Part 2: JPEG2000 solutions in science and healthcare. JP2 format limitations

Author: Fyodor Serzhenko

In the first part of the article, JPEG 2000 in science, healthcare, digital cinema and broadcasting, we discussed the key technologies of JPEG2000 and focused on its application in digital cinema.

In this second part, we will continue examining the functions of JPEG2000, as well as review its main drawback and talk about the other application areas where the format turned out to be in high demand. At the end we will present a solution which simplifies and makes the process of working with the format much more convenient.

JPEG2000 solutions


1. JPEG2000 in science and medicine

Window mode support is one of the handy features that makes JPEG2000 attractive. Scientists often have to work with files of enormous resolution, the width and height of which can exceed 40,000 pixels, but only a small part of which is of interest. Standard JPEG would have to decode the entire image to work with it, while JPEG2000 allows you to decode only a selected area.

JP2 is also used for space photography. Those wonderful pictures of Mars taken, for example, with a HiRISE camera, are available in JP2 format. Still, the data link from space to Earth is subject to interference, so errors may occur during the transfer or even entire data packets may be lost. However, when the special mode is enabled, it is somewhat error-resilient, which can be helpful when communication or storage devices are unreliable. This mode allows you to detect errors that occur when data is lost during transmission. It is important to note that the image is divided into small blocks (for example, 32x32 or 64x64 pixels), where, after preliminary transformations, each bit plane is encoded separately. Thus, a lost bit most likely spoils only some of the less significant bit planes, and this usually has little effect on overall quality. By the way, in JPEG, the loss of a bit can lead to significant distortions of a big part of or even the entire image.


high resolution image of Mars
First Very High Resolution Image of Mars by HiRISE, source you can see here


Regarding the operation of the special mode with the integrity check in the JPEG2000 format file, additional information is added to the compressed file to check the correctness of the data. Without this information, we often can’t determine during decoding whether there’s an error or not, and we continue the process as if nothing had happened. As a result, it’s still possible that even one erroneous bit will spoil quite a large part of the image. If this mode is enabled, however, then we detect any error when it appears and can limit its effect on other parts of the image.


The JPEG2000 format also plays important role in healthcare. In this application area, it is extremely important to maintain a sufficient bit depth of the source data to make it possible to fix all the subtleties of each area of the body under examination. JPEG2000 is used in CTs, X-rays, MRIs, etc.

Also, in accordance with FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requirements, images acquired by means of medical imaging must be stored in the original format (without loss). The JPEG2000 format is an ideal solution in this case.

Another interesting feature of JPEG2000 is the compression of three-dimensional data arrays. This can be highly relevant both in science and in medicine (for example, three-dimensional tomography results). The 10th part of the JPEG2000 standard is devoted to the compression of such data: JP3D (volumetric imaging).

2. JP2 format limitations

Unfortunately, JP2 (JPEG2000) isn’t so simple — in fact, it’s not supported by most web browsers (with the exception of Safari). The format is computationally complex, and existing open source codecs have been too slow for active use over the years. Even now, when the speed of processors is increasing with each new generation, and codecs are being optimized and accelerated, their capabilities still leave something to be desired. To illustrate the importance of codec speed, let's return to the topic of digital cinema for a moment: specifically, to the creation of DCPs (Digital Cinema Packages), the same set of files that we enjoy in cinemas. Again, JPEG2000 is the standard for digital cinema and, accordingly, is required to create a DCP package. Unfortunately, its computational complexity makes this task quite resource-intensive and time-consuming. Moreover, existing open source codecs don't allow decoding movies at the required rate of 25, 30 or 60 fps for 12-bit data at resolutions already in 2K or 4K.

3. How to speed up processing with the JP2 format

JPEG2000 provides modes for operating at a higher speed, but this is achieved at the expense of a slight reduction in quality or compression ratio. However, even the slightest reduction in image quality can be unacceptable for some application areas.

To speed up the process with JPEG2000, we at Fastvideo have developed our own implementation of the JPEG 2000 codec. Our solution is based on NVIDIA CUDA technology, thanks to which it’s now possible to make a parallel implementation of the coder and decoder using all CPU and GPU cores.

As a consequence, the Fastvideo solution performs much better in comparison to the competition and provides fundamentally new capabilities for users. We believe that our solution will encourage more people to use JP2 format, as well as significantly speed up JP2 processing for people who already use it. Our goal is to make high-quality images much more accessible for specialists in application areas where the original image quality is required by default (e.g., science and healthcare).


Other info from Fastvideo concerning JPEG 2000 solutions

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