Clearer Frames, Anytime: Resolving Velocity Ambiguity in Video Frame Interpolation


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Existing video frame interpolation (VFI) methods blindly predict where each object is at a specific timestep t ("time indexing"), which struggles to predict precise object movements. Given two images of a baseball, there are infinitely many possible trajectories: accelerating or decelerating, straight or curved. This often results in blurry frames as the method averages out these possibilities. Instead of forcing the network to learn this complicated time-to-location mapping implicitly together with predicting the frames, we provide the network with an explicit hint on how far the object has traveled between start and end frames, a novel approach termed "distance indexing". This method offers a clearer learning goal for models, reducing the uncertainty tied to object speeds. We further observed that, even with this extra guidance, objects can still be blurry especially when they are equally far from both input frames (i.e., halfway in-between), due to the directional ambiguity in long-range motion. To solve this, we propose an iterative reference-based estimation strategy that breaks down a long-range prediction into several short-range steps. When integrating our plug-and-play strategies into state-of-the-art learning-based models, they exhibit markedly sharper outputs and superior perceptual quality in arbitrary time interpolations, using a uniform distance indexing map in the same format as time indexing. Additionally, distance indexing can be specified pixel-wise, which enables temporal manipulation of each object independently, offering a novel tool for video editing tasks like re-timing.
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