A Frequency Domain Neural Network for Fast Image Super-resolution

12/08/2017 ∙ by Junxuan Li, et al. ∙ Australian National University 0

In this paper, we present a frequency domain neural network for image super-resolution. The network employs the convolution theorem so as to cast convolutions in the spatial domain as products in the frequency domain. Moreover, the non-linearity in deep nets, often achieved by a rectifier unit, is here cast as a convolution in the frequency domain. This not only yields a network which is very computationally efficient at testing but also one whose parameters can all be learnt accordingly. The network can be trained using back propagation and is devoid of complex numbers due to the use of the Hartley transform as an alternative to the Fourier transform. Moreover, the network is potentially applicable to other problems elsewhere in computer vision and image processing which are often cast in the frequency domain. We show results on super-resolution and compare against alternatives elsewhere in the literature. In our experiments, our network is one to two orders of magnitude faster than the alternatives with an imperceptible loss of performance.



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1 Introduction

Image super-resolution is a classical problem which has found application in areas such as video processing [7], light field imaging [3] and image reconstruction [9].

Given its importance, super-resolution has attracted ample attention in the image processing and computer vision community. Early approaches to super-resolution are often based upon the rationale that higher-resolution images have a frequency domain representation whose higher-order components are greater than their lower-resolution analogues. Thus, methods such as that in [29] exploited the shift and aliasing properties of the Fourier transform to recover a super-resolved image. Kim et al. [15] extended the method in [29] to settings where noise and spatial blurring are present in the input image. In a related development, in [4], super-resolution in the frequency domain is effected using Tikhonov regularization.

Alternative approaches, however, effect super-resolution by aggregating multiple frames with complementary spatial information or by relating the higher-resolved image to the lower resolution one by a sparse linear system. For instance, Baker and Kanade [1] formulated the problem in a regularization setting where the examples are constructed using a pyramid approach. Protter et al. [22]

used block matching to estimate a motion model and use exemplars to recover super-resolved videos. Yang

et al. [31] used sparse coding to perform super-resolution by learning a dictionary that can then be used to produce the output image, by linearly combining learned exemplars.

Note that, the idea of super-solution “by example” can be viewed as hinging on the idea of learning functions so as to map a lower-resolution image to a higher-resolved one using exemplar pairs. This is right at the center of the philosophy driving deep convolutional networks, where the net is often considered to learn a non-linear mapping between the input and the output. In fact, Dong et al. present in [6] a deep convolutional network for single-image super-resolution which is equivalent to the sparse coding approach in [31]. In a similar development, Kim et al. [14] present a deep convolutional network inspired by VGG-net [26]. The network in [14] is comprised of 20 layers so as to exploit the image context across image regions. In [13], a multi-frame deep network for video super-resolution is presented. The network employs motion compensated frames as input and single-image pre-training.

Figure 1: Diagram of our network with a single-layer. The input feature map obtained by transforming the image into the frequency domain is point-wise multiplied with the weighting matrices. After the weighting operation, the result is convolved and added to obtain the output frequency feature map that can then be transformed into the spatial domain to recover the predicted residual. Note that, in our network, the weighting matrices are the same size as the input feature map.

2 Contribution

Here, we present a computationally efficient frequency domain deep network for super-resolution which, at input, takes the frequency domain representation of the lower resolution image and, at output, recovers the residual in the frequency domain. This residual can then be added to the lower resolution input image to obtain the super-resolved image. The network presented here is somewhat related to those above, but there are a number of important differences with respect to other approaches. Its important to note that:

  • Following our frequency domain interpretation of deep networks, the convolutions in other networks are treated here as multiplications. This has the well known advantages of lower computational cost and added computational efficiency.

  • Following the frequency domain treatment to the problem as presented here, the non-linearity in the network is given by convolutions in the frequency domain. This contrasts with the work in [23], which employs spectral pooling instead.

  • In contrast with deep network architectures elsewhere, where the non-linearity is often attained using an activation function such as a rectified linear unit (ReLU)

    [10], we can learn the analogue convolutional parameters in the frequency domain in a manner akin to that used by CNNs in the spatial domain.

  • We use residual training since its not only known to deal with the vanishing gradients well and often improve convergence, but its also particularly well suited to our net. This is following the notion that the lower resolved image lacks the higher frequencies in high-resolution imagery and, thus, these can be learned by the network based on the residual.

  • Finally, we employ the Hartley transform as an alternative to the Fourier transform so as to avoid the need to process imaginary numbers.

Figure 2: Simplified diagram of our network with multiple layers. Each of these layers accounts for a product-convolution-addition step as presented in Figure 1. Here, the lower-resolved image is transformed into the frequency domain and then, after the final additive layer, the predicted residual is transformed back into the spatial domain. The residual and input images are then added to obtain the higher-resolved output image.

3 Spatial and Frequency Domains

3.1 Convolutional Neural Networks

Note that most of the convolutional neural networks nowadays are variants of ImageNet

[16]. Moreover, from a signal processing point of view, these networks can be considered to work on the “spatial” image domain111Here, we adopt the terminology often used in image processing and computer vision when comparing spatial and frequency domain representations. We have done this so as to be consistent with longstanding work on integral transforms such as Fourier, Cosine and Mellin transforms elsewhere in the literature.. In these networks, each layer is comprised of a set of convolutional operations followed by an activation function.

To better understand the relationship between these networks in the spatial domain and ours, which operates in the frequency domain, recall that the two-dimensional discrete convolutions at the layer can be expressed as


where denotes the feature map delivered by the previous layer, i.e. that indexed , in the network and is the convolutional kernel of order in the corresponding layer. In the equation above, we have used and as the spatial coordinates (rows and columns) in the image under consideration.

At each layer, this convolutional stage is followed by an activation function which induces the non-linearity in the behavior of the network. Nonetheless there are a number of choices of activation function, i.e. sigmoid, binary, identity, etc., the most widely used one is ReLU, which can be expressed mathematically using a product with a Heaviside function as follows

where is the Heaviside function which yields if , if and if . In the expressions above, and so as to be consistent with Equation 1, we have used as the input to the rectifier unit.

3.2 Fourier Transform

Equations 1 and 3.1 hint at the use of the convolution theorem of the Fourier transform to obtain an analogue of spatial domain CNNs in the frequency domain. Further, the convolution theorem as widely known for the Fourier transform has similar instantiations for other closely related integral transforms. For now, and for the sake of clarity, we will focus on the Fourier transform. Later on in the paper, we will elaborate further on the use of the Hartley transform as an alternative to the Fourier transform in our implementation.

The convolution theorem states that given two functions in spatial (time) domain, their convolution is given by their point-wise multiplication in the frequency domain. For the sake of consistency with Equations 1 and 3.1, let and be the two spatial domain functions under consideration and denote the Fourier transform operator as , then we have


where denotes point-wise product.

Moreover, the converse relation also holds, whereby a product in the spatial domain becomes a convolution in the frequency domain. i.e.

where we have employed to denote a generic activation function which, in our case can also be learnt. Note that the second line in the equation above follows from substituting Equation 3 into the first line.

4 Network Structure

Note that, in the Equation 3.2, the term acts as a “weighting” operation in the frequency domain. That is, through the point-wise product operation, it curtails or amplifies the frequency domain components of . These frequency weighting operations take place of the original convolution operation in spatial domain convolutional neural networks such as ImageNet [16]. Similarly, the nonlinear operator given by the rectifier units in CNNs is now substituted, in the frequency domain, by a convolution. This can be viewed as a smoothing or regularization operation in the frequency domain.

In Figure 1, we show a single-layer instantiation of our frequency domain network. Note that, at input, the image is transformed into the frequency domain. Once this has been effected, the frequency weighting step takes place, i.e. the pointwise multiplication operation, and then a convolution is applied. Once the outputs of all the convolutional outputs are obtained, they are summed together by an additive layer and the inverse of the frequency domain transform is applied so as to obtain the final result. Its worth noting that we have not incorporated a spectral or spatial pooling layer in our network. This is not a major issue in our approach since these pooling layers are often used for classification tasks [16] whereas in other applications, such as super-resolution, pooling is seldom used [6].

4.1 Weighting

As mentioned above, the product can be viewed as a frequency weighting operation equivalent to the convolution operation in time domain. As before, consider a feature map at a given layer in the network and the convolutional kernel .

For the layer under consideration, the product will take the frequency domain of the feature map as an input and point-wise multiply it by a wight matrix given by the values of . In practice, both, and

can be viewed as matrices which are the same size. This is important since it permits us to pose the problem of performing the forward pass and backpropagation steps in a manner analogous to that used in CNNs operating in the time domain.

To see this more clearly, denote as the input matrix corresponding to to the th layer of our frequency domain network. Similarly, let the weight matrix corresponding to the coefficients of be . The output of the product of the two matrices is another matrix, which we denote and whose entries indexed are given given by


where and are the entries indexed of the matrices and , respectively, and we have introduced the bias matrix with entries .

Moreover, the Fourier transform of an image, being real and non-negative, is conjugate-symmetric222It can be shown in a straightforward manner that this symmetry property also applies to the Hartley transform.. This is important since, by noting that should be Hermitian, we can reduce the number of learnt weights by half.

4.2 Smoothing

As shown in Figure 1, once the weighting operation is effected, a convolution in the frequency domain, analogous to the rectification operation in the spatial domain is applied. This is inspired upon Equation 3.2, which hints at the notion that we can express the ReLU as a product between a Heaviside function and its argument. Again, in practice, this can be expressed as follows


Where is the corresponding entry of the matrix as presented in the previous section and are the coefficients of the matrix containing the values of .

From the equation above is straightforward to note that the entries of the matrix are a linear combination of the values of where the matrix can be viewed as a kernel that can be learnt. Thus, here, we consider the entries of as parameters that can be updated at each back-propagation step. This, in turn, allows us to learn both, the weights in as well as the parameters in .

Figure 3:

Loss comparison as a function of low-to-high resolution factors. All the loss function values,

i.e. , , Exp-, are computed in frequency domain and normalized to unit at their extrema.
Figure 4: Cross-validation performance of our network as a function of testing time. The text over a point denotes the number of layers , smoothing matrix size and the number of weighting matrices per layer , respectively. All the variants of the network were tested on the Set14 dataset with an upscaling factor of 2.
Figure 5: Frequency domain feature maps for each layer in our network. Here we also show the input image and predicted residual in the spatial domain.

4.3 Additive Layer

Recall that, in applications such as super-resolution, frequency domain approaches aim at recovering or predicting a whole frequency map corresponding to either the enhanced or super-resolved image. As a result, instead of a prediction layer, our network adds the output of all the network feature maps into a single one at output and then applies a final frequency weighting operation. This additive layer can be expressed as follows


where is the number of layers in the network, denotes the Hadamard (entrywise) product, is the final frequency weighting matrix, is the prediction of our network in the frequency domain and is the weight that controls the contribution of the layer feature map to the output.

In the equation above, is given by summing over all the matrices for each layer . In our network, we do not require this sum to have independent weights since these can be absorbed, in a straightforward manner, into the matrices . Thus, for this layer, in practice, we only learn the matrix .

In Figure 2 we show the simplified diagram of our complete network. Note that the output of each layer is a frequency feature map which is the same size as the input. The output of each layer is then added and weighted by the additive layer. We then compute the spatial domain residual by applying the inverse transform to the frequency domain output of our network and add the predicted residual to the input image so as to compute the super-resolved output.

5 Implementation and Discussion

5.1 Hartley vs Fourier Transform

As mentioned earlier, the implementation of our network makes use of the Hartley transform [11] as an alternative to the Fourier transform. The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, the Hartley transform is closely related to the Fourier transform and, hence, shares analogue properties. Secondly, the Hartley transform takes at input real numbers and delivers, at output, real numbers. This has the advantage that, by using the Hartley transform, we do not need to cater for complex numbers in our implementation.

Here, we have used the fast Hartley transform introduced by Bracewell [5]. The Hartley transform can be expressed using the real and imaginary parts of the Fourier transform as follows


where we have used for the sake of consistency with previous sections. Moreover, the Hartley transform is an involution, that is, the inverse is given by itself, i.e. .

It is worth noting that, from Equation 8, its straightforward to show that, since the Fourier transform is linear as are the matrices , the weighting operation in our network applies, in a straightforward manner to the Hartley transform without any loss of generality. In the case of the Hartley transform, the convolution theorem has the same form as that of the Fourier transform [5], and, hence, we can write Equation 3.2 as follows

Figure 6: Smoothing matrices across the 6 layers in our network trained on the full dataset with an upscaling factor of 2. In the figure, the columns account for different layers.
Figure 7: Qualitative comparison for an upscaling factor of on “Lena”, “Barbara” and a sample image from the B100 dataset. Here we show a detail of the results yielded by our method and those delivered by LapSRN [17], SelfEx [12], SRCNN [6].

5.2 Training

For training our network, we have used the mini-batch gradient descent method proposed by LeCun et al. [18]. When training our network, the layers at the end, i.e. those closer to the final additive layer, tend to have a gradient that is small in magnitude as compared to the first layers. The reason being that, due to the architecture of our network, as shown in Figure 2, the first layers (those closer to the input) will accumulate the gradient contributions of the deeper layers in the network. This is a problem akin to that in [6], which was tackled by the VDSR [14]

approach by applying gradient clipping in the back propagation step

[20]. As a result, we follow [14] and normalize the gradient at each layer to a fixed range . Thus, the parameters at the layer can only change within a fixed range . In our implementation, we set and for all layers.

5.3 Residual and Choice of Loss Function

For our loss function, we consider a number of alternatives. These are the L1 (), L2 () and L2 with exponential decay () loss functions. These are defined as follows


where denotes the -norm under consideration, is a hyper-parameter, is the matrix corresponding to the ground-truth high resolution image in the frequency domain and accounts for the frequency domain image recovered by our network. This is yielded by the sum of the prediction of our network as given in Equation 7 and the input to our network in the frequency domain, i.e. , which can be expressed as


It is worth mentioning in passing that, in accordance with the observations made in [14], we also find that the use of residual learning improved the accuracy and converge speed of our network in the frequency domain. In Figure 3, we show a comparison of the three loss functions under consideration. In the figure, we show the loss values, normalized to unity, as a function of the low-resolution image scale factor of with respect to . In the figure, we have set . Note that the L2 loss is almost linear with respect to the scale factor. Moreover, in our experiments, we found that the L2 loss performed the best with respect to both, convergence and speed. As a result, all the experiments shown hereafter employ the L2 loss.

Bicubic A+[28] SRCNN[6] VDSR[14] LapSRN[17] Ours
2 33.66/0.930 36.54/0.954 36.66/0.954 37.53/0.958 37.25/0.957 35.20/0.943
Set5[2] 3 30.39/0.868 32.58/0.908 32.75/0.909 33.66/0.921 34.06/0.924 31.42/0.883
4 28.42/0.810 30.28/0.860 30.48/0.862 31.35/0.883 31.33/0.881 29.35/0.827
2 30.24/0.868 32.28/0.905 32.42/0.906 33.03/0.912 32.96/0.910 31.40/0.895
Set14[32] 3 27.55/0.774 29.13/0.818 29.28/0.820 29.77/0.831 29.97/0.836 28.32/0.802
4 26.00/0.702 27.32/0.749 27.49/0.750 28.01/0.767 28.06/0.768 26.62/0.727
2 29.56/0.843 31.21/0.886 31.36/0.887 31.90/0.896 31.68/0.892 30.58/0.877
B100[19] 3 27.21/0.738 28.29/0.783 28.41/0.786 28.82/0.797 28.92/0.802 27.79/0.772
4 25.96/0.667 26.82/0.708 26.90/0.710 27.29/0.725 27.22/0.724 26.42/0.696
Table 1: Quantitative evaluation of our method as compared to state-of-art super-resolution algorithms. Here we show the average PSNR/SSIM for upscale factors of , and for each of the three testing datasets.

6 Experiments

6.1 Datasets

Recall that DRRN[27] and VSDN[14] use 200 images in Berkeley Segmentation Dataset[19] combined with 91 images from Yang et al. [31]. This set of images has also been used for training in other approaches [17, 25]. These methods often use techniques such as data augmentation, i.e. application of transformations such as rotation, scaling and flipping transformations to generate novel images so as to complement the ones in the dataset. It is important to note, however, that these rotation, scaling and flipping in the spatial domain become frequency shift and scaling operations. Moreover, the dataset above, comprised of 291 images and their augmentation is, in practice, too small to allow for cross-validation of parameters.

Thus, here we have opted for a two-stage process using 5000 randomly selected images from the Pascal VOC2012 dataset [8] for training and Set5 [2], Set14 [32] and B100 [19] for testing. The first stage corresponds to a cross-validation process of the parameters used in our network employing 800 images out of the 5000 in our dataset for training and Set14 for testing. Also, for cross-validation, we have resized the image to and used a scale factor of 2 on the dataset so as to obtain the images that are used as input to our network. After cross-validation, and once the parameters have been selected, the second stage is to proceed to train and test our network on the whole dataset and the three testing sets. In all our experiments, we have taken the color imagery and performed super-resolution on the Y channel in the YCbCr space [21].

6.2 Parameter Selection

We have selected, through cross-validation, the number of layers in the network, the size of the matrices and the number of weighting matrices per layer. In all our experiments we have used squared matrices ,i.e. , and chosen a base line network with , , . We have then progressively increased , and so as to explore the trade-off between timing and performance.

In Figure 4, we show the PSNR as a function of timing for the combinations of , and used in our cross-validation exercise. For the sake of clarity, the time axis is shown in a logarithmic scale. Note that, in general, the networks with or layers seem to deliver the best trade-off between performance and timing. In the figure, , and performs the best while , and also performs well. Thus, and bearing in mind that a deeper network is expected to perform better in a larger dataset, for all the experiments shown here onwards, we set , and .

6.3 Network Behavior

Now, we turn our attention to the behavior of the network in terms of the weighting and smoothing matrices. In Figure 5, we show the feature maps in the frequency domain as yielded by each of the network layers, i.e. the matrices . From the figure, we can appreciate that the feature map for the first layer mainly contains the low frequency information corresponding to the input image. As the layers go deeper, the feature maps become dominated by the high frequency components. This is expected since the aim of prediction in our net is given by the residual, which, in frequency domain, is mainly comprised by higher order frequencies.

Figure 8: Average per-image testing time for our method and the alternatives in milliseconds for upscale factors , and on the three testing datasets. Our methods is a least 10 times faster than LapSRN, 20 times faster than VDSR, 40 times faster and A+ and 200 times faster than SRCNN.

In Figure 6, we show all the smoothing matrices in our network after the training has been completed. Surprisingly, note that matrices in each layer all appear to behave slightly different. In the first layer, the matrices are very much a delta in the frequency domain, while as the layer index increases, they develop non-null entries mainly along the central column and row. This follows the intuition that, for the first layer, the convolution would behave as a multiplicative identity removing lower-order frequency components, whereas, for further layers, the main contribution to its output is given by the central rows and columns.

6.4 Results

Finally, we present our results on image super-resolution. To this end, we first show some qualitative results and then provide a quantitative evaluation of our network performance and testing timing.

In Figure 7, we show a detail of the results yielded by our network and a number of alternatives on the “Barbara”, “Lena” images and a sample image from the B100 dataset. In all cases, we have applied an upscale factor of 3 and show, on the left-hand panel the full ground truth image. Note that our method yields results that are quite comparable to the alternatives. Moreover, for the detail of the “Barbara” image, the aliasing does not have a detrimental effect on the results. This contrasts with LapSRN, where the scarf stripes are over enhanced.

In Table 1 we show the performance of our network as compared to the alternatives. Here, we have used the average per-image peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR) [24] and the structural similarity index (SSIM) [30]. We have chosen these two image quality metrics due to a couple of reasons. Firstly, these have been used extensively for the evaluation of super-resolution results elsewhere in the literature. Secondly, the PSNR is a signal processing approach based upon the mean-squared error whereas the SSIM is a structural similarity measure. From the table, we can observe that despite LapSRN is the best performer, our method is often no more than 2 decibels below LapSRN in terms of the PSNR and within a 0.05 difference in the SSIM.

Further, in Figure 8, we show the average per-image testing time, in milliseconds, for the three test datasets under consideration and three upscale factors, i.e. , and . For all testing datasets our network far outperforms the alternatives, being approximately an order of magnitude faster than LapSRN and more than two orders of magnitude faster than SRCNN.

7 Conclusions

In this paper, we have presented a computationally efficient frequency domain neural network for super-resolution. The network can be viewed as a frequency domain analogue of spatial domain CNNs. To our knowledge, this is the first network of its kind, where rectifier units in the spatial domain are substituted by convolutions in the frequency domain and vice versa. Moreover, the network is quite general in nature and well suited for other applications in computer vision and image processing which are traditionally tackled in the frequency domain. We have presented results an comparison with alternatives elsewhere in the literature. In our experiments, our network is up to more than two orders of magnitude faster than the alternatives with an imperceptible loss of performance.


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