circular plot is equal to the negative of the second coefficient of the window’s equation.” (The same is true of a hamming window’s 3D circular plot.)

The paper that caused me to think about all of this is:
Duncan, Andrew, “The Analytic Impulse”, J. Audio Eng. Soc., Vol. 36, No. 5, May 1988. Available online:
(An incorrect hanning window equation was used in this paper’s Figure 16.)

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Comment by engineer68December 5, 2021

I think it is quite clear that it has to be a closed cosine function, since this is exactly that we have to program into CNC-machines to get the classic oblique section of pipes cut out to get them put together in 90 degrees. (Sometimes the practical training in metal construction that we "old" electrical engineers had to do does help a bit :-)

BTW: Why is the window function still called "hanning"? After all, his name was Mr. "von Hann". (also a possible QUIZ-question.

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Comment by Rick LyonsDecember 6, 2021
Hi engineer68. Thanks for your interesting Comment. I figured there would be a reader here who, unlike me, would immediately know that a planar cut of a cylinder translates to a 2-dimensional single cosine cycle. Your pipe cutting description is a great example!

Regarding the window name "hanning", I don't have a good answer for you. Hanning was the window name I learned decades ago when I first started to study DSP. For many years the MATLAB software had a 'hanning()" command, but sometime after 1997 they changed that command to 'hann()'. Perhaps the DSP pioneers Charles (Charlie) Rader and fred harris, who frequent this web site, could shed some light on the origin of the misnomer "hanning".

fred harris used the term "hanning" in his seminal 'windows' paper ("On the Use of Windows for Harmonic Analysis with the Discrete Fourier Transform") in 1978 but later used the term "hann" in his 2004 "Multirate Signal Processing for Communication Systems" textbook.
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Comment by kevin_keeganDecember 6, 2021

Hi Rick,
I worked out what the signal equation would be if the sample values were equal to the y coordinate of that the sample. Taking the origin as the location of n=0 and y axis as being along the line between sample n=0 and n=16. (also taking the radius of the circle to be 1)
My result was x[n] = 1-cos(n/11.25)
This I believe is essentially equivalent the the answer given in the post.

Thanks for the quiz,

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Comment by Rick LyonsDecember 6, 2021

Hi kevin_keegan. You're causing me to think further about my blog's topic. Your equation 'x[n] = 1-cos(n/11.25)' is interesting. I wonder, from where did the number 11.25 come?

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Comment by kevin_keeganDecember 9, 2021


360(deg)/32(samples around the circle) = 11.25
I was using degrees not radians, which in retrospect might have been confusing.

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Comment by Rick LyonsDecember 9, 2021

Hi kevin_keegan. Yep, you're right because cos(x) functions are based on the notion that angle 'x' is measured in radians (not degrees). So your equation should be:

x[n] = 1-cos(2*pi*n/32).

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Comment by bertramaertsDecember 7, 2021

These are very nice 3D plots, I tried to make them myself in matlab but don't succeed in getting the vertical lines from (x,y,0) to (x,y,z). Is there a way to achieve this in matlab? This is what I currently have:


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Comment by Rick LyonsDecember 7, 2021

Hi bertramaets.

Change your 'plot3()' command to:


and then follow that command with:

for K = 1:n % Plot vertical lines & dots
   hold on
   plot3([x(K),x(K)],[y(K),y(K)],[0,z(K)],':k', 'linewidth', 1.25)
   hold off

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Comment by omersayliDecember 10, 2021

I wondered Python equivalent, this is quick sketch code;

import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
r = 1
n = 32
teta = np.linspace(0, 2*np.pi, n)
x = r * np.cos(teta)
y = r * np.sin(teta)
z = np.hanning(n) 

fig, ax = plt.subplots(subplot_kw=dict(projection='3d'), figsize=(12,12))
ax.stem(x, y, z)
#ax.set(xlabel='x', ylabel='y', zlabel='z')
ax.text(1, 0 , -0.05, '0', fontsize=15)
ax.text(x[1], y[1], -0.05, '1', fontsize=15)
ax.text(x[2], y[2], -0.05, '2', fontsize=15)
ax.text(x[~1], y[~1], -0.05, f'{n-1}', fontsize=15)
ax.text(x[~2], y[~2], -0.05, f'{n-2}', fontsize=15)
ax.view_init(5, 20)



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Comment by bertramaertsDecember 7, 2021

Thanks a lot Rick for these commands which plot the expected !

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