Seeking Miraculous and Lossless Victories: An Update on the FADGI Still Image Working Group

The following is a guest post by Carla Miller, Administrative Specialist for the Office of Strategic Initiatives.

On March 23, 2012, the Still Image and Audio Visual Working Groups of the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI) held a joint meeting hosted at the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) College Park campus.  This is part one of a two-part post; part one covers the Still Image Working Group meeting, and part two will cover the Audio Visual Working Group meeting.

The Still Image Working Group, led by Steve Puglia of the Library of Congress, discussed ongoing work (meeting slides are here), including the work of two sub-groups: File Format and Embedded Metadata.  Currently, the File Format Sub-group is assessing five raster image formats the members consider acceptable for master image files for the cultural heritage community: TIFF, JPEG 2000, JPEG, PNG, and PDF.  For many years, the trend has been to use uncompressed TIFF files, but the files are large and thus are burdensome in networks and in requirements for storage.  These factors have motivated a new look at file formats and at options for compression.  The group is looking at more than just sustainability factors for these formats, including costs (storage, network, ongoing, tools/start-up, access, and preservation) and implementation considerations.  Stay tuned!!  Meanwhile, the Embedded Metadata Sub-group has adopted a set of guidelines from the Smithsonian as a recommendation.

The preceding should not suggest that image quality is not important!  Although lossless compression will be best for certain categories of materials, Steve discussed ongoing research at LC on evaluation methods and the effects of lossy compression on raster images.  How to determine the effects of compression is a tricky business, though, because one wants to strike a balance between objective and subjective analyses.  With this in mind, the approaches being considered fall into three categories:  visual/subjective evaluation, metric/objective evaluation (e.g. mean squared error [MSE], peak signal to noise ratio [PSNR], structural similarity index (SSIM), etc.), and task accuracy (e.g. optical character recognition [OCR]).

Dr. Lei He at LC has been conducting an interesting analysis that looks at the correlation between objective measurements of the changes effected by image compression and the subjective reaction to those changes as noted by human observers.  This is a work in progress, but the idea is that objective measures can be used to anticipate the likely subjective reactions.  So far, the results are comparable to similar work done by other organizations.  Preliminary findings indicate at low to moderate lossy compression, the brightness and color values of a majority of pixels are altered to a very minor degree and the changes are well within a subjectively acceptable range.  Also, the effect of compression varies for different collection types: cartoon drawings show the most effect, followed by fine prints and black & white negatives; color photos show the least effect.

Members of the Still Image Working Group are also undertaking a CIE Color Accuracy Study.  The targets and samples being imaged for the study have been sent to and imaged by a second group of labs in the United States, including Harvard University, Stanford University, the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  The next step is to analyze the data collected from all seven North American labs, and a second phase of imaging by European labs has started.  An update on the study findings will be presented at the IS&T Archiving Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, this summer.

Digital Image Conformance Environment (DICE) target

One challenge for institutions with collections of historic photographic negatives is deciding on what scanning resolution is appropriate for digitization.  Steve talked about how the Library of Congress and other institutions are analyzing the spatial frequency response (SFR) of negatives from different collections using an SFR analysis described by Don Williams.  Sample negatives from a collection are scanned at higher-than-expected resolution (verified with a target), and selected features in the digital images are analyzed to determine appropriate resolution for capturing all the scene detail.

The Library and other institutions are also using similar techniques to monitor production scanning of negatives using an SFR target and M-Scan/ImCheck software.  This is accomplished by scanning the target on a daily basis (for larger targets, scan all four corners and the center) and then plotting over time to monitor the change and variability.

Of interest to many in the community is the announcement that a new working group has been formed within ISO.  WG26 of ISO TC42 plans to develop standards relating to digitization tools such as targets.


  1. Gwen Neighbors
    April 24, 2012 at 11:38 am

    My question is addressed to Dr.Lei He: When all the analysis is completed, what dynamic way will the LC benefit and when will the results be completed? I am very excited about your work here. I know storage and reproduction with accuracy is vital.

    What are the parameters of the research and where and when will you publish your scientific data? Will we see your study in progressions?

    I produce art on canvas and then photograph the same work. I find the loss of value, texture and color, just a few of the canvas production qualities
    so different from the original work very disappointing. Photoshop , and other programs capture the same type of art. I desire the old master’s look.

    I also find moisture and light working negative results on canvas. My discussion I hope is about real application of the result of your study. I have used the method of study that you are applying.

    Thank you for your work.

  2. Lei He
    April 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Dear Gwen Neighbors:

    Thank you for your interest in our work!

    After we finish our analyses of the effects of image compression and the accuracy of color imaging, we expect to provide guidance on both the adoption of JPEG 2000 (including suggested parameters for JPEG 2000 compression for different collection content) and on methods for improving the accuracy color imaging through the FADGI web page. As mentioned in the blog, we plan to summarize and present our results and analyses at professional conferences as well. We hope the initial research and guidelines will be completed and available within the next few months.

    It’s good to know you have been doing similar work.



Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.