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Current Status of Video Objective Measurements

This paper explores the challenges associated with assessing video quality. Assessing video quality ultimately depends on the customer's reaction on their new TV. Many factors affect the video before it gets to the TV: compression, image processing, scaling, decoding, transmission, etc. To isolate their video algorithm, companies perform verification using: subjective and objective video assessment techniques.

While it would be far cheaper, to perform only objective test, nothing beats the human eye. Thus, Objective video quality measurements and Subjective video quality assessment are complementary rather than interchangeable. Subjective assessment is appropriate for research related purposes; objective measurements are required for equipment specifications and day-to-day system performance measurement and monitoring. Problem Statement When dealing with equipment to process TV & video transmissions, every design depends on accurate, repeatable measurements. A complex relationship between objective parameter measurements and subjective video quality exists.

The goal is to achieve an objective metric; that is an automated measurement. All of the equipment must be tested from video processors, compression units, transmission gear, set-top boxes, and displays. The evaluation of the video quality and ultimately, the customer's reaction to the picture shown on their new HDTV drives the business. Previous Options For years, traditional techniques that looked at color, brightness, contrast, etc.

were effective. However, the advent of compressed digital video transmission has complicated the process of evaluating video sequences, with respect to perceived picture quality. During compression, a certain amount of the original content is knowingly discarded. Visible impairments such as "blockiness" and Gaussian noise are by-products. Traditional measurement techniques that look at color, brightness, contrast, etc.

are no longer effective. Objective Measurement Status After analyzing the subjective results, considerable work has been done to come up with a quantifiable, repeatable measurement which is not dependent on the video sequence. To date, objective measurements have not proven to estimate the user's opinion. To introduce and qualify new algorithms, Video Quality Experts Group (VQEG) was formed in 1997, and generally acts in cooperation with ITU. VQEG has conducted two phases of testing; in the first phase ten algorithms were tested, and the conclusion reached was that all of them were statistically equivalent.

A second phase of testing, conducted several years later, involved a smaller set of algorithms, more controlled video sequences, and a better defined test environment. The result of the second phases warranted the recent ITU-T Recommendation J.144.

Three basic types of objective video assessment metrics exist: * Full Reference - A method that conducts a comparison of video source to resultant. * Reduced Reference - A method that conducts a comparison of a reduced video source to a full result. * No Reference - A method when there is no reference. The three methods have different applications, and they provide different degrees of measurement accuracy, expressed in terms of correlation with subjective assessment results. The work to date has centered on full reference algorithms. Full reference algorithms perform a detailed comparison of the input and output video sequence.

This is a computationally intensive process, which involves per-pixel processing, and temporal, spatial alignment of the input and output streams. Full reference algorithms can achieve good levels of correlation with subjective test data. Having the reference video sequence available is only possible for certain applications: for example in lab testing, pre-deployment test or troubleshooting.

One of the earliest full reference algorithms is PSNR (Peak Signal to Noise Ratio), which is literally a measurement of the mean error between input and output as a ratio of the peak signal level, expressed in dB. A typical "good" PSNR is around 30dB and it is generally accepted that PSNR values of less than 18dB are unacceptable. PSNR is the most widely used technique for image and video quality measurement. A wide range of full reference algorithms have been developed, including MPQM (Moving Pictures Quality Metric - 1996) full reference algorithm from EPFL in Switzerland, the US Government NTIA ITS lab's VQM (Video Quality Metric - 1999), and CVQE (Continuous Video Quality Evaluation - 2004) which is more suited for low bit rate video.

ITU-T J.144 does not actually specify a single algorithm but "provides guidelines on the selection of appropriate" techniques. J.144 does contain descriptions and test results for four full reference algorithms. The VQM algorithm from the US Government's NTIA ITS lab achieved slightly better performance than the other algorithms listed.

Video Clarity Solution The ClearView Video Analysis system simplifies the work flow, by combining the video server and capture device into one unit. By doing this, the original source and processed video sequences can be displayed - side-by-side, mirrored, or seamless split - on the same display. Further the operator can play any video sequence in any order, at any speed, for any duration with zoom, pan, jog, and shuttle capabilities.

ClearView applies various objective metrics to the video sequences, generates graphs, and calculates an objective score. While development of more advanced algorithms is ongoing, we have built a hybrid system, which offers subjective viewing modes; while calculating objective measurements. ClearView can easily be programmed to display video sequences for the expert viewers; while recording the objective metric scores along with the MOS. While the MOS cannot be repeated, the objective metric can be easily and readily. Benefits * Repeatable tests, quantitative results, and a streamlined setup.

* Capable of analyzing 2, 1080P video sequences in real-time * ClearView does not alter the original video sequences - video sequences are processed completely uncompressed. * Multiple viewing modes are presented on 1 display - no need to calibrate 2 separate Television displays to compare video sequences. * Objective Metrics are included as add-ons as the technology advances. Implementation ClearView takes advantage of the high-reliability of today's off-the-shelf computer platforms.

This ensures that products are made with the latest and greatest hardware available, while at the same time avoiding the high cost of custom designs. ClearView is packages in a 4U, 20" deep Industrial Chassis. Summary The ClearView Video Analysis System provides broadcasters, video researchers, compression developers with the unique ability to capture, play-out, and interactively analyze 100% uncompressed digital video.

Bill Reckwerdt, Vice President Marketing & Business Development Bill's extensive career spans 20 years in the digital video and medical imaging industries. He brings to Video Clarity expertise in compression, digital transmission, and video servers. To contact Bill directly send an email to bill@videoclarity.com or visit our http://www.videoclarity.com

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