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Neural Image Compression: Generalization, Robustness, and Spectral Biases

Kelsey Lieberman · James Diffenderfer · Charles Godfrey · Bhavya Kailkhura

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #722
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[ Paper [ Poster [ OpenReview
Wed 13 Dec 8:45 a.m. PST — 10:45 a.m. PST


Recent advances in neural image compression (NIC) have produced models that are starting to outperform classic codecs. While this has led to growing excitement about using NIC in real-world applications, the successful adoption of any machine learning system in the wild requires it to generalize (and be robust) to unseen distribution shifts at deployment. Unfortunately, current research lacks comprehensive datasets and informative tools to evaluate and understand NIC performance in real-world settings. To bridge this crucial gap, first, this paper presents a comprehensive benchmark suite to evaluate the out-of-distribution (OOD) performance of image compression methods. Specifically, we provide CLIC-C and Kodak-C by introducing 15 corruptions to the popular CLIC and Kodak benchmarks. Next, we propose spectrally-inspired inspection tools to gain deeper insight into errors introduced by image compression methods as well as their OOD performance. We then carry out a detailed performance comparison of several classic codecs and NIC variants, revealing intriguing findings that challenge our current understanding of the strengths and limitations of NIC. Finally, we corroborate our empirical findings with theoretical analysis, providing an in-depth view of the OOD performance of NIC and its dependence on the spectral properties of the data. Our benchmarks, spectral inspection tools, and findings provide a crucial bridge to the real-world adoption of NIC. We hope that our work will propel future efforts in designing robust and generalizable NIC methods. Code and data will be made available at

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