The contour tree image encoding technique and file format
The process of contourization is presented which converts a raster image into a discrete set of plateaux or contours. These contours can be grouped into a hierarchical structure, defining total spatial inclusion, called a contour tree. A contour coder has been developed which fully describes these contours in a compact and efficient manner and is the basis for an image compression method. Simplification of the contour tree has been undertaken by merging contour tree nodes thus lowering the contour tree's entropy. This can be exploited by the contour coder to increase the image compression ratio. By applying general and simple rules derived from physiological experiments on the human vision system, lossy image compression can be achieved which minimises noticeable artifacts in the simplified image. The contour merging technique offers a complementary lossy compression system to the QDCT (Quantised Discrete Cosine Transform). The artifacts introduced by the two methods are very different; QDCT produces a general blurring and adds extra highlights in the form of overshoots, whereas contour merging sharpens edges, reduces highlights and introduces a degree of false contouring. A format based on the contourization technique which caters for most image types is defined, called the contour tree image format. Image operations directly on this compressed format have been studied which for certain manipulations can offer significant operational speed increases over using a standard raster image format. A couple of examples of operations specific to the contour tree format are presented showing some of the features of the new format.