Customized Data Pipelines for Images etc.

Deeplearning4j’s examples run on benchmark datasets that don’t present any obstacles in the data pipeline, because we abstracted them away. But real-world users start with raw, messy data, which they need to preprocess, vectorize and use to train a neural net for clustering or classification.

DataVec is our machine-learning vectorization library, and it is useful for customizing how you prepare data that a neural net can learn. (The Datavec Javadoc is here.)

This tutorial covers some key topics you may face when processing images. It covers Label Generation, Vectorization, and Configuring your Neural Net for ingesting images.

Introductory Video

Full Pipeline Video Series

A series of videos is available. The series involves a screencast of writing code to process a directory of images. Generate labels based on the path. Build a Neural Network to train on the images. Additional Videos in teh series include saving the Trained Network, loading the Trained Network, and testing against unseen images gathered from the internet.

The series starts here

Loading Labels

Our examples repo has an example of using ParentPathLabelGenerator. The class is

    File parentDir = new File(System.getProperty("user.dir"), "dl4j-examples/src/main/resources/DataExamples/ImagePipeline/");
    //Files in directories under the parent dir that have "allowed extensions" plit needs a random number generator for reproducibility when splitting the files into train and test
    FileSplit filesInDir = new FileSplit(parentDir, allowedExtensions, randNumGen);

    //You do not have to manually specify labels. This class (instantiated as below) will
    //parse the parent dir and use the name of the subdirectories as label/class names
    ParentPathLabelGenerator labelMaker = new ParentPathLabelGenerator();

Reading Records, Iterating Over Data

The following code helps transform raw images into a format that will work well with DL4J and ND4J:

    // Instantiating RecordReader. Specify height and width of images.
    ImageRecordReader recordReader = new ImageRecordReader(height,width,channels,labelMaker);
    // channels refer to the color depth of the image, 1 for greyscale, 3 for RGB

    // Point to data path. 
    recordReader.initialize(new FileSplit(new File(parentDir)));

The RecordReader is a class in Datavec that helps convert the byte-oriented input into data that’s oriented toward a record; i.e. a collection of elements that are fixed in number and indexed with a unique ID. Converting data to records is the process of vectorization. The record itself is a vector, each element of which is a feature.

Read the DataVec JavaDoc for more information.

The ImageRecordReader is a subclass of the RecordReader and is built to automatically take in 28 x 28 pixel images. You can change dimensions to match your custom images by changing the parameters fed to the ImageRecordReader, as long as you make sure to adjust the nIn hyperparameter, which will be equal to the product of image height x image width. A MultiLayerNetwork Configuration to ingest 28*28 images would have the .nIn(28 * 28)

If a LabelGenerator is used the the call to ImageRecordReader includes the labelGenerator as a parameter. ImageRecordReader(int height, int width, int channels, PathLabelGenerator labelGenerator)

The DataSetIterator is a Deeplearning4J class that traverses the elements of a list. Iterators pass through the data list, accesses each item sequentially, keeps track of how far it has progressed by pointing to its current element, and modifies itself to point to the next element with each new step in the traversal.

    // DataVec to DL4J
    DataSetIterator dataIter = new RecordReaderDataSetIterator(recordReader,batchSize,1,outputNum);
    // Parameters are, the DataVec recordReader, the batchsize, the offset of the label index, and the total number
    // of label classes

The DataSetIterator iterates through input datasets, fetching one or more (batchSize) new examples with each iteration, and loading those examples into a DataSet(INDArray) object that neural nets can work with. The line above also tells the RecordReaderDataSetIterator to convert the image to a straight line (e.g. vector) of elements, rather than a 28 x 28 grid (e.g. matrix); it also specifies the configuration of the labels.

RecordReaderDataSetIterator can take as parameters the specific recordReader you want (for images, sound, etc.) and the batch size. For supervised learning, it will also take a label index and the number of possible labels that can be applied to the input (for LFW, the number of labels is 5,749).

Configuring the Model

Below is a neural net configuration example. Many of the hyperparameters are explained in the NeuralNetConfiguration Class glossary; thus, we’ll summarize a few distinguishing characteristics.

  • optimizationAlgo relies on LINE_GRADIENT_DESCENT, rather than LBFGS.
  • nIn is set to 784, so each image pixel becomes an input node. If your images change dimensions (meaning more or less pixels total), nIn should, too.
  • list operator is set to 4, which means three RBM hidden layers and one output layer. More than one RBM becomes a DBN.
  • lossFunction is set to RMSE, or root-mean-square-error. This loss function will be used to train the net to reconstruct the input properly.

Building and Training the Model

At the end of the configuration, call build and pass the network’s configuration into a MultiLayerNetwork object.

    MultiLayerNetwork network = new MultiLayerNetwork(conf);

To set iteration listeners that show performance and help tune while training the neural net, use one of these examples:

    network.setListeners(Arrays.<IterationListener>asList(new ScoreIterationListener(10), new GradientPlotterIterationListener(10)));


    network.setListeners(Collections.singletonList((IterationListener) new ScoreIterationListener(listenerFreq)));

Training the Model

Once the data is loaded, the model framework is built, train the model to fit the data. Call next on the data iterator to advance it through the data based on the batch size. It will return a certain amount of data based on batch size each time. The code below shows how to loop through the dataset iterator and then to run fit on the model in order to train it on the data.

    // Training
        DataSet next =;;

Evaluating the Model

After the model has been trained, run data through it to test and evaluate its performance. Typically its a good idea to use cross validation by splitting up the dataset and using data the model hasn’t seen before. In this case we have just show you below how to reset the current iterator, initialize the evaluation object and run data through it to get performance information.

    // Using the same training data as test. 
    Evaluation eval = new Evaluation();
        DataSet next =;
        INDArray predict2 = network.output(next.getFeatureMatrix());
        eval.eval(next.getLabels(), predict2);

An alternative approach to apply cross validation in this effort, would be to load all the data and split it up into a train and test set. Iris is a small enough dataset to load all the data and accomplish the split. Many datasets used for production neural nets are not. For the alternative approach in this example, use the following code:

    SplitTestAndTrain testAndTrain = next.splitTestAndTrain(splitTrainNum, new Random(seed));
    DataSet train = testAndTrain.getTrain();
    DataSet test = testAndTrain.getTest();

To split test and train on large datasets, you’ll have to iterate through both the test and training datasets. For the moment, we’ll leave that to you.

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