An experimental approach of video quality level dependence on video content dynamics.
An Experimental Approach of Video Quality Level
Dependence on Video Content Dynamics
Business College of Athens
Computer Science Department
+30 210 650 3107
Julien Arnaud, Daniel Negru
CNRS – LaBRI Lab.,
University of Bordeaux
+33 5 40 00 3797
Inst. of Informatics and Telecom.
Aghia Paraskevi, Greece
+30 210 650 3166
This paper deals with the notion of user satisfaction relative to the
consumption of modern encoded video applications and services.
Due to the process of encoding/compression of a video signal,
respective quality degradation takes place, which in turn
introduces the need for quality assessment methods and
procedures. The objective of this paper is to research the impact of
the spatiotemporal dynamics of the video content on the deduced
perceptual quality. More specifically it is presented how the
spatiotemporal activity affects i) the highest quality level that each
video can reach, ii) the video quality acceptance threshold such as
the lowest quality level and iii) the video quality vs. bit rate
Algorithms, Human Factors.
PQoS, Video quality, video dynamics, MPEG-4, H.264
Current modern technology has made very popular the wide
production, distribution and consumption of video data over the
Internet and mobile communication networks. Although the
capacity of the various access and core networks has today
reached levels that may leave the opportunity for over
provisioning, the use of encoding techniques for the compression
of video streams remains a necessity in order to reduce the high
multimedia data volume in datacenters. Thus, the evaluation of
the respective quality degradation introduced by the compression
process still remains as an active research topic.
The existing literature of video quality assessment techniques
focuses on models and techniques evaluating and assessing the
perceptual level of an already encoded and/or served video
service. Currently the evaluation of the video quality is a matter of
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subjective and objective procedures both applied on the encoded
signal. The subjective test methods, mainly proposed by
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and Video
Quality Experts Group (VQEG), involve an audience watching a
video sequence and scoring its quality as perceived by the
participants. This evaluation is controlled under specific watching
conditions. On the other hand, objective evaluation methods
provide faster quality assessment, exploiting multiple metrics that
use mathematical models to quantify the perceptual impact of the
encoding artifacts (e.g. tilling, blurriness, error blocks, etc) on the
video quality level. Nevertheless, the majority of the objective
methods require the undistorted video source as a reference entity
in the quality evaluation process. Due to this requirement, they are
characterized as Full Reference (FR) Methods [1-3]. The recent
research is focused also on developing methods that can evaluate
the video quality level based on metrics, which use only some
extracted structural features from the original signal (Reduced
Reference Methods) [4-8] or do not require any reference video
signal (No Reference Methods).
Thus, the aim of the current methods is the quantification of the
user experience in terms of satisfaction. However, from a service
provider aspect, which is interested to provide its contents free of
charge, there is a need in term of more efficient bandwidth
management for specifying i) the threshold up to which the user
considers the quality of the encoded service as acceptable or
below which considers it as unacceptable ii) the maximum
perceived quality level that each video content can reach upon
encoding and iii) the pattern of the video quality level vs. the
encoding bit rate (which will provide to the user the capacity to
offer a video at various quality levels). Apart from the various
encoding parameters that play significant role in the deduced
perceived quality level (e.g. bit rate, spatial and temporal
resolution), the dynamics of the content (i.e. spatial and temporal
activity of the content) are critical for the final perceptual
outcome. Although a lot of research is focused on developing
techniques and methods estimating the video quality of a
compressed/encoded video signal, the impact of the video
spatiotemporal dynamics on the video quality after encoding is
not well addressed by the research community and hence explains
the motivation of our work.
The main contribution of this paper is an experimental approach
of the spatiotemporal content dynamics impacting i) the video
quality acceptance threshold (i.e. the perceptual quality level
below a certain quality which the user considers as unacceptable),
ii) the highest achievable video quality level and iii) the pattern of
video quality vs. encoding bit rate.
More specifically, this paper presents a study on the perceptual
quality of the spatiotemporal dynamics of the content in
correlation with the encoding bit rate. We consider that the other
encoding parameters (e.g. spatial and temporal resolution,
encoding scheme, GOP pattern etc.) remain constant. Towards
this, we provide results, depicting the actual perceived efficiency
for various activity levels. We consider not only the engineering
effectiveness such as simple error-based metrics is considered but
also as videos are actually perceived by the human visual system
through a respective objective assessment metric.
In this framework this paper uses reference video clips, which are
representative of different spatial and temporal activity levels,
covering by this way all the range of the spatiotemporal scale.
Afterwards, for each clip the relative PQoS vs. Bit rate curve for
MPEG-4 encoding is drawn, showing how the differentiation in
the content affects the deduced video quality.
The rest of this paper is organized as follows: Section 2 presents a
two-dimensional approach on classifying the content dynamics of
the video signals. In Section 3, we present two objective metrics
for classifying a video sequence according to its spatiotemporal.
Section 4 presents the spatiotemporal characteristics of the test
signals that have been used in this paper. The relationship of the
video quality to the spatial and temporal level of the video content
is discussed in Section 5. Finally, Section 6 concludes this paper
discussing the perspectives of the current research outcomes.
2. Spatiotemporal Content Plane: A two-
dimensional classification of the content
The content of each video clip may differ substantially depending
on its dynamics (i.e. the spatial complexity and/or the temporal
activity of the depicted visual signal). The quantification of this
diversity is of high interest to the video coding experts, because
the spatiotemporal content dynamics of a video signal specify and
determine the efficiency of a coding procedure.
From the perceptual aspect, the quality of a video sequence is
dependent on the spatiotemporal dynamics of the content. More
specifically, it is known from the fundamental principles of the
video coding theory that action clips with high dynamic content
are perceived as degraded in comparison to the sequences with
slow-moving clips, subject to identical encoding procedures.
Thus the classification of the various video signals according to
their spatiotemporal characteristics will provide to the video
research community the ability to quantify the perceptual impact
of the various content dynamics on the perceptual efficiency of
the modern encoding standards.
Towards this classification, in  it is proposed a spatiotemporal
plane, where each video signal (subject to short duration and
homogeneous content) is depicted as Cartesian point in the
spatiotemporal plane, where the horizontal axis refers to the
spatial component of its content dynamics and the vertical axis
refers to the temporal ones. The respective plane is depicted on
Therefore, according to this approach, each video clip can be
classified to four categories depending on its content dynamics,
Low Spatial Activity – Low Temporal Activity (upper left)
High Spatial Activity – Low Temporal Activity (upper right)
Low Spatial Activity – High Temporal Activity (lower left)
High Spatial Activity – High Temporal Activity (lower right)
Figure 1: The Spatiotemporal grid used for classifying a video
sequence according to its content dynamics
The accuracy of the proposed spatiotemporal content plane is
subject to the duration of the video signal and the homogeneity of
the content. For short duration and homogeneous content video
clips, the classification is representative and efficient. However,
for video clips of longer duration and heterogeneous content, their
spatiotemporal classification is becoming difficult.
3. Objective Metrics for the Spatiotemporal
Classification of Video Content
We propose to use two discrete metrics, one for the spatial
component and one for the temporal one in order to cover the
spatiotemporal plane and the needs of this paper.
The averaged frame variance is proposed for the spatial
component of the video signal. This objective metric permits the
quantification of the spatial dynamics of a video signal short in
duration and homogeneous. Considering that a frame y is
composed ofN pixels
in equation 1:
ix , then the variance of a frame is defined
Derived from equation 1, equation 2 presents the averaged frame
variance for the whole video duration. K represents the number of
frames in the video.
frame k ik
The averaged variance of the successive y frame luminance
difference is proposed as a metric for the quantification of the
temporal dynamics of a video sequence. Considering that a frame
contains N pixels
then the averaged frame difference of the successive frame pairs is
defined in equation 3.
ix and K the number of frames in the video,
Therefore, the averaged variance for the overall duration of the
test signal is defined in equation 4.
k iki k iki
The scale in both axes refers to the normalized measurements
(considering a scale from 0 up to 1) of the spatial and temporal
component, according to the aforementioned metrics. The
normalization procedure applied in this paper, sets the test signal
with the highest spatiotemporal content to the lower right quarter
and specifically to the Cartesian (Spatial, Temporal) values (0.75,
0.75). This hypothesis, without any loss of generality, allows to
our classification grid the possibility to consider also test signals
that may have higher spatiotemporal content in comparison to the
4. Classification of the Test Signals to the
Spatiotemporal Content Plane
For the needs of this paper five short reference sequences are
used. These sequences are depicted in table 1. Applying the
described spatial and temporal metrics on the reference signals of
Table 1, their classification on the proposed spatiotemporal grid is
depicted on Figure 2.
According to Figure 2, it can be observed that the spatiotemporal
dynamics of the selected reference signals are distributed to all the
four quarters of the spatiotemporal grid, indicating their diverse
nature of the content dynamics. Moreover, the validity of the
proposed metrics is certified by these experimental results,
showing that they provide adequate differentiation among the
dynamics of the signals under test.
Based on the experimental results of Figure 2 and Table 1, it can
be observed that the selected video signals are representatives of
the whole range of the spatiotemporal activity range of the content
dynamics and the spatiotemporal content plane.
In the next Section, we discuss the spatiotemporal content
dynamics impact on i) the video quality acceptance threshold (i.e.
the perceptual quality level below which the user considers that an
encoded video is of unacceptable quality), ii) the highest
achievable video quality level and iii) the pattern of video quality
vs. encoding bit rate.
Figure 2: The Spatiotemporal classification of the test signals.
Mobile & Calendar
Table 1: The five reference test signals
5. Spatiotemporal Activity and Video Quality
This section focuses on the impact of the spatiotemporal activity
of the content on the video quality. The encoding bit rate needs to
be adjusted according to this impact in order to provide a
satisfying video quality to the end-user. It must be noted that the
used sequences in this paper are reference signals with limited
duration and therefore with practically homogeneous content (i.e.
constant spatial and temporal activity level). The study with
longer videos is out of the scope of this paper.
Each test video clip of Table 1, is encoded from its original
uncompressed format to ISO MPEG-4 Visual Simple Profile
format, at different constant bit rates (spanning a range from
50kbps to 1.5Mbps for CIF (Common Intermediate Format) with
key-frame period equal to 100 frames in both cases). For each
corresponding bit rate, a different ISO MPEG-4 compliant file is
created. The frame rate is set at 25 frames per second (fps) for the
whole encoding process.
0 300600 90012001500 1800
Bit Rate (kbps)
Mobile & Calendar
Cactus & Comb
Each ISO MPEG-4 video clip is then used as input in a no-
reference objective quality measurement tool . From the
resulting quality per frame measurements, the average quality for
the whole clip is calculated.
5.1 The impact of content dynamics on the
video quality vs. bit rate pattern
This experimental procedure is repeated for each tested video clip
and the respective curves representing the video quality vs. the
encoding bit rate is depicted in Figure 3. The curves are following
a general exponential pattern and present a significant leeway
between the various spatiotemporal dynamics.
Figure 3: Impact of dynamics on the video quality vs. bit rate
More specifically, it can be observed that curve A represents
video clip with low temporal and spatial dynamics, i.e. video
content with “poor” movements and low picture complexity such
as a talk show scene. Curve C represents video clip with high
dynamics, such as a football match. Curve B represents an
intermediate case. Practically, it can be observed that in low
bitrates curve A reaches a higher perceptual level compared to
curve B depicting a sequence with higher spatiotemporal content.
On the other hand, the curve C) requires higher bit rate in order to
reach a satisfactory PQoS level.
Nevertheless, curve(C) reaches its maximum PQoS value more
smoothly than in the low activity case.
Moreover, each curve -and therefore each video clip- can be
characterized by: (a) a low bit rate (BRL), which corresponds to
the lower value of the accepted PQoS (PQL) by the audience, (b)
the high bit rate (BRH), which corresponds to the minimum value
of the bit rate for which the PQoS reaches its maximum PQH
value (see BRH for curve (A) in figure 3) and (c) the mean
inclination of the curve, which can be defined as ME = (PQH –
PQL) / (BRH – BRL ). From the curves of Figure 1, it can be
deduced that video clips with low dynamics have lower BRL and
higher ME than clips with high dynamics.
Following the general pattern in Figure 3, the respective
experimental data for the reference signals that have been tested
are depicted in Figure 4. As it can be observed, the impact of the
spatiotemporal activity on the content is depicted very clear. It
also shows two more important outcomes:
For video signals with low spatiotemporal activity, a
saturation point appears, above which the
perceptual enhancement is negligible even for very
high encoding bit rates.
ii) As the spatiotemporal activity of the content becomes
higher, the respective perceptual saturation point
(i.e. the highest perceptual quality level) becomes
lower, which practically means that video of high
dynamics never reach a very high perceptual level.
Based on these observations, the next sub section examines in
more details the impact of the content dynamics on the perceptual
saturation point (i.e. the highest perceptual quality level).
5.2 The impact of content dynamics on the
highest perceptual quality level
Focusing more on the impact of the spatiotemporal content
dynamics on the perceptual saturation point (i.e. the highest
perceptual quality level that each video signal can achieve), it can
be observed directly from both Figures 3 and 4 that video signals
with relatively low spatiotemporal content achieve higher
perceptual levels than video signals that contain content of high
In this framework, Figure 5 depicts the experimental results for
the test signals of this paper, concerning the highest perceptual
quality level (PQH) for both CIF and QCIF spatial resolution.
It can be observed that for both CIF and QCIF spatial resolution,
the impact of the spatiotemporal activity is significant making
especially the signals of low content dynamics less demanding in
terms of encoding bit rate for a certain perceived threshold.
Figure 4: The Video Quality vs. Bit Rate curves
Figure 5: Impact of dynamics on the PQoS saturation point
5.3 The impact of content dynamics on the
video quality acceptance threshold
Figure 6: The impact of dynamics on the acceptance PQoS
This sub section examines the impact of the spatiotemporal
activity of the content on the perceptual acceptance threshold for
the various test signals.
The respective results are depicted in Figure 6. The lowest
acceptable perceptual level is fixed to 3.5 in the MOS scale.
Based on these experimental results, it is shown that for both CIF
and QCIF spatial resolution need higher bit rate in order to
achieve the perceptual acceptance threshold when the
spatiotemporal activity becomes more complex. Especially for the
case of CIF, the demand in terms of bit rate becomes higher than
for the case of QCIF.
This paper presents the impact of the video spatiotemporal
dynamics on the deduced perceptual quality. More specifically it
shows how the spatiotemporal activity affects i) the highest
quality level that each video can reach, ii) the video quality
acceptance threshold (i.e. the lowest quality level) and iii) the
video quality vs. bit rate pattern. This paper proves that the
spatiotemporal activity has a significant impact on the video
quality of the encoded signal and can be used in streaming
applications or IPTV services over heterogeneous devices. This
work is directly impacting the way operators exploit their
networks: it provides means of maximization of the End-User
PQoS along with optimization of the network resources.
The work in this paper has been performed within the research
framework of FP7 ICT-214751 ADAMANTIUM Project.
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