360-Degree Panoramic Video Coding
Ghaznavi Youvalari, Ramin
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Virtual reality (VR) creates an immersive experience of real world in virtual environment through computer interface. Due to the technological advancements in recent years, VR technology is growing very fast and as a result industrial usage of this technology is feasible nowadays. This technology is being used in many applications for example gaming, education, streaming live events, etc. Since VR is visualizing the real world experience, the image or video content which is used must represent the whole 3D world characteristics. Omnidirectional images/videos demonstrate such characteristics and hence are used in VR applications. However, these contents are not suitable for conventional video coding standards, which use only 2D image/video format content. Accordingly, the omnidirectional content are projected onto a 2D image plane using cylindrical or pseudo-cylindrical projections. In this work, coding methods for two types of projection formats that are popular among the VR contents are studied: Equirectangular panoramic projection and Pseudo-cylindrical panoramic projection. The equirectangular projection is the most commonly used format in VR applications due to its rectangular image plane and also wide support in software development environments. However, this projection stretches the nadir and zenith areas of the panorama and as a result contain a relatively large portion of redundant data in these areas. The redundant information causes extra bitrate and also higher encoding/decoding time. Regional downsampling (RDS) methods are used in this work in order to decrease the extra bitrate caused by over-stretched polar areas. These methods are categorized into persistent regional down-sampling (P-RDS) and temporal regional down-sampling (T-RDS) methods. In the P-RDS method, the down-sampling is applied to all frames of the video, but in the T-RDS method, only inter frames are down-sampled and the intra frames are coded in full resolution format in order to maintain the highest possible quality of these frames. The pseudo-cylindrical projections map the 3D spherical domain to a non-rectangular 2D image plane in which the polar areas do not have redundant information. Therefore, the more realistic sample distribution of 3D world is achieved by using these projection formats. However, because of non-rectangular image plane format, pseudocylindrical panoramas are not favorable for image/video coding standards and as a result the compression performance is not efficient. Therefore, two methods are investigated for improving the intra-frame and inter-frame compression of these panorama formats. In the intra-frame coding method, border edges are smoothed by modifying the content of the image in non-effective picture area. In the interframe coding method, gaining the benefit of 360-degree property of the content, non-effective picture area of reference frames at the border is filled with the content of the effective picture area from the opposite border to improve the performance of motion compensation. As a final contribution, the quality assessment methods in VR applications are studied. Since the VR content are mainly displayed in head mounted displays (HMDs) which use 3D coordinate system, measuring the quality of decoded image/video with conventional methods does not represent the quality fairly. In this work, spherical quality metrics are investigated for measuring the quality of the proposed coding methods of omnidirectional panoramas. Moreover, a novel spherical quality metric (USS-PSNR) is proposed for evaluating the quality of VR images/video.