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Perform Block Processing on Image Files in Unsupported Formats

In addition to reading TIFF or JPEG2000 files and writing TIFF files, the blockproc function can read and write other formats. To work with image data in another file format, you must construct a class that inherits from the ImageAdapter class. The ImageAdapter class is an abstract class that is part of the Image Processing Toolbox™ software. It defines the signature for methods that blockproc uses for file I/O with images on disk. You can associate instances of an Image Adapter class with a file and use them as arguments to blockproc for file-based block processing.

This section demonstrates the process of writing an Image Adapter class by discussing an example class (the LanAdapter class). The LanAdapter class is part of the toolbox. Use this simple, read-only class to process arbitrarily large uint8 LAN files with blockproc.

Learning More About the LAN File Format

To understand how the LanAdapter class works, you must first know about the LAN file format. Landsat thematic mapper imagery is stored in the Erdas LAN file format. Erdas LAN files contain a 128-byte header followed by one or more spectral bands of data, band-interleaved-by-line (BIL), in order of increasing band number. The data is stored in little-endian byte order. The header contains several pieces of important information about the file, including size, data type, and number of bands of imagery contained in the file. The LAN file format specification defines the first 24 bytes of the file header as shown in the table.

File Header Content

BytesData TypeContent
1–66 byte array of characters that identify the version of the file format'HEADER' or 'HEAD74' (Pre-7.4 files say 'HEADER'.)
7–816-bit integerPack type of the file (indicating bit depth)
9–1016-bit integerNumber of bands of data
11–166 bytesUnused
17–2032-bit integerNumber of columns of data
21–2432-bit integerNumber of rows of data

The remaining 104 bytes contain various other properties of the file, which this example does not use.

Parsing the Header

Typically, when working with LAN files, the first step is to learn more about the file by parsing the header. The following code shows how to parse the header of the rio.lan file:

  1. Open the file:

    file_name = 'rio.lan';
    fid = fopen(file_name,'r');
  2. Read the first six bytes of the header:

    headword = fread(fid,6,'uint8=>char')';
    fprintf('Version ID: %s\n',headword);
  3. Read the pack type:

    pack_type = fread(fid,1,'uint16',0,'ieee-le');
    fprintf('Pack Type: %d\n',pack_type);
  4. Read the number of spectral bands:

    num_bands = fread(fid,1,'uint16',0,'ieee-le');
    fprintf('Number of Bands: %d\n',num_bands);
  5. Read the image width and height:

    unused_bytes = fread(fid,6,'uint8',0,'ieee-le');
    width = fread(fid,1,'uint32',0,'ieee-le');
    height = fread(fid,1,'uint32',0,'ieee-le');
    fprintf('Image Size (w x h): %d x %d\n',width,height);
  6. Close the file:


The output appears as follows:

Version ID: HEAD74
Pack Type: 0
Number of Bands: 7
Image Size (w x h): 512 x 512

The rio.lan file is a 512-by-512, 7-band image. The pack type of 0 indicates that each sample is an 8-bit, unsigned integer (uint8 data type).

Reading the File

In a typical, in-memory workflow, you would read this LAN file using the multibandread function. The LAN format stores the RGB data from the visible spectrum in bands 3, 2, and 1, respectively. You could create a truecolor image for further processing.

truecolor = multibandread('rio.lan', [512, 512, 7],...
   'uint8=>uint8', 128,'bil', 'ieee-le', {'Band','Direct',[3 2 1]});

For very large LAN files, however, reading and processing the entire image in memory using multibandread can be impractical, depending on your system capabilities. To avoid memory limitations, use the blockproc function. With blockproc, you can process images with a file-based workflow. You can read, process, and then write the results, one block at a time.

The blockproc function only supports reading and writing certain file formats, but it is extensible via the ImageAdapter class. To write an Image Adapter class for a particular file format, you must be able to:

  • Query the size of the file on disk

  • Read a rectangular block of data from the file

If you meet these two conditions, you can write an Image Adapter class for LAN files. You can parse the image header to query the file size, and you can modify the call to multibandread to read a particular block of data. You can encapsulate the code for these two objectives in an Image Adapter class structure, and then operate directly on large LAN files with the blockproc function. The LanAdapter class is an Image Adapter class for LAN files, and is part of the Image Processing Toolbox software.

Examining the LanAdapter Class

This section describes the constructor, properties, and methods of the LanAdapter class. Studying the LanAdapter class helps prepare you for writing your own Image Adapter class. If you are new to object-oriented programming, see Developing Classes—Typical Workflow for general information on writing classes.

Open LanAdapter.m and look at the implementation of the LanAdapter class.


The LanAdapter class begins with the keyword classdef. The classdef section defines the class name and indicates that LanAdapter inherits from the ImageAdapter superclass. Inheriting from ImageAdapter allows the new class to:

  • Interact with blockproc

  • Define common ImageAdapter properties

  • Define the interface that blockproc uses to read and write to LAN files


Following the classdef section, the LanAdapter class contains two blocks of class properties. The first block contains properties that are publicly visible, but not publicly modifiable. The second block contains fully public properties. The LanAdapter class stores some information from the file header as class properties. Other classes that also inherit from ImageAdapter, but that support different file formats, can have different properties.

classdef LanAdapter < ImageAdapter
   properties(GetAccess = public, SetAccess = private)

   properties(Access = public)

In addition to the properties defined in LanAdapter.m, the class inherits the ImageSize property from the ImageAdapter superclass. The new class sets the ImageSize property in the constructor.

Methods: Class Constructor

The class constructor initializes the LanAdapter object. The LanAdapter constructor parses the LAN file header information and sets the class properties. Implement the constructor, a class method, inside a methods block.

The constructor contains much of the same code used to parse the LAN file header. The LanAdapter class only supports uint8 data type files, so the constructor validates the pack type of the LAN file, as well as the headword. The class properties store the remaining information. The method responsible for reading pixel data uses these properties. The SelectedBands property allows you to read a subset of the bands, with the default set to read all bands.


      function obj = LanAdapter(fname)
         % LanAdapter constructor for LanAdapter class.
         % When creating a new LanAdapter object, read the file
         % header to validate the file as well as save some image
         % properties for later use.
         % Open the file.
         obj.Filename = fname;
         fid = fopen(fname,'r');

         % Verify that the file begins with the headword 'HEADER' or
         % 'HEAD74', as per the Erdas LAN file specification.
         headword = fread(fid,6,'uint8=>char');
         if ~(strcmp(headword','HEADER') || strcmp(headword',...
            error('Invalid LAN file header.');

         % Read the data type from the header.
         pack_type = fread(fid,1,'uint16',0,'ieee-le');
         if ~isequal(pack_type,0)
            error(['Unsupported pack type. The LanAdapter example ' ...
               'only supports reading uint8 data.']);

         % Provide band information.
         obj.NumBands = fread(fid,1,'uint16',0,'ieee-le');
         % By default, return all bands of data
         obj.SelectedBands = 1:obj.NumBands;

         % Specify image width and height.
         unused_field = fread(fid,6,'uint8',0,'ieee-le');
         width = fread(fid,1,'uint32',0,'ieee-le');
         height = fread(fid,1,'uint32',0,'ieee-le');
         obj.ImageSize = [height width];

         % Close the file handle

   end % LanAdapter 

Methods: Required

Adapter classes have two required methods defined in the abstract superclass, ImageAdapter. All Image Adapter classes must implement these methods. The blockproc function uses the first method, readRegion, to read blocks of data from files on disk. The second method, close, performs any necessary cleanup of the Image Adapter object.

   function data = readRegion(obj, region_start, region_size)
      % readRegion reads a rectangular block of data from the file.

      % Prepare various arguments to MULTIBANDREAD.
      header_size = 128;
      rows = region_start(1):(region_start(1) + region_size(1) - 1);
      cols = region_start(2):(region_start(2) + region_size(2) - 1);
      % Call MULTIBANDREAD to get data.
      full_size = [obj.ImageSize obj.NumBands];
      data = multibandread(obj.Filename, full_size,...
     'uint8=>uint8', header_size, 'bil', 'ieee-le',...
         {'Row',   'Direct', rows},...
         {'Column','Direct', cols},...
         {'Band',  'Direct', obj.SelectedBands});
   end % readRegion

readRegion has two input arguments, region_start and region_size. The region_start argument, a two-element vector in the form [row col], defines the first pixel in the request block of data. The region_size argument, a two-element vector in the form [num_rows num_cols], defines the size of the requested block of data. The readRegion method uses these input arguments to read and return the requested block of data from the image.

The readRegion method is implemented differently for different file formats, depending on what tools are available for reading the specific files. The readRegion method for the LanAdapter class uses the input arguments to prepare custom input for multibandread. For LAN files, multibandread provides a convenient way to read specific subsections of an image.

The other required method is close. The close method of the LanAdapter class appears as follows:

      function close(obj)
      % Close the LanAdapter object. This method is a part
      % of the ImageAdapter interface and is required.
      % Since the readRegion method is "atomic", there are
      % no open file handles to close, so this method is empty.

   end % public methods
end % LanAdapter

As the comments indicate, the close method for LanAdapter has nothing to do, so close is empty. The multibandread function does not require maintenance of open file handles, so the close method has no handles to clean up. Image Adapter classes for other file formats may have more substantial close methods including closing file handles and performing other class clean-up responsibilities.

Methods (Optional)

As written, the LanAdapter class can only read LAN files, not write them. If you want to write output to a LAN format file, or another file with a format that blockproc does not support, implement the optional writeRegion method. Then, you can specify your class as a 'Destination' parameter in blockproc and write output to a file of your chosen format.

The signature of the writeRegion method is as follows:

function [] = writeRegion(obj, region_start, region_data)

The first argument, region_start, indicates the first pixel of the block that the writeRegion method writes. The second argument, region_data, contains the new data that the method writes to the file.

Classes that implement the writeRegion method can be more complex than LanAdapter. When creating a writable Image Adapter object, classes often have the additional responsibility of creating new files in the class constructor. This file creation requires a more complex syntax in the constructor, where you potentially need to specify the size and data type of a new file you want to create. Constructors that create new files can also encounter other issues, such as operating system file permissions or potentially difficult file-creation code.

Using the LanAdapter Class with blockproc

Now that you understand how the LanAdapter class works, you can use it to enhance the visible bands of a LAN file. See the Compute Statistics for Large Images example to see how the blockproc function works with the LanAdapter class.

See Also

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