Re: Video Compression

William Ender (
Thu, 22 Sep 1994 15:59:32 -0400

I would add a question # 5 to the original list, here. Due to my company's "double
firewall" connection to the Net, I've only been able to test CU-SeeMe thus far using
SLIP into my personal account with a local ISP (Internet Service Provider). Does
CU-SeeMe use any particular IP port that I might be able to have my network admin
person let pass through our routers so that I could try this stuff over a higher
bandwidth network connection? I'm assuming that the reason I can't get it to work
is that whatever resources CU-SeeMe requires is/are clamped down at some point
within our firewall setup.

On Wed, 21 Sep 1994 01:17:40 -0400 wrote:

>> Date: Wed, 21 Sep 1994 01:17:40 -0400
> Subject: Re: Video Compression
> To: Multiple recipients of list <>
> At 17:26 9/20/94, Laha, Subhasis wrote:
> >
> >I am interested in finding out the algorithms that are used for video
> >compression on CU-SEEME. I would appreciate if somebody
> >could provide me some details of the compression algorithms
> >and the video data-stream.
> A while ago (Wed 10 Aug 1994) Tim Dorcey <> (Hi Tim!)
> posted this description of CU-SeeMe's compression algorithm (which he said
> he extracted from a yet earlier posting):
> The first step in the CU-SeeMe video encoding, is to represent the
> video image using 4 bits/pixel (16 shades of gray). The image is then
> subdivided into 8x8 pixel squares, which are treated as independent units.
> When a new frame of video is acquired, a square is transmitted if it
> differs sufficiently from the version of that square that was most recently
> transmitted i.e., if it differs from what the recipients are currently
> displaying (assuming no packet loss). The index used to determine how
> different a square must be in order to trigger updating is roughly the sum
> of the absolute values of all 64 pixel differences in an 8x8 square, with a
> multiplicative penalty for differences that occur near each other within
> the square. The cut-off value can be adjusted by the "Tolerance" control
> under "Compression" controls, and should be set as high as possible without
> corrupting the picture too much.
> Since CU-SeeMe uses an unreliable ("best-effort") transport mechanism
> (UDP), squares are sent on a periodic basis even if they haven't changed,
> insuring that a lost update won't corrupt the picture indefinitely. How
> often this forced update occurs is controlled by the "Refresh Rate"
> control, which specifies the number of frames that will be allowed to pass
> before a square is updated.
> Once the decision to transmit a square has been made, a locally
> developed lossless compression algorithm is applied to each individual
> square. The algorithm is designed to exploit spatial reduncancy in the
> vertical direction i.e., works well if each row in the square is not too
> different from the one above it. Based on informal observations, the
> algorithm averages around a %60 compression rate (compressed size is about
> 60% of the original).
> The main objective in designing these algorithms was to be fast enough
> for operation on average Macintosh computers. This is achieved by
> operating on rows of 8 4-bit pixels as 32-bit words throughout the
> algorithms, achieving a degree of parallelism, in effect. Written down in
> mathematical terms with respect to individual pixels, the algorithms look
> rather goofy, but become appealing when represented in 680x0 assembly
> language.
> As with any compression algorithm, your mileage will vary depending on
> the nature of the data to compress. In the case of CU-SeeMe, the most
> important factor is the amount of motion in the video.
> > 2) What kind of bandwidth is required for fluid motion?
> This is a tough question, because the answer depends so much on the content
> of the video, and also on a subjective evaluation of what is "fluid
> motion." For an average talking head, I would say around 100 kbits/sec.
> At the other extreme, there are 75 kbits in an uncompressed 120 x 160
> frame, which would translate to about 45 kbits/frame with the lossless
> spatial compression. Then, if you're willing to call 15 frames/sec fluid
> motion, and every frame was completely different from the previous frame,
> you'd need 675 kbits/sec.
> But, really, since the software is free, the best thing to do is try it
> out on the sorts of video you have in mind.
> > 3) Can you connect directly to another PC via modem and SLIP without
> > the reflector software?
> As long as you have IP service between 2 machines, you should be able to
> connect them without a reflector. You cannot involve more than 2 machines
> without a reflector, however.
> > 4) Is the source code available? ( nondisclosure statement?)
> > If the software is publically funded, why is the source not available?
> The source code is not currently available, but will be, once we get it
> cleaned up and make some decisions about what usage restrictions should be
> imposed. The main reason source is not available is that it is not
> finished (for any value of "finished"). Though it's not especially
> relevant to this question, it's worth mentioning that much of the code was
> developed without public funding.
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