In this paper we present the split-merge displacement estimation algorithm as a bridge between the standard, block matching, displacement estimation technique and the semantic motion estimation techniques. We review this new technique and its applications in video compression and show how it can be used to maintain two different segmentations of the current visual field: a spatial segmentation identifying the objects that are present in the scene and a classification of the visual field into moving areas, that keeps track over time of the relationships between the objects. We finally describe a software MPEG-1 coder derived by the public domain PVRG-MPEG coder. This new coder improves significantly the performance of the original PVRG-MPEG coder by implementing some of the ideas that are the basis of the split-merge displacement estimation technique. © 2001 Elsevier Science Inc.
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