Natural Images, Gaussian Mixtures and Dead Leaves

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 25 (NIPS 2012)

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Daniel Zoran, Yair Weiss


Simple Gaussian Mixture Models (GMMs) learned from pixels of natural image patches have been recently shown to be surprisingly strong performers in modeling the statistics of natural images. Here we provide an in depth analysis of this simple yet rich model. We show that such a GMM model is able to compete with even the most successful models of natural images in log likelihood scores, denoising performance and sample quality. We provide an analysis of what such a model learns from natural images as a function of number of mixture components --- including covariance structure, contrast variation and intricate structures such as textures, boundaries and more. Finally, we show that the salient properties of the GMM learned from natural images can be derived from a simplified Dead Leaves model which explicitly models occlusion, explaining its surprising success relative to other models.