The Vault

Motion Compensated Error Concealment for HEVC Based on Block-Merging and Residual Energy
Research Paper / Feb 2014


Motion Compensated Error Concealment for HEVC

Based on Block-Merging and Residual Energy


Yueh-Lun Chang∗, Yuriy A. Reznik†, Zhifeng Chen† and Pamela C. Cosman∗

∗Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0407


Email: {yuc018, pcosman}

†InterDigital Communications, Inc., San Diego, CA 92121


Email: {yuriy.reznik, zhifeng.chen}

Abstract—We propose a motion-compensated error conceal-


ment method for HEVC and implement the method in reference

software HM. The motion vector from the co-located block will

be refined for motion compensation. Based on the reliability of

these MVs, blocks will be merged and assigned with new MVs.

The experimental results show both a substantial PSNR gain as

well as an improvement in visual quality.




High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) is the latest video

coding technology standard. As a joint project of the ITU-

T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) and the ISO/IEC

Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), the Joint Collabora-

tive Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC) was formed for HEVC

development, and the standard was approved and formally

published in 2013. As a successor to H.264/AVC, HEVC

promises to reduce the overall cost of delivering and storing

video assets without decreasing the quality of experience

delivered to the viewer, and two key issues have been a

particular focus: increased video resolution and increased use

of parallel processing architectures [1].


Packet loss happens due to various reasons when video

is transmitted through the network: congestion, delay, limited

bandwidth, etc. Though HEVC is designed to achieve multiple

goals, including coding efficiency and ease of transport system

integration and data loss resilience, it provides no guarantees

of end-to-end reproduction quality and does not suggest any

concealment when the bitstream is lossy. Various error con-

cealment methods have been proposed to overcome packet

loss in video transmission for prior standards [2]. In [3] and

[4], the pixel values were recovered by spatially interpolat-

ing available pixels in neighboring macroblocks (MBs). The

boundary matching algorithm (BMA) [5] and decoder mo-

tion vector estimation (DMVE) estimated lost motion vectors

(MVs) based on taking the candidate MVs from its spatial

and temporal neighbors, by minimizing a given distortion

measure between the correctly received pixels. These spatial

and temporal error concealment schemes were addressed to the

coding characteristics of the MB-based codec by exploiting the

correlation between a damaged MB and its adjacent ones in the

same or previous frame. However, though HEVC is still under

the block-based motion-compensation and transform coding

structure, there is no MB in the codec. The macroblock concept

has been extended by defining three types of variable size unit:

Coding Unit (CU), Prediction Unit (PU) and Transform Unit



Starting from the largest CU (LCU), each CU allows

recursive quadtree splitting into multiple sub-CUs, for sizes

from 64 × 64 (CU depth=0) to 8 × 8 (CU depth=3). Each

sub-CU can be further split into multiple PUs. PUs are the

basic unit for motion prediction. After PU segmentation, a

proper size of TU is determined for residual coding. Two

encoding modes are supported in HEVC: intra- and inter-

picture prediction. The mode is specified at the CU level,

meaning all the PUs in a CU will be predicted under the

same mode. In HEVC, a slice is the data structure that can

be delivered and decoded independently, and it can either be

an entire frame or a region of a frame. Slices are a sequence of

LCUs, while they are composed of MBs in the prior standards.

LCUs are usually set to be the size of 64×64, which is sixteen

times larger than a 16×16 MB in the prior standards, thus slice

losses from a HEVC bitstream will involve a larger area of a

frame, although in some applications HEVC may be used on

very high resolution data where the block is not a large portion

of the frame. Under this condition, many of the prior error

concealment methods would not be applicable, since they were

usually designed for smaller lost blocks and often took the

nearby correctly received pixels as reference. Because a loss

in HEVC contains at least one LCU, the large lost block makes

most of the lost pixels distant from the correctly received pixel

border, thus the distortion measure between the block edge no

longer serves as a good criterion for recovery.


Few studies have been done regarding error concealment in

HEVC. In [6], a motion vector extrapolation based method was

proposed for whole frame loss. A MV correlation from the co-

located LCU was calculated for deciding whether to divide a

large block into smaller ones or not. However, in block-based

motion estimation at the encoder, the motion vector field is

generated by minimizing the energy of prediction residuals

and the rate-distortion cost, which may make those estimated

MVs fail to represent the true motion [7]–[9], thus it could

be improper to take every MV from the co-located LCU. In

addition, a loss is not necessarily a whole frame loss and could

be partial, which we call a slice loss in this paper. Spatial

misalignment is more likely to happen and degrades the video



Currently in HEVC reference software HM [10], only

frame level concealment is implemented, where pixel copy

from the previous frame is used. A slice loss is not yet

detected and concealed. Among all types of error concealment,

motion trajectory reuse from the co-located CTUs will be a

relevant approach since the coding structure of HM preserves


978-1-4799-2172-0/13/$31.00 ©2013 IEEE




the information from the adjacent and co-located LCUs. In this

paper, we propose a motion-compensated error concealment

that can preserve the edge and object structure information

without involving motion estimation or object detection at the

decoder. First, residual energy of each block is analyzed to

determine the reliability of each MV. Instead of refining the

motion field by further partitioning each block into smaller

blocks, we merge adjacent blocks that have unreliable MVs

into a larger region. The merged block is assigned one single

motion vector. Since the blocks with unreliable motion vectors

are concealed using the same motion vector, the edges and the

structure of the objects can be kept.


The paper is organized as follows: In Section II, we

present the proposed algorithm in detail. The experimental

results are presented in Section III. Section IV summarizes

our conclusions.




In this section, we propose a motion-compensated error

concealment scheme based on the classification map of resid-

ual energy associated with each motion vector, and based on

a block-merging algorithm.


Although network applications are one of the targets of

HEVC, HEVC has not yet addressed transmission in networks

other than to mandate byte stream compliance with Annex B

of H.264/AVC. In [11], a streaming framework is designed and

implemented. However, it used pre-generated encoder trace

files and receiver trace files to detect loss, which is not a

very realistic approach. The current HM so far is not able

to detect and conceal a slice loss. However, a syntax element

in HEVC, slice segment address, specifies the address of the

first LCU in the slice segment, in a coding tree block raster

scan of a frame. By modifying HM and tracking this syntax, we

could detect a slice loss without auxiliary files. If the correctly

decoded LCU number in a frame is discontinuous with the next

slice segment address value in the same frame, a slice loss is



Fig. 1 shows the block diagram of the proposed method.

Each lost LCU will be concealed sequentially.


A. CU and PU segmentation

For a lost LCU, its CU/PU partition information is lost. In


[12], [13], the authors showed that much of the time, the CU

depth is highly correlated with its co-located one, and so is

PU segmentation. In the first step of the block diagram, the

algorithm assumes the lost LCU has the same CU partition

and PU segmentation as the co-located one in the reference



B. Motion vector classification based on residual energy

As HEVC still uses block-based motion estimation, it is


possible that MV is selected for reasons of rate-distortion

efficiency rather than because if represents the true motion.

Therefore, when a PU has high residual energy, we can rea-

sonably argue that the MV may not be reliable for representing

the true motion. In our proposed method, we assume that the

motion of the lost CU will follow the same trajectory as its

co-located one, so the motion vector field from the co-located


Fig. 1. Block diagram of the proposed method.


CU will be utilized for error concealment. In the second step

in Fig. 1, to classify the candidate MVs from the co-located

CU as reliable or not, the residual energy, E, of the co-located

CU is calculated for each 4 × 4 block, bm,n, by taking the

sum of the absolute value of the luma reconstructed prediction

error for each pixel.


E =



| rY (i, j) |


Here, rY (i, j) is the reconstructed residual signals of the

Y component. If E is smaller than a threshold, the 4×4 block

is classified as a reliable region, otherwise it is classified as

unreliable. The threshold is selected from a heuristic search.

In addition, an intra CU will also be categorized as unreliable.

If any 4 × 4 block in a PU is unreliable, the whole PU is

signaled as an unreliable PU, thus the corresponding MV of

this PU is also unreliable. Fig. 2 demonstrates an example: an

8× 8 CU is divided vertically into two 4× 8 PUs, and there

are two 4× 4 residual blocks in each PU. The yellow denotes

an unreliable block while blue stands for reliable ones. For the

right PU, one of the residual blocks is unreliable, so the whole

PU is considered unreliable.


Fig. 2. Example of unreliable PU classification.




C. PU merging and MV reassignment


In the last step of Fig. 1, the unreliable PUs will be merged

and reassigned with refined MV. The detail is described in this



When there is a group of adjacent PUs that have unreliable

motion vectors, misalignment happens easily along the edges,

and the shape of the objects usually could not be maintained.

To keep the integrity of the object, it would be beneficial to

group these units with one MV, so the structure would not

be deformed. The merging process only happens between PUs

in the same CU depth, so the merged PUs would not be too

different in size. This reduces the blockiness effect. There is

no merging at CU size 32 × 32 and 64 × 64 to refrain from

losing too much detailed motion. Starting from the very top

left point of a lost region, whenever we encounter an unreliable

PU, we check its right, bottom, and bottom-right PUs. If any

of these PUs are both unreliable and within the same CU level,

they are merged into a larger piece. For each PU, it will only

be merged once to keep the size of the group in a reasonable

range. Fig. 3 depicts an example: Four 16 × 16 CUs contain

five PUs. Three of the PUs are unreliable, so they are merged

into one piece.


Fig. 3. Example of merging unreliable PUs.


After PU merging, the reliable MVs from its adjacent PUs

are collected, and the average of these reliable MVs will be

assigned. For a reliable PU, the MV from the co-located area

will be used directly.




In this section, we present experimental results to evalu-

ate the proformance of the proposed method. The proposed

method will be compared with two other schemes:


1) Pixel copy

2) Basic motion compensated error concealment


(MCEC), where the MV from the co-located CU is

applied directly with no refinement. For an intra CU,

pixel copy is used.


Two video sequences, Soccer (720×480) and Drill (832×

480) , are encoded by HM11.0 for 120 frames. The frame rate

is 30 frame per second (fps) for Soccer and 50 fps for Drill; the

intra period is every 20 frames with only P frames in between.

The QP is 28 and each slice has a fixed 20 LCUs to simulate

the loss of a region of a frame.


The proposed algorithm is implemented in HM10.0. We

use the packet loss simulator developed by AHG14 to facilitate

G.1050/TIA 921 packet loss simulations for HEVC [14]. The

losses are randomly distributed in all the P frames. The packet

loss rates (PLRs) of 1%, 3%, 5%, and 10% are tested, and

each sequence is decoded for 100 random realizations.


Table I presents the PSNR performances averaged over all

frames for different sequences with different PLRs. As shown

in the table, the proposed method outperforms the copy and

MCEC algorithm by up to 0.26 dB. Since the error propagation

of HEVC is quite severe and the quality of succeeding frames

degrades very fast for all types of the concealment methods,

the gain of the proposed method is not much in terms of the

PSNR over the whole sequence. However, if we only look at

the erroneous frame itself, the PSNR gain is more prominent

and the visual quality is also better. In order to evaluate the

effectiveness of the concealment for the lossy frame solely,

Table II presents the average PSNR of the first erroneous frame

in each GOP, and hence the influence of the error propagation

is excluded. As shown in the table, the proposed method yields

higher PSNR than the copy and MCEC algorithm up to 1.3

dB. In both Tables I and II, MCEC performs the worst because

the improper reuse of the co-located MVs makes the concealed

area quite blocky. The copy method roughly maintain the shape

of the object but fails at the boundary of the corrupted area.


Sequence Method Packet Loss Rate1% 3% 5% 10%



copy 28.63 24.58 22.07 19.84


MCEC 28.56 24.51 21.99 19.77

proposed 28.84 24.74 22.28 20.02



copy 30.93 27.05 25.32 23.13


MCEC 30.86 26.97 25.25 23.06

proposed 31.17 27.31 25.58 23.34






Total number of


the first erroneous frame

in a GOP from all realizations


Method PSNR(dB)


Soccer 2114

copy 28.84


MCEC 28.71

proposed 29.82


Drill 2184

copy 30.98


MCEC 30.81

proposed 32.11





The visual comparisons are presented in Figs. 4 and 5,

demonstrating examples of frame 87 of the Soccer sequence

and frame 24 of the Drill sequence, where (a) is the original

compressed frame without loss, (b) is the corrupted frame

and (c)-(e) are the frames concealed using copy, MCEC,

and the proposed algorithm respectively. In both figures, the

visual quality of our method is significantly better than the

others. Our method successfully preserves the shape of the

moving object with smooth edges while the copy and MCEC

methods fail to maintain the structure of the moving object

with blockiness and deformed boundary. Comparing with two

other methods, the PSNR value of the proposed method is up

to 2.9 dB higher for Soccer and 4.5 dB higher for Drill in

these cases.





We propose a motion-compensated error concealment


method for HEVC and implement the method in reference

software HM. Based on the received the residual information,

the motion vector reliability is analyzed and classified. The CU

with unreliable MVs will be merged and assigned with one

new MV to maintain the structure of the moving object and

edge information. Our method is effective yet simple without

doing edge or object detection explicitly. It is noteworthy that

simplistic use of MCEC actually performs worse than simple

slice copy. However the proposed version of MCEC provides

a significant PSNR improvement over both simplistic MCEC

and over slice copy for the frame in which the loss occurs,

with up to 1.3dB improvement.



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(a) original (b) corrupted


(c) copy (d) MCEC


(d) proposed


Fig. 4. Reconstructed results of frame 87 of the Soccer sequence: (a) original frame, (b) corrupted frame, (c) concealed by copy, PSNR: 22.58dB (d) concealed

by MCEC, PSNR: 22.57dB (e) concealed by the proposed method, PSNR: 27.16dB.




(a) original (b) corrupted


(c) copy (d) MCEC


(e) proposed


Fig. 5. Reconstructed results of frame 24 of the Drill sequence: (a) original frame, (b) corrupted frame, (c) concealed by copy, PSNR: 30.62dB (d) concealed

by MCEC, PSNR: 30.54dB (e) concealed by the proposed method, PSNR: 33.58dB.