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Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Department of Electrical Engineering

Course name: Digital Encoding of Signals

The Contourlet Transform

for Image Representation
Minh N. Do, Martin Vetterli

Paper Review By Boaz Matalon


Goal: Sparse representation

x[n] = cos(2π k0 n / N )

Dirac basis Fourier basis

• Sparsity essential for various tasks: denoising, deblurring,

resolution enhancement and (of course) compression.
• Main challenge: choosing the proper basis\frame.
Linear vs. Nonlinear
Assume that a signal is represented by an orthonormal basis:
f = ∑ < f , gn > gn

Given a subset { g n : n ∈ I M } the best linear approximation (LA)

of the signal (in L2-sense) is: fˆ = ∑ < f , gn > gn
n∈I M

The best nonlinear approximation (NLA) is the same, where IM

corresponds to the M largest coefficients < f , g n >
and hence depends on the signal.

The error (MSE) is: ε M = ∑ < f , gn >


n∉I M

1D piece-wise smooth signals

The decay rate of the error depends on the basis:
• LA with Fourier or Wavelet basis: ε M ∼ O( M −1 )
• NLA with Fourier basis: ε M ∼ O( M −1 )
• NLA with Wavelet basis: ε M ∼ O(2− M )

Wavelets are optimal for 1D piece-wise smooth signals!

2D-signals: different story
• 2D wavelet is a separable transform, thus its basis elements
have a square support (effectively).
• However, separabilty is not a desirable property for piece-
wise smooth images (which are the majority).

• Optimal decay rate for smooth images with discontinuities

on Cα contours: ε M ∼ O( M )

• Decay rate for 2D wavelets: ε M ∼ O( M )


Solution: Contourlets
Representation elements are contour segments with:
• various scales (Multiresolution).
• various directions (Directionality).
• various aspect ratios (Anisotropy).

Achieves nearly optimal decay rate for smooth images with

discontinuities on C2 contours: ε M ∼ O((log M )3 M −2 )
Ingredients: Laplacian Pyramid (LP)
Analysis and Synthesis blocks (Burt & Adelson, 1984):

⎛ 2 0⎞
H & G are LPF’s, and the sampling matrix is: M= ⎜ ⎟
⎝ 0 2⎠
Better synthesis block, SNR-sense (Do & Vetterli, 2003):

Representation redundancy: Up to 33%.

Ingredients (cont.): Directional

Filter Bank (DFB)
Schematic description (Bamberger & Smith, 1992):

Implementation using iterated directional filter bank:

⎛1 -1⎞
Q= ⎜ ⎟
⎝1 1 ⎠
The Contourlet Transform
The Contourlet transform is a LP followed by a DFB:

The directional partitions at different scales are independent:

Length vs. Width

Effective support of the contourlets:

Assuming smooth contours (at least C2), the contourlet

elements should follow the relation: width~(length)2.
Length vs. Width (cont.)
Therefore, in order to achieve optimal decay rate of the error,
the number of directions is multiplied at every other scale.

Demonstration of the width~(length)2 law:

Contourlets vs. Wavelets

A few basis elements (Wavelets – left, Contourlets – right):

Approximation using just a small number of elements:


Contourlets vs. Wavelets (cont.)
“Barbara” – 4096 coefficients out of 512x512:

“Lena” – denoising (white Gaussian noise):

Original Noisy (SNR=9.55 dB) Wavelets (SNR=13.82 dB) Contourlets (SNR=15.42 dB)

Compression performance
The Contourlet representation has up to 33% redundancy,
compared to 0% of Wavelets.
Nonetheless, the coefficients are organized in a tree structure,
enabling easy and cheap bit allocation.

Original Wavelet Contourlet

Compression performance (cont.)
Each contourlet coefficient has four children in the finer scale,
at the scale location, and either in the same direction or in two
finer directions (when the number of directions is doubled).
Hence, only 1 bit is needed to index a coefficient.
Although more sophisticated bit allocation
methods exist, using a uniform quantization for
the nonzero coefficients results in:
D( R) ≤ C1 (log R)3 R −2
In comparison, Wavelet zero-tree methods
achieve: D( R) ≤ C R −12

Main References
1) M. N. Do and M. Vetterli, “The Contourlet Transform: An Efficient
Directional Multiresolution Image Representation,” IEEE Trans. Image
Proc., Oct. 2003.

2) M. N. Do and M. Vetterli, “Framing pyramids,” IEEE Trans. Signal

Proc., Sep. 2003.

3) R. H. Bamberger and M. J. T. Smith, “A filter bank for the directional

decomposition of images: Theory and design,” IEEETrans. Signal Proc.,
vol. 40, no. 4, pp. 882–893, April 1992.