METHOD AND RELATIVE DEVICE FOR ESTIMATING WHITE GAUSSIAN NOISE THAT CORRUPTS A DIGITAL IMAGE
A method for estimating the white Gaussian noise level that corrupts a digital image by discriminating homogeneous blocks from blocks containing a textured area and skipping these last blocks when evaluating the noise standard deviation.
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1. Technical Field
This disclosure relates in general to algorithms for filtering digital images and more particularly to a method and to an implementing device for estimating white Gaussian noise that corrupts a digital image.
2. Description of the Related Art
Pixel intensity fluctuations in homogeneous area of digital images are mainly due to random noise. For this reason, these areas are analyzed for obtaining noise statistic figures. Examples of methods for estimating noise are disclosed in A. Amer, E. Dubois, “Fast and Reliable StructureOriented Video Noise Estimation,” IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems for Video Technology, Vol. 15, No 1 (January 2005), and DH. Shin, RH Park, S. Yang, JH Jung, “BlockBased Noise Estimation Using Adaptive Gaussian Filtering,” IEEE Transactions on Consumer Electronics, Vol. 51, No. 1 (February 2005).
A typical approach for estimating noise standard deviations consists in subdividing the image in nonoverlapped blocks. Noise standard deviations are calculated by processing pixel values in homogeneous blocks and finally noise levels are estimated in function of all the measured local variances.
Another technique consists in prefiltering an image A acquired using a lowpass filter. This operation generates a filtered image A_{S }that is subtracted by the original noisy image A, thus the noise image is given by the following equation:
{tilde over (η)}(i,j)=A(i,j)−A_{S}(i,j)
wherein {tilde over (η)} is used for estimating the noise standard deviation {tilde over (σ)}.
Another nonlinear method that carries out the step of estimating the parameter {tilde over (σ)} by using temporally adjacent frames of an image sequence, is described in F. Russo, “A Method for Estimation and Filtering of Gaussian Noise in Images,” IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, Vol. 52, No. 4 (August 2003).
Algorithms for eliminating noise from digital images use estimations of noise levels such to adjust the characteristics of the filtering. Routines for estimating the noise level should be fast and reliable in order to have filtering devices of digital images with good performances. With a fast evaluation of the noise level it is possible to obtain a faster filtering system, and a reliable estimation allows the filtering system to adjust lightening conditions and image characteristics.
Generally, it is supposed that images to be processed are corrupted by additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN), that is:
i) noise is additive: a random value is added to each pixel;
ii) noise is white: noise level in a pixel does not depend from the noise level in any other pixel;
iii) noise is Gaussian: noise intensity values are distributed according to a Gaussian distribution.
The Probability Density Function (PDF) is:
wherein μ and σ are the mean and the standard deviation of the distribution, respectively.
The hypothesis of additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN) is done because by adding independent signals with different PDFs a signal with a Gaussian PDF is generated. Another classic hypothesis in digital image processing consists in considering a zero mean AWGN.
The main parameter to be estimated for determining the zero mean AWGN noise level is the variance of the standard deviation of the error distribution.
The image to be processed is subdivided in nonoverlapped blocks of fixed size and the standard deviation for each block is calculated. Let us suppose that the smallest standard deviations be present in homogeneous blocks in which the pixel variations are due practically only to random noise.
Given a set of n normally distributed independent stochastic variables, a nonbiased estimator of the variance is:
wherein
Calculating S^{2 }requires numerous operations, that must be repeated for each pixel belonging to the homogeneous area as long as a sufficient amount of samples has been collected.
Substantially, in order to estimate the local standard deviation for each pixel of a homogeneous region by using the above described approach, the following operations are performed:
i) carrying out the calculations required by a texture analyzer for determining a texturedegree, that gives the information about the texture of the image represented in the image portion being processed;
ii) estimating the mean value of the pixel intensity of the working window of the filter which the current pixel belongs to;
iii) adding the squares of the differences between each pixel of the mask and the mean value;
iv) dividing by n−1;
v) averaging on all local variances;
vi) extracting the square root of the final variance for obtaining the standard deviation.
The above known algorithm requires a considerably large number of calculations and as a consequence it is relatively time consuming.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTIONIn an embodiment, a method for estimating the white Gaussian noise level that corrupts a digital image that is accurate and much faster than known methods has been found.
Differently from known methods, an embodiment of the method does not need to obtain an image of the noise that corrupts an ideal image, and may quickly calculate the standard deviation of the white Gaussian noise by processing directly the noise corrupted image as captured by the sensors. The method discriminates homogeneous blocks from blocks containing a textured area and skips these last blocks for evaluating the noise standard deviation. This may be done because the standard deviation of intensity of pixels of textured areas are likely to have a much larger standard deviation than that of the noise that corrupts the image to be filtered.
More precisely, the image is split in blocks to be processed and for each block a maximum value of the standard deviation of the difference among the pixels of the block is established. Then for each pixel a working window centered thereon is considered and the absolute values of the differences between the intensity of the central pixel of the working window and of the other pixels of the window are evaluated.
In case of Bayer images, only pixels of the same color of the central pixel of the working window may be considered for calculating absolute values of the differences.
In one embodiment, if the calculated absolute values are all smaller than a threshold in function of the maximum value of the standard deviation, then the current working window is treated as containing pixels that belong to a homogeneous region. The threshold may be predetermined, adjustable, or a function. If at least one of these differences is larger than the threshold, the working window is treated as a nonhomogeneous region and thus the pixel is not considered for estimating the standard deviation of the noise. Thereafter, a working window centered on the next pixel may be evaluated.
The distribution of the absolute values of the differences of pixel intensities belonging to homogeneous regions is stored and is processed for calculating the noise standard deviation.
According to an embodiment of the method, the standard deviation for the current block is the value larger than 68% of the stored absolute values.
Once an estimation of the standard deviation for the first block has been obtained, the maximum value of the standard deviation for the next block to be processed in function of the obtained value for the just processed block is established.
In some embodiments, the maximum value of the standard deviation is the same for all blocks of a same image.
In one embodiment, a method of automatically estimating white Gaussian noise that corrupts a digital image comprises (a) subdividing the image to be processed in blocks, (b) determining a maximum standard deviation of absolute values of differences among pixels of a block, (c) for each pixel of the block, performing the steps of: calculating absolute values of differences of intensities between the pixel and homogeneous pixels contained in a working window centered on the pixel; comparing the absolute values of differences with a threshold based on the maximum standard deviation of the block; and classifying the pixel as belonging to a homogeneous portion of the image if the absolute values of the differences are all smaller than the threshold, (d) determining a standard deviation of noise for the block based on pixels classified as belonging to homogeneous portions of the image; (e) setting a maximum standard deviation of differences between pixels for a successive block to be processed, and repeating cd for a successive block. In one embodiment, setting the maximum standard deviation of the successive block to be processed comprises setting the maximum standard deviation for the successive block equal to the maximum standard deviation of the previous block. In one embodiment, setting the maximum standard deviation for the successive block to be processed comprises multiplying the standard deviation established at point d) for the previous block by a square root of 2. In one embodiment, step d) comprises: storing the absolute values of the differences in respect to the pixel; and estimating the noise standard deviation on the block as a standard deviation of the stored absolute values divided by a square root of two. In one embodiment, step d) comprises: establishing at least a lower threshold σ_{0 }and an upper threshold σ_{1}; comparing the absolute value of each of said differences with the lower threshold σ_{1 }and the upper threshold σ_{1}; counting a number of absolute values of said differences that do not exceed said lower threshold; counting a number of absolute values of said differences that do not exceed said upper threshold; counting a number of absolute values of said differences that do not exceed said maximum standard deviation; and estimating said standard deviation by interpolating between said lower and upper threshold as a value divided by the square root of two corresponding to a threshold percentage of the number of absolute values of said differences that do not exceed said maximum standard deviation. In one embodiment, the threshold percentage is 68%. In one embodiment, the lower and upper thresholds and said maximum standard deviation are determined based on a bitdepth and of a size of the image. In one embodiment, the method further comprises limiting the countings to a maximum value. In one embodiment, the method further comprises the step of establishing the lower threshold σ_{0 }and the upper threshold σ_{1 }for the successive block to be processed such that the value corresponding to the threshold percentage is a mean value between the wer and upper thresholds. In one embodiment, the method further comprises receiving the digital image from a color filter array circuit for Bayer images. In one embodiment, the method further comprising filtering white Gaussian noise from the image based on the determined standard deviations of noise for the blocks of the image.
In one embodiment, a computerreadable memory medium stores instructions for causing a processor to perform a method, the method comprising: dividing a digital image into a plurality of blocks; selecting a threshold control value for a block in the plurality of blocks; comparing intensities of pixels in the block to the threshold control value; selecting a set of pixels in the block based on the comparison; and determining a standard deviation of noise for the block based on the set of selected pixels. In one embodiment, selecting the threshold control value for the block in the plurality of blocks comprises setting the threshold control value equal to a threshold control value of a previous block. In one embodiment, the method further comprises setting a threshold control value for a successive block equal to the determined standard deviation for the block multiplied by a square root of 2. In one embodiment, determining the standard deviation of noise for the block based on the set of selected pixels comprises: comparing absolute values of differences of the intensities of pixels in the selected set of pixels and the threshold control value for the block with a lower threshold and an upper threshold; counting a number of absolute values of the differences that are below the lower threshold; counting a number of absolute values of the differences that are below the upper threshold; and counting a number of absolute values of the differences that are below the threshold control value.
In one embodiment, a system for processing digital images, the system comprises: means for selecting pixels in a block of pixels; means for generating an indication of a noise level of a block in an image based on the selected pixels in the block; means for generating a filter control signal coupled to the means for generating an indication of the noise level of the block; and means for filtering the image coupled to the means for generating the filter control signal.
In one embodiment, the means for generating the filter control signal is configured to provide a feedback signal to the means for generating an indication of the noise level of the block. In one embodiment, the indication of the noise level is an estimated standard deviation of noise for the block. In one embodiment, the system further comprises a sensor coupled to the means for selecting pixels and the means for filtering the image.
In one embodiment, an image processor comprises: a noise statistics collector configured to compare pixels in a block of pixels in a digital image to a threshold control value, to select pixels in the block of pixels based on the comparison and to generate an indication of a noise level of the block based on the selected pixels; a control signal generator coupled to the noise statistics collector and configured to generate a filter control signal; and a filter coupled to the control signal generator. In one embodiment, the control signal generator is further configured to provide a feedback signal to the noise statistics collector. In one embodiment, the noise statistics collector is configured to adjust the threshold control value based on the feedback signal.
Embodiments of the methods described herein may be implemented with a software program executed by a computer or a microprocessor, or in a hardware device of this invention.
The invention is described referring to the attached drawings, wherein:
The noise level of an image depends on the characteristics of the sensor and on the light condition.
It may be reasonably assumed that the image cannot contain an arbitrarily high noise level. For this reason, according to an embodiment of a method of this invention the image is subdivided in blocks and it is assumed for the first block that the standard deviation of the differences between pixels due to noise could not exceed a maximum value σ_{max}.
This value can be established a priori or may be estimated in a preliminary phase in which the characteristics of the sensor are estimated in different lightening conditions.
Because of the wide diffusion of Bayer image sensors, solely by way of an example, hereinafter reference will be made to this type of images only, but what will be stated may be applied also for gray scale images or for color images with a different basic color pixel organization.
A Color Filter Array (CFA) of a Bayer image provides three images: green, red and blue. According to an embodiment of a method of this invention, these three images are subdivided in blocks and for each pixel to be filtered a working window centered thereon is used.
In the example of
The absolute values of the differences δ_{0}, δ_{1}, . . . , δ_{7 }between the central pixel P_{C }and the neighboring pixels of the same color are calculated:
δ_{1}=P_{c}−P_{i},i=0, . . . , 7
If δ_{1}ε[0,3σ_{max}] for any i=0, . . . 7, then according to an embodiment of the method of this invention, it is assumed that the pixels of the working window belong to a homogeneous portion of the image.
The upper bound of δ_{i }is determined in function of σ_{max }and may also differ from 3σ_{max}.
The absolute values of the calculated differences σ_{i }are stored in various registers, such to form a noise histogram. Let γ_{j }be the absolute value of the j^{th }difference δ_{j}, being jε[0, . . . , 7]: if the absolute value of the j^{th }difference is smaller than three times the maximum standard deviation, then the register T that stores the corresponding value is incremented by one:
Ψ(γ_{j})=Ψ(γ_{j})+1.
Once all pixels of the considered block have been processed, the histogram of the absolute values of the differences stored in the registers will have a Gaussian distribution. The histogram has only positive values, but this does not complicate calculations of the standard deviation for a normal distribution because it is symmetrical on its mean value, that has been supposed null because it has been assumed that additive Gaussian noise has a zero mean. Then the standard deviation is calculated in function of the stored absolute values.
A simple way of doing it comes from the fact that in a Gaussian distribution about 68% of the samples is comprised in the range [μ−σ, μ−σ]. According to an embodiment, the standard deviation of the noise of the considered block is the value larger than 68% of the values of the previously obtained histogram. This embodiment is depicted in the scheme of
This solution depends on the chosen maximum value for the standard deviation σ_{max}: this value should be carefully chosen, for example by testing the characteristics of the image sensor for different lightening conditions and by determining the situations for which the maximum noise is generated. With this technique it is possible to estimate an upper bound for the standard deviation σ_{max}.
Nevertheless, the probability that noise corrupting the image to be filtered is larger than the initially estimated level is not null. This problem can be addressed by fixing a sufficiently large expected maximum value for the standard deviation σ_{max}.
The above illustrated method can be further improved in an embodiment by modifying iteratively the maximum value of the standard deviation σ_{max }from a block to the next of the image or sequence of images to be processed. With this expedient, the expected maximum value of the standard deviation σ_{max }can be reduced for the next block if it is overestimated for the current block. This allows to reduce the number of absolute values of the differences to be stored and would make simpler and faster the algorithm.
To this end, the following steps are carried out:

 an arbitrary value for the maximum value of the standard deviation for the first block to be analyzed is fixed;
 the standard deviation of noise that corrupts the current block is estimated and in function of this value the maximum value for the standard deviation σ_{max }is determined for the next block to be analyzed.
Preferably, the blocks belonging to a same image are processed by using a same value σ_{max}. As a consequence, if an image sequence is being processed, the value of σ_{max }could be updated only when the current image has been processed and a next image is considered.
With this technique, it is not necessary to determine preliminarily the characteristics of the image sensor.
The value of σ_{max }that fixes the maximum admissible noise level depends also on the “bit dept” of the input noisy image: if the input data are in a 8 bpp (bit per pixel) format, then the intensity of each pixel is in the interval from 0 to 255; if the data format is 10 bpp, then the intensity of each pixel is in the interval from 0 to 1023 and soon.
It is supposed that small variations of the pixel intensity are due to noise, but the attribute “small” is tied to the number of bit per pixel. When data are processed in a 8 bpp format, it may be reasonable to assume for example that in a very noisy image σ_{max}=10. Therefore, in this example the histogram of the absolute values of the differences would contain 3σ_{max}=30 registers. If the data format is 10 bpp, multiply by four the number of registers (30), thus the noise histogram may be realized with 120 registers.
A sample table of the maximum values of the standard deviation is given hereinbelow:
The size of the histogram of the absolute values of the differences increases with the number of bits per pixels of the input image.
The value of the comparison threshold 3·σ_{max}, or of any other threshold value determined in function of the maximum value of the standard deviation of noise, establishes the number of levels of absolute values of the differences to be stored and thus of the hardware registers used for counting the number of occurrences of each absolute value. Of course, the number of registers may be relatively large if the image to be processed is defined with a large number of bits per pixel.
According to an embodiment of the method of this invention, it is possible to calculate the standard deviation of noise by using a reduced number of registers, independently from the number of bits per pixels of the image to be processed.
To this end, a lower threshold σ_{0 }and an upper threshold σ_{1 }are established and the absolute values of the differences are compared with these two thresholds. Then in a first register the number Σ_{0 }of absolute values of the differences smaller than the lower threshold σ_{0 }is stored in a first register, the number Σ_{1 }of absolute values smaller than the upper threshold σ_{1 }is stored in a second register and the number Σ_{2 }of absolute values smaller than the threshold σ_{max }is stored in a third register. By choosing the lower threshold σ_{0 }and the upper threshold σ_{1 }such that they are respectively smaller and larger of the standard deviation of the absolute values of the differences between pixels due to noise that corrupts the image to be processed, the number of absolute values of the differences smaller than the lower threshold σ_{0 }will be smaller than 68% and the number of absolute values of the differences smaller than the upper threshold σ_{1 }will be larger than 68% of the total number of absolute values smaller than σ_{max}. As a consequence, as schematically depicted in
In an embodiment, the value of the upper threshold σ_{1 }is equal to the value of the maximum standard deviation σ_{max}.
According to a further embodiment of this invention, four threshold are established: σ_{z}, σ_{0}, σ_{1}, σ_{max}.
Differently from the previous case, in this case there an additional threshold σ_{z }smaller than the threshold σ_{0}. The number Σ_{z }of absolute values smaller than or equal to the threshold σ_{z }may be used for improving the estimation of the standard deviation of the absolute values of the differences.
In an embodiment it is σ_{z}=0.
An example of how the thresholds σ_{0}, σ_{1 }and σ_{max }can be chosen is shown in the following table (supposing σ_{z}=0):
Being N=68% of the total number of absolute values of calculated differences. Four different cases are possible:
0<N≦Σ_{z }
Σ_{Z}<N≦Σ_{0 }
Σ_{0}<N≦Σ_{1 }
Σ_{1}<N≦Σ_{2 }
The thresholds σ_{0}, σ_{1}, σ_{max }may be determined in a dynamic fashion, that is their values may be updated for a block to be processed in function of the estimated standard deviation of the just processed block. These thresholds may be fixed such that the estimated value σ_{est }of the standard deviation of the absolute values of the differences is the mean between the thresholds σ_{0 }and σ_{1}, and the value σ_{max }is a multiple of σ_{1}, that is:
wherein δεN is used for expanding the interval centered in σ_{est }and influences the convergence speed of the method of this invention. Typical values that mat be used in the above equations are:
δ=2;Ω=3
By adjusting the factor δ the convergence speed is modified. This is particularly useful when the number of bits per pixels is relatively large (that is larger than 8) and it is noticed an intolerable delay in the convergence of the method. Clearly, different values of δ will produce different delays.
Typically, for images defined with 8 bits per pixel, the value of σ_{est }may be 5.
The new values for σ_{0 }and σ_{1 }will be used for estimating the noise level relative to the next block, that may be a block of the same image or a block of a successive image in a image sequence.
As already said, the standard deviation may be estimated by using a linear interpolator:
Dividing the calculated value σ_{est }by the square root of 2, the noise level estimated for the current block is obtained:
As already said, the value of Φ_{σ} may be conveniently used for estimating the noise level of the next image block.
It is to be noted that the value σ_{est }is divided by √{square root over (2)}. Being P_{i }the current pixel, its value is given by the following equation:
P_{i}=S_{i}+η_{i }
wherein:
P_{i}: current pixel;
S_{i}: value of the current pixel non corrupted by noise (ideal);
η_{i}: noise value in the point P_{i }(it is a noise N(0, σ^{2})).
By calculating the difference between the pixel P_{i }and the central pixel P_{c},
P_{i}−P_{c}=S_{i}+η_{i}−(S_{c}+η_{c})=S_{i}−S_{c}+η_{i}−η_{c }
If the pixels P_{i }and P_{c }belong to a homogeneous area, then S_{i}=S_{c}, thus:
P_{i}−P_{c}=η_{i}−η_{c }
Given two normally distributed stochastic variable X and Y, their sum has a probability density function given by:
wherein the mean value is μ_{X+Y}=μ_{X}+μ_{Y }and the variance is σ_{X+Y}^{2}=σ_{X}^{2}+σ_{Y}^{2}.
In case of zero mean AWGN, σ_{X+Y}^{2}=σ_{X}^{2}+σ_{Y}^{2 }and thus μ_{η}_{i}_{−η}_{c}=0.
Supposing that the pixels P_{i }and P_{c }are corrupted by the same type of noise, then σ_{η}_{i}^{2}=σ_{η}_{c}^{2}, thus the random variable η_{i}−η_{c }has a distribution N(0,2σ^{2}).
By hypothesis, the stochastic variables η_{i }and η_{c }are independent, then their covariance is null and the variance of their difference is the sum of the variances of the stochastic variables, thus:
Var(η_{i}−η_{c})=2σ^{2}.
The estimated value σ_{est }is √{square root over (2)} times larger than the noise standard deviation, thus the output of the linear interpolator is multiplied by 0.7071.
It is to be noticed that the hypothesis of zero mean noise is not essential: any skilled person would immediately recognize that even if the stochastic variables η_{i }and η_{c }had zero mean, the noise standard deviation could be estimated as illustrated above because μ_{η}_{i}_{−η}_{c}=0.
Another important consideration when the noise standard deviation is to be calculated consists in preventing overflows.
More particularly, there are five main parameters that play an important role to this objective:
i) the values of σ_{0}, σ_{1}, σ_{max};
ii) the number of bits per pixel (bpp);
iii) the size of the image (width×height).
The values of σ_{0}, σ_{1}, σ_{max}, are multiplied by four for each two more bits for defining each pixel, as shown in the two previous tables. When the number of bits per pixels is relatively large (that is bpp>8), it is possible to have an overflow in any of the following multiplications:
σN,(σ_{1}−σ_{0})(N−Σ_{0}),(σ_{2}−σ_{1})(N−Σ_{1}).
Therefore, also the registers dedicated for storing countings should be managed for preventing overflows.
According to an embodiment, variables used for carrying out the above multiplications are limited up to 2^{16}: with this expedient, the above multiplications will not produce overflows. Depending on the size of the available registers, it is possible to have a different precision, as schematically shown in the following equations:
if (Σ_{Z}>2^{Precision})Σ_{Z}=2^{Precision }
if (Σ_{2}>2^{Precision})Σ_{2}=2^{Precision }
if (Σ_{0}>2^{Precision})Σ_{0}=2^{Precision }
if (Σ_{1}>2^{Precision})Σ_{1}=2^{Precision }
wherein Precision may be 16, but can even be a different value.
i) a portion that works at a pixel level N
ii) a portion that works at block or image level I
For each pixel, the set of absolute values of the differences is calculated by using the A
A clipping operation that consists in preventing overflows, as explained above, can be carried out if the content of registers exceeds a maximum established value.
After having processed the whole block or also the whole image by using the above described technique, the content of registers is analyzed. They may be provided to the circuit I
Substantially, the embodiment depicted in
1) σ_{0}, σ_{1}, σ_{max};
2) the values of the pixels P_{i }provided by the sensor 502 (in case of a Bayer image, they will be the pixel values output by a filter mask 504);
3) EOF: signal that flags the end of the block (or of the image);
4) RESET: it is a resetting signal;
5) CLOCK: it is a timing signal.
The output signal represents the value Φ_{σ}, that represents the estimated noise level (standard deviation) associated to the current block (or image).
The system 600 analyzes data acquired by the sensor 602 in “live preview” mode, a N
The function of each circuit or module and the meaning of the signals mentioned in
Another possible embodiment is depicted in
The advantages of embodiments of the methods described herein may include:

 a reduced number of calculations, because only differences are calculated and only linear interpolation equations are used;
 a memory reduction, because according to an embodiment only four registers are used and the number of bits of each register may be defined according to user's needs;
 the method may be configured to be selfadapting to eventual noise fluctuations from an image to the next in an image sequence;
 the method converges toward conditions that allow a simpler and more accurate evaluation of the noise level that corrupts the image, that is when the estimated standard deviation σ_{est }is the mean value of σ_{0 }and σ_{1};
 embodiments may be used in different environments and may be coupled to or comprise temporal filters, spatial filters, filters for correcting artifacts and so on.
Embodiments of the systems and methods described herein may be implemented in a variety of ways, including as a combined system or as separate subsystems. Embodiments may be implemented as discrete circuitry, one or more microprocessors, digital signal processors (DSP), applicationspecific integrated circuits (ASIC), or the like, or as a series of instructions stored in a memory and executed by a controller, or various combinations of the above. In some embodiments, separately described submodules may be combined.
The various embodiments described above can be combined to provide further embodiments. All of the U.S. patents, U.S. patent application publications, U.S. patent applications, foreign patents, foreign patent applications and nonpatent publications referred to in this specification and/or listed in the Application Data Sheet, are incorporated herein by reference, in their entirety. Aspects of the embodiments can be modified, if necessary to employ concepts of the various patents, applications and publications to provide yet further embodiments.
These and other changes can be made to the embodiments in light of the abovedetailed description. In general, in the following claims, the terms used should not be construed to limit the claims to the specific embodiments disclosed in the specification and the claims, but should be construed to include all possible embodiments along with the full scope of equivalents to which such claims are entitled. Accordingly, the claims are not limited by the disclosure.
Claims
1. A method of automatically estimating white Gaussian noise that corrupts a digital image, comprising the steps of:
 a) subdividing the image to be processed in blocks;
 b) determining a maximum standard deviation of absolute values of differences among pixels of a block;
 c) for each pixel of the block, performing the steps of: c1) calculating absolute values of differences of intensities between the pixel and homogeneous pixels contained in a working window centered on the pixel; c2) comparing the absolute values of differences with a threshold based on the maximum standard deviation of the block; and c3) classifying the pixel as belonging to a homogeneous portion of the image if the absolute values of the differences are all smaller than the threshold;
 d) determining a standard deviation of noise for the block based on pixels classified as belonging tohomogeneous portions of the image; and
 e) setting a maximum standard deviation of differences between pixels for a successive block to be processed and repeating steps c) through d) for the successive block.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein setting the maximum standard deviation of the successive block to be processed comprises setting the maximum standard deviation for the successive block equal to the maximum standard deviation of the previous block.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein setting the maximum standard deviation for the successive block to be processed comprises multiplying the standard deviation established at point d) for the previous block by a square root of 2.
4. The method according to claim 1, wherein step d) comprises:
 d1) storing the absolute values of the differences in respect to the pixel; and
 d2) estimating the noise standard deviation on the block as a standard deviation of the stored absolute values divided by a square root of two.
5. The method according to claim 1, wherein said step d) comprises:
 d1) establishing at least a lower threshold σ0 and an upper threshold σ1;
 d2) comparing the absolute value of each of said differences with the lower threshold σ0 and the upper threshold σ1;
 d3) counting a number of absolute values of said differences that do not exceed said lower threshold;
 d4) counting a number of absolute values of said differences that do not exceed said upper threshold;
 d5) counting a number of absolute values of said differences that do not exceed said maximum standard deviation; and
 d6) estimating said standard deviation by interpolating between said lower and upper threshold as a value divided by the square root of two corresponding to a threshold percentage of the number of absolute values of said differences that do not exceed said maximum standard deviation.
6. The method of claim 5, wherein said threshold percentage is 68%.
7. The method of claim 5, wherein said lower and upper thresholds and said maximum standard deviation are determined based on a bitdepth and of a size of the image.
8. The method of claim 5, further comprising the step of limiting the countings carried out at steps d3), d4) and d5) to a maximum value.
9. The method of claim 5, comprising the step of establishing the lower threshold σ0 and the upper threshold σ1 for the successive block to be processed such that the value corresponding to the threshold percentage is a mean value between the lower and upper thresholds.
10. The method of claim 1, further comprising receiving the digital image from a color filter array circuit for Bayer images.
11. The method of claim 1, further comprising filtering white Gaussian noise from the image based on the determined standard deviations of noise for the blocks of the image.
12. A computerreadable memory medium storing instructions for causing a processor to perform a method, the method comprising:
 dividing a digital image into a plurality of blocks;
 selecting a threshold control value for a block in the plurality of blocks;
 comparing intensities of pixels in the block to the threshold control value;
 selecting a set of pixels in the block based on the comparison; and
 determining a standard deviation of noise for the block based on the set of selected pixels.
13. The computerreadable memory medium of claim 12 wherein selecting the threshold control value for the block in the plurality of blocks comprises setting the threshold control value equal to a threshold control value of a previous block.
14. The computerreadable memory medium of claim 12 wherein the method further comprises setting a threshold control value for a successive block equal to the determined standard deviation for the block multiplied by a square root of 2.
15. The computerreadable memory medium of claim 12 wherein determining the standard deviation of noise for the block based on the set of selected pixels comprises:
 comparing absolute values of differences of the intensities of pixels in the selected set of pixels and the threshold control value for the block with a lower threshold and an upper threshold;
 counting a number of absolute values of the differences that are below the lower threshold;
 counting a number of absolute values of the differences that are below the upper threshold; and
 counting a number of absolute values of the differences that are below the threshold control value.
16. A system for processing digital images, the system comprising:
 means for selecting pixels in a block of pixels based on intensity levels of the pixels in the block of pixels;
 means for generating an indication of a noise level of a block in an image based on the selected pixels in the block;
 means for generating a filter control signal coupled to the means for generating an indication of the noise level of the block; and
 means for filtering the image coupled to the means for generating the filter control signal.
17. The system of claim 16 wherein the means for generating the filter control signal is configured to provide a feedback signal to the means for generating an indication of the noise level of the block.
18. The system of claim 16 wherein the indication of the noise level is an estimated standard deviation of noise for the block.
19. The system of claim 16, further comprising a sensor coupled to the means for selecting pixels and the means for filtering the image.
20. An image processor, comprising:
 a noise statistics collector configured to compare pixels in a block of pixels in a digital image to a threshold noise control value, to select pixels in the block of pixels based on the comparison and to generate an indication of a noise level of the block based on the selected pixels;
 a control signal generator coupled to the noise statistics collector and configured to generate a filter control signal; and
 a filter coupled to the control signal generator.
21. The image processor of claim 20 wherein the control signal generator is further configured to provide a feedback signal to the noise statistics collector.
22. The image processor of claim 21 wherein the noise statistics collector is configured to adjust the threshold noise control value based on the feedback signal.
Type: Application
Filed: Oct 5, 2007
Publication Date: Apr 10, 2008
Patent Grant number: 8224109
Applicants: STMicroelectronics S.r.l. (Agrate Brianza), STMicroelectronics (Research & Development) Limited (Buckinghamshire)
Inventors: Angelo Bosco (Giarre), Arcangelo Ranieri Bruna (San Cataldo), Stewart Gresty Smith (Haddington)
Application Number: 11/868,358
International Classification: G06K 9/40 (20060101);