Seismic time migration is known for its ability to generate well-focused and interpretable images, based on a velocity field specified in the time domain. A fundamental requirement of this time-migration velocity field is that lateral variations are small. In the case of 3D time migration for symmetric elementary waves (e.g., primary PP reflections/diffractions, for which the incident and departing elementary waves at the reflection/diffraction point are pressure [P] waves), the time-migration velocity is a function depending on four variables: three coordinates specifying a trace point location in the time-migration domain and one angle, the so-called migration azimuth. Based on a time-migration velocity field available for a single azimuth, we have developed a method providing an image-ray transformation between the time-migration domain and the depth domain. The transformation is obtained by a process in which image rays and isotropic depth-domain velocity parameters for their propagation are esti-mated simultaneously. The depth-domain velocity field and image-ray transformation generated by the process have useful applications. The estimated velocity field can be used, for example, as an initial macrovelocity model for depth migration and tomographic inversion. The image-ray transformation provides a basis for time-to-depth conversion of a complete time-migrated seismic data set or horizons interpreted in the time-migration domain. This time-to-depth conversion can be performed without the need of an a priori known velocity model in the depth domain. Our approach has similarities as well as differences compared with a recently published method based on knowledge of time-migration velocity fields for at least three migration azimuths. We show that it is sufficient, as a minimum, to give as input a time-migration velocity field for one azimuth only. A practical consequence of this simplified input is that the image-ray transformation and its corresponding depth-domain velocity field can be generated more easily.

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