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Sandwiched Compression: Repurposing Standard Codecs with Neural Network Wrappers

Phil A. Chou
Berivan Isik
Hugues Hoppe
Danhang Tang
Jonathan Taylor
Philip Davidson
arXiv:2402.05887 (2024)


We propose sandwiching standard image and video codecs between pre- and post-processing neural networks. The networks are jointly trained through a differentiable codec proxy to minimize a given rate-distortion loss. This sandwich architecture not only improves the standard codec’s performance on its intended content, it can effectively adapt the codec to other types of image/video content and to other distortion measures. Essentially, the sandwich learns to transmit “neural code images” that optimize overall rate-distortion performance even when the overall problem is well outside the scope of the codec’s design. Through a variety of examples, we apply the sandwich architecture to sources with different numbers of channels, higher resolution, higher dynamic range, and perceptual distortion measures. The results demonstrate substantial improvements (up to 9 dB gains or up to 3 adaptations. We derive VQ equivalents for the sandwich, establish optimality properties, and design differentiable codec proxies approximating current standard codecs. We further analyze model complexity, visual quality under perceptual metrics, as well as sandwich configurations that offer interesting potentials in image/video compression and streaming.