[Paper] DB-CNN: Deep Bilinear Convolutional Neural Network (Image Quality Assessment)

1 CNN for Synthetic Distortions, 1 CNN for Authentic Distortions, Outperforms DeepIQA (DIQaM & WaDIQaM)

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Waterloo Exploration Database (From https://ece.uwaterloo.ca/~k29ma/exploration/)

In this story, Blind Image Quality Assessment Using A Deep Bilinear Convolutional Neural Network (DB-CNN), by Wuhan University, New York University, and University of Waterloo, is presented. I read this because I recently study IQA/VQA. In this paper:

  • For synthetic distortions, a CNN is pre-trained to classify image distortion type and level.
  • For authentic distortions, a pretrained CNN for image classification is adopted.
  • The features from the two CNNs are pooled bilinearly into a unified representation for final quality prediction.
  • The entire model is fine-tuned on target subject-rated databases.

This is a paper in 2020 TCVST where TCSVT has a high impact factor of 4.133. (Sik-Ho Tsang @ Medium)


  1. CNN for Synthetic Distortions
  2. CNN for Authentic Distortions
  3. DB-CNN by Bilinear Pooling
  4. Ablation Study
  5. Experimental Results

1. CNN for Synthetic Distortions

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Examples of synthetic distortions: (a) Gaussian blur. (b) White Gaussian noise. (c) JPEG compression. (d) JPEG2000 compression. (e) Contrast stretching. (f) Pink noise. (g) Image color quantization with dithering. (h) Over-exposure. (i) Under-exposure.
  • A CNN is pre-trained to classify the distortion type and the degradation level. This pre-training strategy is to offer perceptually more meaningful initializations.
  • M-class one-hot vector is used as ground-truth. In this case, M = 39, which corresponds to seven distortion types with five levels and two distortion types with two levels.
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S-CNN Inspired by VGG-16
  • Inspired by the VGG-16 network architecture [21], a CNN for synthetic distortions (S-CNN) is designed with a similar structure subject to some modifications.
  • All convolutions have a kernel size of 3×3.
  • Cross-entropy loss is used.

2. CNN for Authentic Distortions

  • VGG-16 that has been pre-trained for the image classification task on ImageNet, is used to extract relevant features for authentically distorted images.

3. DB-CNN by Bilinear Pooling

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DB-CNN: Network Architecture
  • Bilinear pooling to combine S-CNN for synthetic distortions and VGG-16 for authentic distortions into one unified model.
  • Denote the representations from S-CNN and VGG-16 by Y1 and Y2, the bilinear pooling of Y1 and Y2 is formulated as:
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  • Then B is fed to a fully connected layer with one output value to predict the image quality score.

4. Ablation Study

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Average SRCC
  • S-CNN or VGG-16 alone is act as baseline. S-CNN and VGG-16 can only deliver promising performance on synthetic and authentic databases, respectively.
  • DB-CNN with concatenation used instead of bilinear pooling.
  • Two DB-CNN models are trained, one from scratch and the other using the distortion type information only during pre-training S-CNN.
  • It can be seen that, with perceptually more meaningful initializations, DB-CNN achieves better performance. DB-CNN is capable of handling both synthetic and authentic distortions.

5. Experimental Results

5.1. SOTA Comparison

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Average SRCC and PLCC Across Ten Sessions on LIVE Challenge Database
  • LIVE contains 779 distorted images synthesized from 29 reference images with five distortion types.
  • CSIQ is composed of 866 distorted images generated from 30 reference images, including six distortion types.
  • TID2013 consists of 3; 000 distorted images from 25 reference images with 24 distortion types at five degradation levels.
  • LIVE MD contains 450 images generated from 15 source images under two multiple distortion scenarios.
  • LIVE CL is an authentic IQA database, which contains 1,162 images captured from diverse real-world scenes by numerous photographers.
  • Two splits are used. 80% is used for fine-tuning DB-CNN. 20% is used for testing.
  • While all competing models, such as DeepIQA (DIQaM & WaDIQaM) achieve comparable performance on LIVE, their results on CSIQ and TID2013 are rather diverse.
  • DB-CNN performs favorably although it does not include multiply distorted images for pre-training, indicating that DB-CNN generalizes well to slightly different distortion scenarios.
  • The success of DB-CNN on LIVE Challenge verifies the relevance between the high-level features from VGG-16 and the authentic distortions.

In summary, DB-CNN achieves superior performance on both synthetic and authentic IQA databases.

5.2. Individual Distortion Types

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Average SRCC and PLCC of Individual Distortion Types Across Ten Sessions on LIVE
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Average SRCC and PLCC of Individual Distortion Types Across Ten Sessions on CSIQ
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Average SRCC of Individual Distortion Types Across Ten Sessions on TID2013
  • On CSIQ, DB-CNN outperforms other counterparts by a large margin, especially for pink noise and contrast change, validating the effectiveness of pre-training in DB-CNN.
  • Although many distortion types are not synthesized as in TID2013, it can be found that DB-CNN performs well on unseen distortion types that exhibit similar artifacts in our pre-training set.
  • DB-CNN generalizes well to unseen distortions with similar perceived artifacts. In addition, all other non-reference (NR) models fail in three distortion types on TID2013.

5.3. Across Different Databases

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  • It can be seen that models trained on LIVE are much easier to generalize to CSIQ and vice versa than other cross-database pairs.
  • When trained on TID2013 and tested on the other two synthetic databases, DB-CNN significantly outperforms the rest models.
  • Models trained on synthetic databases do not generalize to the authentic LIVE Challenge Database. Despite this, DB-CNN still achieves higher prediction accuracies under such a challenging experimental setup.

5.4. Waterloo Exploration Database

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  • Authors also propose a database, Waterloo Exploration Database.
  • Waterloo Exploration Database and the PASCAL VOC Database, are used, where the images are synthesized with nine distortion types and two to five distortion levels.
  • The pristine/distorted image discriminability test (D-Test), the list-wise ranking consistency test (L-Test), and the pairwise preference consistency test (P-Test), are performed.
  • To ensure the independence of image content during training and testing, the S-CNN stream is re-trained in DB-CNN using the distorted images generated from the PASCAL VOC Database only.
  • It is observed that DB-CNN is competitive in all the three tests.

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PhD, Researcher. I share what I've learnt and done. :) My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sh-tsang/, My Paper Reading List: https://bit.ly/33TDhxG