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Pre-multiplication of samples in Filter Effects

From: Christian Brunschen <cb@df.lth.se>
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1999 16:01:25 +0200 (CEST)
To: www-svg@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.05-df.9906021301370.10109-100000@bartlet.df.lth.se>


Having just read the latest draft SVG spec, I cannot help but wonder one

In section 15.5.4, the built-in Filter Effects are listed, with this
little paragraph as a lead-in:

``The following is a catalog of the individual processing nodes proposed.
All filters operate on linear premultiplied RGBA samples. Filters which
work more naturally on non premultiplied data (ColorMatrix and
ComponentTransfer) will temporarily undo and redo premultiplication as

Since RGBA rasters can not store sample values with infinite resolution,
the combination of premultipluying and the un-premultiplying pixels is
almost guaranteed to introduce inaccuracies at some places. Assuming an
8-bit-per-sample representation, a simple example is one where the
original pixel is painted with an RGBA value of 3,5,7,127 - a very dark
shade, with a 50% coverage. The resulting pre-multiplied pixel would
contain values something like 1,2,3,127 - and un-pre-multiplying would
result in 2,4,6,127, with each of the RGB samples being markedly different
from the original. Basically, pre-multiplication guarantees a loss of

I would further like to suggest that pre-multiplied alpha is not the best
choice for the default alpha handling for, for instance, the
'DisplacementMap' Filter:

-- begin quote --

NodeType         DisplacementMap

Image Inputs     2 

Attributes       scale
                 x-channel-selector 	one of R,G,B or A.
                 y-channel-selector 	one of R,G,B or A. 

Description      Uses Input2 to spatially displace Input1,
                 similar to the Photoshop displacement filter. This is
                 the transformation to be performed:

                  P'(x,y) <- P( x + scale * XC(x,y), y + scale * YC(x,y) )

                 where P(x,y) is the source image, Input1, and P'(x,y) is
                 the destination. XC(x,y) and YC(x,y) are the component
                 values of the designated by the x-channel-selector and
                 y-channel-selector. For example, to use the R component
                 of Image2 to control displacement in x and the G component
                 of Image2 to control displacement in y, set
                 x-channel-selector to "R" and y-channel-selector to "G". 

Comments         The displacement map defines the inverse of the mapping

issues           This filter can have arbitrary non-localized
                 effect on the input which might require substantial
                 buffering in the processing pipeline. However with this
                 formulation, any intermediate buffering needs can be
                 determined by scale which represents the maximum
                 displacement in either x or y. 

-- end quote --

If I want to displace something according to the 'R' and 'G' channels of
an image I have constructed, it is not necessarily obvious that I want the
pre-multiplied-alpha Red and Green channels.

Furthermore, if I definitely want to use the _non_premultiplied-alpha Red
and Green channels from my image, I cannot get at them easily.

The lead-in paragraph states that ``Filters which
work more naturally on non premultiplied data (ColorMatrix and
ComponentTransfer) will temporarily undo and redo premultiplication as
specified'' which appears based in the assumption that for _all other
filters_, pre-multiplied-alpha is the `more natural' state of affairs. So
let's take a look at the different filters defined (these are in my
personal opinion, of course):

Filter	            'Most Natural'          Comment

ColorMatrix         non-premultiplied       explicitly stated in the

Color               N/A                     has no inputs

ComponentTransfer   non-premultiplied	    explicitly stated in the

Composite           premultiplied?          could easily be written
                                            to handle non-premultiplied
                                            while maintaining fidelity
                                            of output; or could be stated
                                            to require premultiplied

DiffuseLighting     N/A                     uses only the Alpha channel,
                                            does not care about wether RGB
                                            are premultiplied or not

DisplacementMap     I'm not sure            As I discussed above, I don't
                    but it feels like       see how premultiplied could be
                    non-premultiplied       seen as 'more natural' here
                    would be better anyway  

GaussianBlur        non-premultiplied       for maximum fidelity in the
                                            resulting blurred image

Image               N/A                     has no inputs

Merge               premultiplied?          premultiplied preferred for
                                            performance reasons, but could
                                            use non-premultiplied with the
                                            same fidelity (like Composite)

Morphology          non-premultiplied       to ensure fidelity in the
                                            resulting image

Offset              N/A                     doesn't care about the colors
                                            of the pixels it shifts

SpecularLighting    N/A                     only uses the Alpha channel

Tile                N/A                     doesn't care

Turbulence          non-premultiplied       to ensure fidelity, or else
                                            the values to be added also
                                            have to be premultiplied, lest
                                            non-opaque pixels receive an 
                                            unproportionally large change

So, in summary, of the 14 filters in the spec, 2 _definitely_ need
non-premultiplied Alpha (already in the spec), 4 more seem to me to
probably be better off with non-premultiplied, 6 simply don't care, and
only 2 can really make a demand on premultiplied - Composite and Merge. So
I would interpret this to mean that non-premultiplied would be overall
'more natural' than premultiplied.

Again, this is all in my own opinion.

Anyway, my main argument for _not_ premultiplying RGN with A is that of
maintaining fidelity, of not losing resolution in the RGB channels just
because they happen to have a not-fully-opaque A value.

The main argument for premultiplied Alpha would be performance, unless I
am mistaken: Compositing an image with pre-multiplied Alpha onto another
saves one multiplication per pixel over Compositing the same image

However, consider the case of a graphic that gets offset, a ColorMatrix
filter applied, then offset again (stupid example, but bear with me):

Premultiplied Alpha

*  Graphic renders to RGBA matrix : premultiplications take place here
*  Offset: shifts pixels around
*  ColorMatrix: _Un_premultiply, perform the filter, then _Re_premultiply
*  Offset: shift pixels around
*  Merge: composite to destination

Multiplications take place in three places: Once when the graphic is
rendered to the RGBA matrix, then when Un-premultiplying before the
ColorMatrix filter can do its job, then re-premultiplying afterwards.

Now, with non-premultiplied Alpha:

*  Graphic renders to RGBA matrix 
*  Offset: shifts pixels around
*  ColorMatrix: perform the filter
*  Offset: shift pixels around
*  Merge: multiply RGB with A, then composite to destination

There's only one place where RGB samples are multiplied with A, and that's
at the very end when the resulting image is to be composited onto the

Note also that in the non-premultiplied case, the ColorMatrix filter can
access the actual RGB values rendered by the Graphic, rather than the
'pre-multiplied, then un-pre-multiplied' values offered with the current

For those cases where a certain image will be used pre-multiplied more
than once, it would be easy to define a filter which premultiplies RGB
with A on an image:

-- begin suggestion --

NodeType         PreMultiply

Image Inputs     1

Attributes       none

Description      multiplies each of the R, G and B channels with the A

Comments         a very common operation

issues           none, really

-- end suggestion --

which could be used whenever needed, for whatever reason. 

So, in summary, I am questioning the use of premultiplied alpha as the
default representation for RGBA images in filter effects.

Best regards

// Christian Brunschen
Received on Wednesday, 2 June 1999 10:01:28 UTC

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