2 Jun 2015

When were the key concepts of video compression developed? You may be surprised to learn that some date back to the 1950s.

The latest MPEG / ITU video compression standard, H.265 or HEVC, was published in 2013. HEVC is a significant technical achievement, but it's partly based on fundamental work carried out many decades ago.
An HEVC video codec includes the basic building blocks of:
  • Prediction : create an estimate or prediction of a current block of video data
  • Transform : convert a block of samples into a spatial frequency representation
  • Entropy coding : encode video information into a compressed bitstream

Here are seven important research papers and patents dating back to the 1950s that helped to shape present day video coding technology.

1. “A Method for the Construction of Minimum Redundancy Codes”, D A Huffman, Proceedings of the I.R.E., September 1952
- Variable length binary codes for data compression.

2. “Transform coding of image difference signals”, M R Schroeder, US Patent 3679821, 1972
- Coding moving images using frame differencing, i.e. simple inter-frame prediction.

3.  “Discrete Cosine Transform”, Ahmed, Natarajan and Rao, IEEE Transactions on Computers, Jan 1974
- The classic paper on the DCT, widely used in image and video compression.

4. “Generalized Kraft inequality and arithmetic coding”, J J Rissanen, IBM J. Res. Dev. 20, May 1976
- Arithmetic coding, a forerunner of H.264 and HEVC’s CABAC.

5. “Displacement measurement and its application in interframe image coding”, J R Jain and A K Jain, IEEE Trans. Communications, December 1981
- An early description of motion compensated prediction for video coding.

6. “Variable size block matching motion compensation with applications to video coding”, M H Chan, Y B Yu and A G Constantinides, IEE Proceedings Vol 137, August 1990
- Motion compensated prediction with variable size blocks.
7. “MPEG: A video compression standard for multimedia applications”, D Le Gall, Communications of the ACM, Vol 34 No 4, April 1991
- Bidirectional prediction as used in the MPEG-1 video compression standard.