The Rate-Distortion-Accuracy Tradeoff: JPEG Case Study

Handling digital images is almost always accompanied by a lossy compression in order to facilitate efficient transmission and storage. This introduces an unavoidable tension between the allocated bit-budget (rate) and the faithfulness of the resulting image to the original one (distortion). An additional complicating consideration is the effect of the compression on recognition performance by given classifiers (accuracy). This work aims to explore this rate-distortion-accuracy tradeoff. As a case study, we focus on the design of the quantization tables in the JPEG compression standard. We offer a novel optimal tuning of these tables via continuous optimization, leveraging a differential implementation of both the JPEG encoder-decoder and an entropy estimator. This enables us to offer a unified framework that considers the interplay between rate, distortion and classification accuracy. In all these fronts, we report a substantial boost in performance by a simple and easily implemented modification of these tables.

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