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The Decoding Process

Before arithmetic decoding can start, we need to initialize the arithmetic decoder variables. While encoding, we had just a high and low variable. Both are maintained by the decoder with a code variable, which contains the current bit stream read in from the input file.

During arithmetic decoding, the high and low variables should track exactly the same values they had during the encoding process, and the code variable should reflect the bit stream as it is read in from the input file. The only exception to this is that the code variable has underflow bits taken from it and thrown away, as with the high and low variables.

code = 0;
for ( i = 0 ; i < 16 ; i++ ) {
   code <<= 1;
   code += InputBit( stream );
low = 0;
high = Oxffff;

This implementation of the arithmetic decoding process requires four separate steps to decode each character. The first is to get the current scale for the symbol. This is simply a matter of looking in the current model data. In this implementation, the scale is found at totals[ END_OF_STREAM + 1 ]. The reason for breaking this out as a separate routine rather than coding it in-line is that future expansions to the basic compression program may use different modeling techniques. If a different model is used, determining the scale of the model could end up being more complex. This happens in the program used in the next chapter.

Once the current scale for the model is known, a second call is made to get the count for the current arithmetic code. This involves translating the decoders range, expressed by the high and low variables, into the range used by the model, which is in the scale variable.

range = (long) ( high - low ) + 1;
count = (short int)
     ((((long) ( code - low ) + 1 ) * s->scale-1 ) / range );
return( count );

The count returned to the expansion program is in essence a simple translation of the code variable from one scale to another. Once the count has been determined, we can determine what symbol has been encoded. Since we know the low and high range of the count for every symbol in the alphabet, determining which symbol goes with which count is just a matter of looking through the counts listed in the totals[] array.

for ( c = END_OF_STREAM ; count < totals[ c ] ; c–– )
s->high_count = totals[ c + 1 ];
s->low_count = totals[ c ];
return( c );

The implementation of the convert_symbol_to_int() used here determines the correct symbol with brute force. It simply starts looking at the top of the totals[] array for a count that fits with the current symbol, and it works down until it finds one that does. This is not optimal, since it could take 257 comparisons to locate the correct symbol.

An improved method of decoding would keep the symbols sorted so that the most frequently used symbols would be checked first. This would reduce the average time required to locate a symbol, though with random data we would not see much improvement. For simplicity, this was not the method used here.

Once convert_symbol_to_int() locates the correct symbol in the totals[] array, it takes the high and low counts and stores them in the symbol variable. They will be used in the next step of the decoding process. The correct value of the symbol is then returned to the calling program as an int.

After the correct symbol value is set up in the symbol structure, remove_symbol_from_stream() is called. Arithmetic coding is unusual in that it determines what the symbol is before it removes the bits associated with it. Then it calls the routine that actually removes those bits from the code and sets up the input code for the next symbol.

range = (long)( high - low ) + 1;
high = low + (unsigned short int)
       (( range * s->high_count ) / s->scale - 1 );
low = low + (unsigned short int)
       (( range * s->low_count ) / s->scale );
for ( ; ; ) {
  if ( ( high & 0x8000 ) == ( low & 0x8000 ) ) {
  }  else if ((low & 0x4000) == 0x4000 && (high & 0x4000) == 0 ) {
     code ^= 0x4000;
     low &= 0x3fff;
     high |= 0x4000;
  }  else
  low <<= 1;
  high <<= 1;
  high |= 1;
  code <<= 1;
  code += InputBit( stream );

The code that removes the symbol from the stream is listed above. It operates almost as a mirror image of the encoding routine. It first rescales the high and low variables to their new ranges as dictated by the range of the symbol being removed. Then the shifting process begins.

As before, there are two possible reasons to shift in new bits. First, if high and low have the same most significant bit, they will be discarded and a new bit will be shifted in as a replacement. Second, if high and low don’t have the same MSB, and the second most significant bits are threatening underflow, we will discard the second most significant bits and shift in new bits.

If neither of the possible shift criteria are met, we can return, since the effects of the symbol have been entirely removed from the input stream. Otherwise, we shift high, low, and code. The lowest bit of high gets a 1, the lowest bit of low gets a 0, and the lowest bit of code gets a new bit from the input stream. This process continues indefinitely until all shifting is complete, at which point we return to the calling routine.

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