What is Huffman coding?
Huffman coding is a method of data compression that is independent of the data type, that is, the data could represent an image, audio or spreadsheet. This compression scheme is used in JPEG and MPEG-2. Huffman coding works by looking at the data stream that makes up the file to be compressed. Those data bytes that occur most often are assigned a small code to represent them (certainly smaller then the data bytes being represented). Data bytes that occur the next most often have a slightly larger code to represent them. This continues until all of the unique pieces of data are assigned unique code words. For a given character distribution, by assigning short codes to frequently occurring characters and longer codes to infrequently occurring characters, Huffman's minimum redundancy encoding minimizes the average number of bytes required to represent the characters in a text. Static Huffman encoding uses a fixed set of codes, based on a representative sample of data, for processing texts. Although encoding is achieved in a single pass, the data on which the compression is based may bear little resemblance to the actual text being compressed. Dynamic Huffman encoding, on the other hand, reads each text twice; once to determine the frequency distribution of the characters in the text and once to encode the data. The codes used for compression are computed on the basis of the statistics gathered during the first pass with compressed texts being prefixed by a copy of the Huffman encoding table for use with the decoding process. By using a single-pass technique, where each character is encoded on the basis of the preceding characters in a text, Gallager's adaptive Huffman encoding avoids many of the problems associated with either the static or dynamic method.
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