Contact:	Bob Nelson						For immediate release
		(212) 854-5573					June 5, 1997

Columbia Software Retrieves, Edits Images and Videos on the Internet

Shih-Fu Chang, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Columbia University, and his research team have created software that can search the Internet for images or videos and then edit them, part of a new generation of software that will allow users to create their own multimedia productions. Graphic artists, journal editors, news professionals or anyone who keeps large files of images or videos will be able to search their archives, or the World Wide Web, by content. The software will also help students and teachers derive new curriculum activities from the Web's global trove of information. One of Professor Chang's new programs, WebSEEk, begins by downloading files found by trolling the Web. It then attempts to locate file names containing acronyms, such as GIF or MPEG, that designate graphics or video content. It also looks for words in file names and associated tags that might identify the subject material. Users can enter words describing the image they seek, or they can sketch an image, assign color, texture or motion to it, and ask the software to match it. A magazine editor looking for a picture of a black cat to illustrate a Halloween layout could type the words "black cat" into the program, or find pictures of cats under an "animals" heading in the system's picture classification, or could draw a likeness of a cat and color it black. When the software finds an image, it analyzes the prevalence of different colors and where they are located. Using this information, it can distinguish among photographs, graphics and black-and-white or gray images. WebSEEk also compresses each picture so it can be represented as an icon for display with other icons. For a video, it will extract key frames that begin new scenes. So far, WebSEEk has downloaded and indexed more than 650,000 pictures and 10,000 videos from tens of thousands of Web sites. The material has been automatically classified into a taxonomic structure for browsing, with more than 2,000 divisions, such as architecture, arts, nature and people. Professor Chang is continuing to refine the program, which will become far more powerful with the eventual adoption of the MPEG-7 standard, which will allow producers of multimedia to attach information about its content. Professor Chang's VisualSEEk system gives users the option of sketching and coloring in shapes corresponding to the image they are looking for. With his VideoQ software, users can add motion trajectories to find video clips containing motions in a certain direction, such as a high jumper clearing the high bar or a racing car spinning out of control. Another program, WebClip, is an editing tool for digital video, and can be used either on a local hard disk or on the Internet, bypassing expensive video editing facilities. Professor Chang's software performs editing functions in compressed computer code, permitting rapid turnover since the video images do not need to be fully decoded until they are viewed. Roving correspondents could record scenes with a digital videocamera - such as the Omnicamera - and then edit the material before sending it for broadcast. Professor Chang has also developed technology to add a digital watermark to video sequences. The watermark consists of a string of digital ones and zeroes embedded in the digital video, and can be either visible, to prevent re-use of the material, or invisible. The coding could help news editors authenticate images they receive from field producers, or could add copyright information. Software that accesses digital video in various ways will become vastly more flexible with the adoption of MPEG-7, a comprehensive content description standard. Information describing the content of a multimedia file will be attached to the file in a way that any search engine can find. The attached information could be at any level of abstraction, from language to computer code, and is sometimes referred to as "the bits about the bits." One objective of MPEG-7 is to enhance interoperability among different image or video archives, most of which use proprietary content description schemes. Information in a standardized format attached to multimedia files might tell researchers when a video was recorded or give the names of artists who wrote accompanying music or contributed in some other way. It could also include codes to index primitive visual attributes, such as shapes, colors, and motions, of video objects contained in the images or videos. Professor Chang is among the researchers developing the new MPEG-7 standard, which according to an international timetable is to be implemented in the year 2000. Users will be able to specify keywords or preliminary visual information to search engines, which will then rely on the MPEG-7 content attached to files to conduct fast and efficient multimedia searches. The National Science Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, the NEC Research Institute, IBM, Intel, Hewlett Packard, Columbia's Strategic Research Initiative and sponsors of Columbia's ADVENT forum supported the research. Professor Chang's image search and edit team includes graduate students John R. Smith, for WebSEEk; Horace Meng, for WebClip; and William Chen, Hari Sundaram and Di Zhong, for VideoQ. Visit his site at This document is available at Working press may receive science and technology press releases via e-mail by sending a message to 6.5.97 19,145