A characteristic wave decomposition (CWD) method is presented in this paper, which can express the seismic data sparsely. We perform CWD by double beam forming for a compressed seismic wave-field and its index. Based on the beam-formed wave-field in characteristic domain, a beam-based characteristic wave imaging method (CWI) is put forward. Due to the flexibility and efficiency to generate angle gathers for velocity model building, the CWI is a useful alternative to Kirchhoff and wave-equation migrations. Extension of CWI to anisotropic media by introducing ray tracing system in transverse isotropic with a vertical symmetry (VTI) media achieve a better imaging result. The CWI has a theoretical speedup of 1∼2 orders of magnitude over the conventional Kirchhoff migration methods. Besides, it can handle low signal to noise ratio data and target oriented imaging conveniently, and angle gathers can be produced naturally by CWI. Consequently, the CWI is an efficient technique for large scale seismic imaging and 3D velocity model building.


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