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24 Articles

Posted by Dirk Alvermann on

Use Case: Extend and improve existing HTR-Models

Release 1.10.1

In the last post we described that a base model can pass on everything it has “learned” to the new HTR model. With additional ground truth, the new model can then extend and improve its capabilities.

Here is a typical use case: In our subproject on the Assessor Relations of the Wismar Tribunal we train a model with eight different writers. The train set contains 150,000 words, the CER was 4.09% in the last training. However, the average CER for some writers was much higher than for others.

So we decided to do an experiment. We added 10,000 words of new GT for two of the obvious writers (Balthasar and Engelbrecht)and used the Base Model as well as its Training and Validation Set for the new training.

As a result, the new model had an average CER of 3.82% – it had improved. But what is remarkable is that not only the CER of the two writers for which we had added new GT was improved – in both cases up to 1%. Also the reliability of the model applied to the other writers did not suffer, but was reduced as well.

Posted by Dirk Alvermann on

On the Shoulders of Giants: Training with Base Models

Release 1.10.1

If you want to develop generic HTR models, there is no way around working with base models. When training with base models, each training session for a model is based on an existing model, i.e. a base model. This is usually the last HTR model that was trained in the corresponding project.

Base models “remember” what they have already “learned”. Therefore each new training session improves the quality of the model (theoretically). The new model learns from its predecessor and thus becomes better and better. Therefore, training with Base Models is also particularly suitable for large generic models that are continuously developed over a long period of time.

To carry out training with Base Model, you simply select a specific Base Model in the training tool – in addition to the usual settings. Then, from the HTR Model Data tab, insert the Train Set and the Validation Set (called Test Set in earlier Trankribus versions) of the base model, as well as the new Training and Validation Set. Additionally you can add more new Ground Truth and then start the training.

Posted by Elisabeth Heigl on

Validation possibilities

Release 1.10.1

There are different ways to measure the accuracy of our HTR-models in Transkribus. Three Compare tools calculate the results and present them in different ways. In all three cases the hypothesis (HTR version) of a text is compared with a corresponding reference (correct version, i.e. GT) of the same text.

The first tool which shows the most immediate result is “Compare Text Versions“. It visualizes the validation for the currently opened page in the text itself. Here we can see exactly which mistakes the HTR has made at which points.

The standard “Compare” gives us these same validation results as numerical values. Among other things, it calculates the average word error rate (WER), the character error rate (CER) and the respective accuracy rates. (If someone knows what the bag tokens are about, he/she is welcome to write us a comment). In the “Compare” we also have the possibility to run the “Advanced Compare“, which allows us to perform the corresponding calculations for the whole document or only for certain pages.

We already have presented the validation tool “Compare Sample” briefly in another post to show how to create Test Samples. The actual Sample Compare then predicts how a model will potentially read on a Test Sample that has been created for this purpose.

Posted by Dirk Alvermann on

Generic Models and what they do

Release 1.10.1

In a previous post we talked about the differences between special models and generic models. Special models should always be the first choice if your material includes a limited number of writers. If your material is very diverse – for example, if the writer changes frequently in a bundle of handwritings – it makes sense to train a generic model.

The following articles are based on our experiences with the training of a generic model for the Responsa of the Greifswald Law Faculty, in which about 1000 different writer’s hands were trained.

But first: What should a generic HTR model be able to do? The most important point has already been said: It should be able to handle a variety of different writer’s hands. But it should also be able to “read” different fonts (alphabets) and languages and be able to interpret abbreviations. Below are a few typical examples of such challenges from our collection.

Different writer’s hands in one script:

Abbreviations:

Different languages in one script:

Posted by Elisabeth Heigl on

Language Models

Release 1.10.1

We talked about the use of dictionaries in an earlier post and mentioned that the better an HTR model is (CER below 7%), the less useful a dictionary is for the HTR result.
This is different when using Language Models, which are available in Transkribus since December 2019. Like dictionaries, Language Models are generated from the ground truth used in each HTR training. Unlike dictionaries, Language Models do not aim at identifying individual words. Instead, they determine the probability of a word sequence or the frequent combination of words and expressions in a particular context.
Unlike dictionaries, the use of Language Models always leads to much better HTR results. In our tests, the average CER improved by as much as 1% compared to the HTR result without the Language Model – consistently, on all test sets.

Tips & Tools: The Language Model can be selected when configuring the HTR. Unlike dictionaries, Language Models and HTR model cannot be freely combined. Each HTR model has its uniquely genereated Language Model and only this one can be used.

Posted by Elisabeth Heigl on

Test samples – the impartial alternative

If a project concept does not allow the strategic planning and organization of test sets, there is a simple alternative: automatically generated samples. Samples are also a valuable addition to the manually created test sets, because here it is the machine that decides which material is included in the test and which is not. Transkribus can select individual lines from a set of pages that you have previously provided. So it’s a more or less random selection. This is worthwhile for projects that have a lot of material at their disposal – including ours.

We use samples as a cross-check to our manually created test sets and because samples are comparable to the statistical methods of random sampling, which the DFG also recommends in its rules of practice for testing the quality of OCR.

Because HTR – unlike OCR – is line-based, we modify the DFG’s recommendation somewhat. I will explain this with an example: For our model Spruchakten_M-3K, a check should be carried out on the reading accuracy achieved. For this purpose we created a sample, exclusively from untrained material of the whole period for which the model works (1583-1627). To do this, we selected every 20th page from the entire data set, obtainimg a subset of 600 pages. It represents approximately 3.7% of the total 16,500 pages of material available for this period.  All this is done on your own network drive. After uploading this subset to Transkribus and processing it with the CITlab Advanced LA (16.747 lines were detected), we let Transkribus create a sample from it. It contains 900 randomly selected lines. This is about 5% of the subset. This sample was now provided with GT and used as a test set to check the model.

And this is how it works in practice: The “Sample Compare” function is called up in the “Tools” menu. Select your subset in the collection and add it to the sample set pressing the “add to sample” button. Then specify the number of lines Transkribus should select from the subset. Here you should select at least as many lines as there are pages in the subset, so that each page has one test line.

In our case, we decided to use a factor of 1.5 just to be sure. The program now selects the lines independently and compiles a sample from them, which is saved as a new document. This document does not contain any pages, but only lines. These must now be transcribed as usual to create GT. Afterwards any model can be tested on this test set using the Compare function.

Posted by Dirk Alvermann on

dictionaries

Release 1.7.1

HTR does not require dictionaries. However, they are also available and can be selected if you perform full-text recognition.

With each HTR training, a dictionary can be generated out of the GT in the training set. It is therefore possible to create a suitable dictionary for each model or for the type of text you are working with.

However, dictionaries are rarely used in Transkribus. In our project they are sometimes used at the beginning of the work on new models. As long as the model to be improved still has a CER of more than 8%, correcting the texts recognized by the HTR is very time-consuming. If a dictionary is used at this point, the CER can often be reduced to 5%. If the model already has a CER below 8%, the use of dictionaries is counterproductive because the reading result often becomes worse again. In such cases, the HTR “contrary to better knowledge” replaces its own reading result with a recommendation from the dictionary.

We use dictionaries just to support very weak models. And we do this rather to help the transcriber with particularly difficult writings. So we used a dictionary to create the GT for the really hard to read concept writings. Of course, the results had to be corrected in every case. But the “reading recommendations”, which were based on the HTR with dictionary, were a good help. As soon as our model was able to recognize concept writings with less than 8% CER, we decided not to use the dictionary any longer.

Posted by Dirk Alvermann on

Languages

HTR does not require dictionaries and works regardless of the language in which a text is written – as long as it uses the character system the model is trained for.

For the training strategy in our project, this means that we do not distinguish between Latin and German texts or Low German and High German texts when selecting the training material. So far, we have not found any serious differences in the quality of the HTR results between texts in both languages.

This observation is important for historical manuscripts from the German-speaking countries. Usually, the language used within a document also affects the script. Most writers of the 16th to 18th centuries, when they switch from German to Latin, change in the middle of the text from Kurrent to Antiqua. In contrast to OCR, where the mixed use of gothic and antiqua typefaces in modern printing is very difficult, HTR – if it is trained for it – has no problem with this change.

A very typical case in our material, here with a comparison of the  HTR result and GT, can illustrate the problem. The error rate in the linguistically different text sections of the page is quite comparable. The models used were the Spruchakten_M 2-8 and M 3-1. The first is an generic model, the second is specialized for writings from 1583 to 1627.

Posted by Elisabeth Heigl on

Generic vs. specialized model

Release 1.7.1

Did you notice in the graph for the model development that the character error rate (CER) of the last model got slightly worse again? Despite the fact that we had significantly increased the GT input? We had about 43,000 more words in training but the average CER deteriorated from 2.79% to 3.43%. We couldn’t really explain that.

At this point we couldn’t get any further with more and more GT. So we had to change our training strategy. So far we had trained large models, with writings from a total period of 70 years and more than 500 writers.

Our first suspicion fell on the concept writings, of which we already knew that the machine (LA and HTR) – just like ourselves – had its problems with it. During the next training we excluded these concept writings and trained exclusively with “clean” office writings. But that didn’t lead to a noticeable improvement: the Test Set-CER dropped from 3.43% to just 3.31%.

In the following trainings, we additionally focused on a chronological seuqencing of the models. We split our material and created two different models: Spruchakten_M_3-1 (Spruchakten 1583-1627) and Spruchakten_M_4-1 (Spruchakten 1627-1653).

With these new specialized models we actually achieved an improvement of the HTR – where the generic model was no longer sufficient. In the test sets several pages showed an error rate of less than 2 %. In the case of the model M_4-1, many CERs of single pages remained below 1 % and two pages were with 0 % even free of any errors.

Whether an generic or specialized model will help and produce better results depends a lot on the size and composition of the material. In the beginning, when you are keen to progress as quickly as possible (the more, the better), an generic model is useful. However, if that reaches its limits, you shouldn’t “overburden” the HTR any further, but instead specialize your models.

Posted by Dirk Alvermann on

How to create test sets and why they are important, #2

Release 1.7.1

What is the best procedure for creating test sets?
In the end, everyone can find their own way. In our project, the pages for the test sets are already selected during the creation of the GT. They receive a special edit status (Final) and are later collected in separate documents. This ensures that they will not accidentally be put into  training. Whenever new GT is created for future training, the material for the test set is also extended at the same time. So both sets grow in proportion.

For the systematic training we create several Documents, which we call “test sets” and which are each related to a single Spruchakte (one year). For example, we create a “test set 1594” for the Document of the Spruchakte 1594. Here, we place representatively selected images, which should reflect the variety of writers as exactly as possible. In the “mother document” we mark the pages selected for the test set as “Final” to make sure that they will not be edited there in the future. We have not created a separate test set for each singel record or year, but have proceeded in five-year steps.

Since a model is often trained over many rounds, this procedure also has the advantage that the test set always remains representative. The CERs of the different versions of a model can therefore always be compared and observed during development, because the test is always executed on the same (or extended) set. This makes it easier to evaluate the progress of a model and to adjust the training strategy accordingly.

Transkribus also stores the test set used for each training session in the affected collection independently. So you can always fall back on it.
It is also possible to select a test set just before the training and simply assign individual pages of the documents from the training material to the test set. This may be a quick and pragmatic solution for the individual case, but it is not suitable for the planned development of powerful models.