Document management — Electronic imaging — Guidance for the selection of document image compression methods

ISO/TR 12033:2009 gives information to enable a user or electronic image management (EIM) integrator to make an informed decision on selecting compression methods for digital images of business documents. It provides technical guidance to analyse the type of documents and which compression methods are most suitable for particular documents in order to optimize their storage and use. For the user, ISO/TR 12033:2009 provides information on image compression methods incorporated in hardware or software in order to help the user during the selection of equipment in which the methods are embedded. For the equipment or software designer, ISO/TR 12033:2009 provides planning information. ISO/TR 12033:2009 is applicable only to still images in bit map mode. It only takes into account compression algorithms based on well-tested mathematical work.

Gestion de documents — Imagerie électronique — Directives pour le choix des méthodes de compression d'image

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REPORT 12033
First edition

Document management — Electronic
imaging — Guidance for the selection of
document image compression methods
Gestion de documents — Imagerie électronique — Directives pour le
choix des méthodes de compression d'image

Reference number
ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
ISO 2009

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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
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ii © ISO 2009 – All rights reserved

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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
Foreword .iv
1 Scope.1
2 Normative references.1
3 Terms and definitions .1
4 General .3
5 Type of document and digitization parameters .4
5.1 General .4
5.2 Type of documents.4
5.3 Document classification and digitization.4
6 Compression methods and standards.6
6.1 LZW compression (Lempel Ziv Welch) .6
6.2 RLE compression (run-length encoding).6
6.3 ITU-T algorithms.6
6.4 JBIG compression.8
6.5 JBIG2 compression.8
6.6 Discrete cosine transform (DCT) .8
6.7 Fractal compression .8
6.8 Wavelet compression.9
6.9 JPEG compression.9
6.10 JPEG 2000 .10
7 Selection of compression parameters .12
7.1 Pertinence of compression .12
7.2 Selection of a compression method.12
7.3 Adjusting JPEG compression.13
8 Final considerations for the selection of a compression method .14

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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies
(ISO member bodies). The work of preparing International Standards is normally carried out through ISO
technical committees. Each member body interested in a subject for which a technical committee has been
established has the right to be represented on that committee. International organizations, governmental and
non-governmental, in liaison with ISO, also take part in the work. ISO collaborates closely with the
International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) on all matters of electrotechnical standardization.
International Standards are drafted in accordance with the rules given in the ISO/IEC Directives, Part 2.
The main task of technical committees is to prepare International Standards. Draft International Standards
adopted by the technical committees are circulated to the member bodies for voting. Publication as an
International Standard requires approval by at least 75 % of the member bodies casting a vote.
In exceptional circumstances, when a technical committee has collected data of a different kind from that
which is normally published as an International Standard (“state of the art”, for example), it may decide by a
simple majority vote of its participating members to publish a Technical Report. A Technical Report is entirely
informative in nature and does not have to be reviewed until the data it provides are considered to be no
longer valid or useful.
Attention is drawn to the possibility that some of the elements of this document may be the subject of patent
rights. ISO shall not be held responsible for identifying any or all such patent rights.
ISO/TR 12033 was prepared by Technical Committee ISO/TC 171, Document management applications,
Subcommittee SC 2, Application issues.
This first edition of ISO/TR 12033 cancels and replaces ISO/TS 12033:2001, which has been technically
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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
With respect to the rapid increase of applications using digitization techniques, the role of compression
methods has become a factor of growing importance for the management of the volumes of stored data.
The effects of the available compression methods vary greatly, depending on the source documents. For
example, an electronic image management (EIM) system configured for scanning and storing continuous tone
images will have different image compression requirements as compared to an application involving only text.
Practical methods for analysing user requirements for image compression in order to select accurate and
optimal image compression schemes are complex. This Technical Report was issued in order to guide users
and system developers in their selection of these methods.

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Document management — Electronic imaging — Guidance for
the selection of document image compression methods
1 Scope
This Technical Report gives information to enable a user or electronic image management (EIM) integrator to
make an informed decision on selecting compression methods for digital images of business documents. It
provides technical guidance to analyse the type of documents and which compression methods are most
suitable for particular documents in order to optimize their storage and use.
For the user, this Technical Report provides information on image compression methods incorporated in
hardware or software in order to help the user during the selection of equipment in which the methods are
For the equipment or software designer, this Technical Report provides planning information.
This Technical Report is applicable only to still images in bit map mode. It only takes into account
compression algorithms based on well-tested mathematical work.
2 Normative references
The following referenced documents are indispensable for the application of this document. For dated
references, only the edition cited applies. For undated references, the latest edition of the referenced
document (including any amendments) applies.
ISO 12651:1999, Electronic imaging — Vocabulary
3 Terms and definitions
For the purposes of this document, the terms and definitions given in ISO 12651 and the following apply.
process of removing redundancies in digital data to reduce the amount that should be stored or transmitted
NOTE Lossless compression removes only enough redundancy so that the original data can be recreated exactly as
it was. Lossy compression sacrifices additional data to achieve greater compression. This is typically useful for greyscale
or colour image compression, where details that are not perceptible, or are minimally perceptible, to the human eye can be
eliminated, normally with a dramatic increase in compression. It is advisable that lossy compression not be used for
documents containing textual information and not be used for long term archival of any type of documents.
number of pixels per unit of length
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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
dots per inch
number of dots that a scanner (printer) can scan (print) per inch both horizontally or vertically
visual sensation that enables an observer to detect luminance
ratio of on pixel brightness to off pixel brightness
bit level
number of bits used to define a pixel
luminous flux emitted from a surface
NOTE The former term was photometric brightness.
colour portion of the video signal including hue and saturation but not brightness
NOTE Low chroma means the colour picture looks pale or washed out; high chroma means intense colour; black,
grey and white have a chrominance equal to zero.
ITU-T Group 3 and Group 4
compression algorithms standards defined by the ITU-T in Recommendations T.4 and T.6
Joint Photographic Experts Group
name of the committee that developed the ISO/IEC 10918 series which shares the same popular name
NOTE The “J” refers to the joint development with the ITU-T.
Comité Consultatif International Télégraphique et Téléphonique
former name of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standardization body
compression ratio
relationship of the total bits used to represent the original to the total number of encoded bits
Joint Bi-level Image Experts Group
name of the sub committee that developed ISO/IEC 11544
NOTE The joint committee is with ITU-T. JBIG and JPEG are managed by ISO/IEC JTC1/SC 29/Working Group 1.
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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
4 General
In a document imaging system, users are concerned about the quality of archived images, for two reasons:
a) it can affect the imaging system's future in the medium or even long-term;
b) it is necessary to choose the imaging tools based on an evolving technology.
The digitization process, which by nature transforms an image conveying comprehensible information into a
dematerialized one, changes the observer's perception of that image. The observer may consider the image
as being improved, though more frequently he considers it degraded. In fact, images undergo a number of
successive transformations at different points during the digitization process. At each of these stages,
attempts are made to keep the image within acceptable legibility limits, but also to restrict its size to within
acceptable economic limits.
The specific role of one of the digitization stages ― compression ― is to reduce the size of the image. Some
compression methods are reversible in that the decompression algorithm restores the initial digital information.
These methods are lossless and have no impact on the quality of the image as it is perceived by the human
eye. Other methods are lossy, and may cause degradation perceptible to the eye. By adjusting certain
parameters, the user can bring a lossy method within acceptable limits; because the acceptance of a lossy
method is a subjective judgement. Any image or document, on which a computerized treatment may be
applied, should not be compressed with such a method. This is one of the major reasons not to use lossy
compression for long-term archiving, as future usage of the image or document is unknown.
While numerous compression methods are described in technical literature, few are stable according to
industrial standards. These are based on a limited number of principles:
⎯ dominance of certain patterns,
⎯ pattern repetition, and
⎯ noticeable mathematical properties.
In any individual method, the number of parameters the user can modify is small.
The choice of a method and compression parameters are in large part determined by two considerations:
a) the characteristics of the document;
b) the period of time the document is to be retained (retention time).
Obviously, the graphical contents of a document play a key role in determining the method and its parameters.
However, other factors characterizing the application context are also very important (see Table 1).
The graphical content of the document is important to the compression process. A business document that
can be copied or faxed as “pure black and pure white” (even if the original was blue ink on yellow paper) are
probably best compressed with the technologies developed by the ITU-T for a facsimile. Colour or grey scale
photos are probably best compressed using one of the JPEG technologies. But if the photo has been
converted to variable size black dots (like many “half-tone” newspaper photos), then JBIG is a superior
compression technology.
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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
5 Type of document and digitization parameters
5.1 General
A document is a set of organized information intended for presentation to a human user. Documents can be a
single page or a set of pages, and can contain arbitrary content types, such as character content, graphical
content, and various types of image content.
The following document content may be found in various types of documents. The classification list hereafter
is somewhat arbitrary, but for a given application, these distinctions may be used to understand how to handle
a given document.
5.2 Type of documents
This clause focuses on only those documents that are most likely to be archived electronically. These
documents include:
⎯ black text on white background, or more technically, dark text on light background (even if the ink
happens to be blue or red or other single colour, on whatever colour paper);
⎯ photographs, i.e. black and white or colour;
⎯ mixed documents containing both text and photographs reproduced by a printing process, i.e. black and
white or colour.
5.3 Document classification and digitization
5.3.1 General
For the purpose of determining a compression scheme, documents may be described in the following five
ways. For each type of document, digitization methods are briefly described.
5.3.2 Black and white documents
Digitizing pages printed in black and white or more generally in bi-tonal mode (primarily text with a unique
foreground on a unique background) generates bi-level images where each pixel is represented by a bit.
The most important digitization parameter is resolution.
Resolution should be determined according to visual perception needs and on the limits of the complete
imaging process. Human eyes will not see noticeable differences on documents digitized at more than
300 dpi. This is the most commonly used resolution to keep quality unaltered. Any resolution under 300 dpi
will have visible effects on the digitized document. A resolution over 300 dpi may be needed when
computerized treatment is done on the document. Also, 300 dpi is the resolution limit of the human eye and
should be considered as the needed resolution at the visual size, i.e. if the zooming factor to visualize is 4, a
resolution of 1 200 dpi on the original size will provide 300 dpi on the visual size.
There are also other parameters, related to image processing, which vary according to the kind of image. If,
for example, the images to be digitized are text, then it is advisable to produce black characters that are
sharply defined against a white background. The brightness (adjusting the colour of a pixel against a
threshold) and contrast parameters (adjusting the colour of a pixel against that of the surrounding pixels)
should be adjusted for this purpose.
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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
5.3.3 Grey scale documents
This form of representation is applied to photographic documents, printed on paper from a black and white
Digitization changes an initially continuous document into a matrix of pixels whose intensity is encoded in a
range of levels. Thus, 8-bit encoding produces 256 grey scales.
The number of grey scales or the bit level should be determined according to visual perception needs and the
limits of the complete imaging process. Quality tests have demonstrated that human eyes will not see
noticeable differences on grey scale images coded with more than 8 bits. Therefore 8 bits encoding is the
most common value.
5.3.4 Pseudo-grey or halftone documents
This category includes images that simulate grey using a variable arrangement of black and white pixels.
There are two possibilities:
⎯ the source document is a photographic reproduction in a text; it was produced using a printing technique
and is, itself, a pseudo-grey document (a raster image can simulate grey by a pattern of black and white
⎯ the source document is a photographic original, but was digitized in pseudo-grey for performance
reasons, for example to reduce the storage volume or transmission times on a network.
5.3.5 Colour documents
This form of representation is applied to photographic documents, printed on paper from a colour
photographic original. Another application is digital colour capture of business documents where yellow
highlights, colour boxes, pencil, red pen, etc., is a part of the information capture integrity.
Colour documents are intended to be restored in colour, but may also be reproduced in grey scale.
Colour representation is based on the neuro-physiological properties of the human eye, notably the “visual
trivariance” principle, which states that all colours can be produced by combining the three primary colours.
Thus, a colour can be represented by three coordinates in a vector space based on primary colours, or by
linear combinations of these coordinates.
The colour space most frequently adopted for electronic displays uses an additive of red, green and blue
colours. These colours are differentiated by the retinal cones in the eye. Another colour space decouples the
variables into one “luminance” variable, and two “chrominance” variables. This colour space is used to
transmit television signal.
The most frequently used colour space in printing is of cyan, magenta, and yellow colours. A printed digital
image emits light indirectly by reflecting light that falls upon it. For example, a page printed in yellow absorbs
(hence this is called a subtractive colour space) the blue component of white light and reflects the remaining
red and green components, thereby creating a similar effect as a monitor emitting red and green light. Hence
the printing industry mixes cyan, magenta, and yellow inks to create all other colours. Combining these
subtractive primary colours will generate black, but in practice black ink is used, hence the term “CMYK”
colour space, the last character “K” standing for black.
In a digitized colour image, each pixel is represented by assembling three components corresponding to the
primary colours. The bit level adopted for a component determines the quality of hues; the standard of 8 bits
per component can represent 256 = 16 million different colours. Representations on a total of 8 bits sent by
data communication networks are also fairly frequent.
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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
5.3.6 Mixed documents
Many documents to be archived as pure raster/bitmap images are composed of pages of text containing
graphic elements and/or photographic images. There is no completely satisfactory way of representing this
type of document:
⎯ a bi-level representation would make illustrations illegible;
⎯ a grey scale or colour representation to preserve illustrations would provide the best quality, but would
make storage volumes disproportionately large with respect to the importance of the illustrations (note
that there are possible trade-offs between resolution and bit level of grey scale or colour image files).
In many mixed documents, text is considered more important, so a bi-level representation would be used to
draw black characters on a white background. The photos would either be lost, or would have to be separated
from the text for appropriate representation. In most cases, text and photos can be automatically and
successfully separated using segmentation algorithms. Sometimes, segmentation can lead to loss of
information (such as captions under photos, or unusual typographic arrangements).
6 Compression methods and standards
6.1 LZW compression (Lempel Ziv Welch)
This method was a patented Unisys method until June 20, 2003 when the patent expired. It is commonly used
to compress black and white images, and is part of the GIF implementation. ISO 19005 (PDF/A) forbids the
use of this algorithm for long term preservation of data.
LZ77 and FLATE compressions are derived from or preliminary to LZW. As such, they are both contained in
the above description.
6.2 RLE compression (run-length encoding)
This method takes into account runs of identical symbols inside data streams (such as characters in an ASCII
text). Each data stream is encoded with the number of occurrences of the repetitive elements and the length
of the stream.
An RLE algorithm can operate at the bit, byte or pixel level. The basic algorithm works one line at a time, but
some variations can also work vertically, taking into account repeating characters in adjacent lines. The RLE
method is normally lossless, although to improve efficiency, some variations drop lower-order bits, resulting in
This method is not very efficient for texts and complex photos, because there are few long sequences. It is
most efficient for images with large areas of uniform colour.
6.3 ITU-T algorithms
6.3.1 General
ITU-T has defined a series of protocols for transmitting images via facsimile. These protocols are officially
named T.4 and T.6, but are popularly known as the Group 3 and Group 4 methods. The compression
methods used in archiving are variations of ITU-T. ITU-T may contain end-of-line and end-of-message codes
to simplify fax transmissions. These codes are superfluous when these methods are used for archiving.
ITU-T compression types are based on run length encoding using variations of the Huffman algorithm.
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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
ITU-T defines three fax standards, which are used for compressing bi-level images:
⎯ Group 3 modified Huffman (MH) — a one-dimensional compression method (G3 1D);
⎯ Group 3 modified Read (MR) — a two-dimensional compression method (G3 2D);
⎯ Group 4 modified MR (MMR) — a two-dimensional compression method (G4).
6.3.2 Group 3 one-dimensional method (G3 1D)
The Group 3 one-dimensional method (G3 1D) is a variation of the Huffman algorithm. In a bi-level image,
each scanned line alternates variable-length zones, composed of black or white pixels. The Group 3 encoder
determines the length of each black or white zone, called the run length, and looks up the corresponding code
words in the Huffmann table.
Compression occurs because the code words are shorter than the zones they represent. Each code word
represents a zone length corresponding to either white or black.
Group 3 is the basic compression algorithm used in Group 3 fax transmission.
The length of the code words was determined when the method was created, based on static observations of
typed and hand-written documents. Run lengths with a high probability of occurrence were assigned the
shortest code words.
NOTE Although ITU-T compression was initially designed for text documents, it can also be applied to raster photos,
although it is less efficient.
Sequences of pixels are represented by two types of code words:
a) configuration code words;
b) termination code words.
Configuration code words represent long zones and termination code words represent short zones. A zone
with a length of between 0 and 63 bits is encoded in a termination code word. A stream of between 64 and
2 623 bits is encoded in a configuration code word corresponding to the quotient of the length divided by 64; a
termination code word can be added for the remainder. A stream with a length of over 2 623 bits is encoded
as a series of configuration code words to which a termination code word can be added.
This one-dimensional encoding scheme eliminates redundancy only within each scan line, left to right. It does
not reduce the redundancy between scan lines, up and down.
6.3.3 Group 3 two-dimensional method (G3 2D) and Group 4 method
Where the Group 3 one-dimensional method deals with each scan line of an image individually, the Group 3
two-dimensional method takes advantage of frequently occurring similarities between two successive lines in
the same image.
G3 2D is defined as an option of Group 3, which restricts itself to a small number of lines inserted between
“one-dimensional” lines. Group 4 uses the same algorithm.
Like G3 1D, the G3 2D algorithm uses breakpoints that separate different colours in a single line (“mutant
elements”). In creating an encoded representation of the image, the algorithm takes into account the mutant
elements not only in a single line, but also in two adjacent lines. Thus, in addition to the code words used in
G3 1D, the G3 2D and G4 methods use code words representing the distance and relative arrangement of
mutant elements in two or more adjacent lines.
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ISO/TR 12033:2009(E)
6.4 JBIG compression
JBIG is the abbreviation of Joint Bi-level Image Group. As its name indicates, this method is used for bi-level
images. It is used primarily for text (like T.4 and T.6), though it can also be used for raster photos in printed
documents (unlike T.4 and T.6). According to its authors, JBIG is as efficient as T.4 and T.6 for pure text, and
2 to 30 times more efficient for raster photos. Like T.4 and T.6, JBIG is lossless.
The method uses progressive encoding, which manipulates resolution. This encoding system initially transmits
images in low resolution (e.g. 25 dpi). Then the resolution is progressively doubled until the resolution of the
original image is obtained. There are two advantages to this progressive method:
a) it analyses images with just the necessary degree of detail;
b) it can adapt the resolution of an image according to the charact

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