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The concept of video compression goes hand in hand with the switch from analogue to digital video technology that has taken place over the last 25 years. Video delivered to televisions, computers and smartphones typically arrives in a compressed form. The bandwidth and file size savings that compression provides are a significant benefit for consumer and business applications, making it possible to send and receive high-definition video over limited capacity networks. However, for digital archive applications, compression can be problematic, especially when it introduces loss or distortion into a video signal.
‘Born digital’ often means ‘born compressed’ and it is increasingly likely that newly-created digital video material will have gone through at least some level of lossy compression. For this reason, it is important to understand the effect of video compression on visual quality. In this paper I will introduce the concept of video compression and its relationship to video image quality. I will consider the factors that influence visual quality, including technical factors such as codecs and coding parameters, as well as the complex and only partly-understood factors that govern our perception of moving images. I will introduce methods of measuring and quantifying video quality and show how it is possible to compare the quality and performance of video processing systems, despite the limitations of quality measurement.
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