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Band Interleaved by Pixel (BIP) Image Encoding

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Format Description Properties Explanation of format description terms

Identification and description Explanation of format description terms

Full name Band Interleaved by Pixel (BIP) Image Encoding

Band interleaved by pixel (BIP) is one of three primary methods for encoding image data for multiband raster images in the geospatial domain, such as images obtained from satellites. BIP is not in itself an image format, but is a method for encoding the actual pixel values of an image in a file. Images stored in BIP format have the first pixel for all bands in sequential order, followed by the second pixel for all bands, followed by the third pixel for all bands, etc., interleaved up to the number of pixels. The BIP data organization can handle any number of bands, and thus accommodates black and white, grayscale, pseudocolor, true color, and multi-spectral image data.

Additional information is needed to interpret the image data, such as the numbers of rows, columns, and bands, and relate the image to geospatial locations. This information may be supplied in a file header (typical on the tapes originally used for satellite image data) or in files associated with a raw image data file.

Relationship to other formats
    Used by BIP_file, Band Interleaved by Pixel (BIP) Image File
    Equivalent to BIL_enc, Band Interleaved by Line (BIL) image encoding. An alternative ordering for raster image data, a widely used format that offers compromise performance for both spatial and spectral analysis.
    Equivalent to BSQ_enc, Band SeQuential (BSQ) image encoding. An alternative ordering for raster image data, optimal for accessing the image spatial information or information for a particular spectral band.

Local use Explanation of format description terms

LC experience or existing holdings  
LC preference  

Sustainability factors Explanation of format description terms

Disclosure This simple uncompressed raster data encoding is easily and frequently described, requiring no formal specification.

The BIL/BIP/BSQ image data organizations are described in many places, including: Understanding Rasters by Joseph Collins-Unruh and BIL, BIP and BSQ raster files from ESRI online documentation.

Adoption A common raster image encoding for remote sensor data. The BIP organization of pixel data is incorporated into TIFF. See TIFF_6.
    Licensing and patents None.
Transparency The raw data has a simple form and is easily interpreted if the image dimensions in pixels, the number of spectral bands, and the number of bits per band are known.
Self-documentation The encoding can not be interpreted without external information to indicate the number of bands, the number of bits per band, number of rows and columns in the image, etc. This information is typically provided in headers or associated files. Headers or associated files may hold other forms of metadata.
External dependencies None.
Technical protection considerations None for the encoding per se.

Quality and functionality factors Explanation of format description terms

Still Image
Normal rendering This is a basic raster encoding. To interpret as an image, technical metadata (e.g. to define colorspace, orientation, scale) must be supplied in an accompanying data structure.
Clarity (high image resolution) Spatial resolution and bit-depth are not limited by the BIP encoding per se but may be constrained in some usage contexts.
Color maintenance No support for color management in the encoding. Documentation of spectral values for bands, or interpretation of false colors (see Notes) should be supplied in an accompanying data structure.
Support for vector graphics, including graphic effects and typography No support for vector graphics or special effects.
Support for multispectral bands

BIP encoding provides optimal processing performance for spectral analysis (as compared with BIL or BSQ raster organization).

Functionality beyond normal rendering None
GIS images and datasets
Normal functionality See BIP_file for more information regarding GIS adoption and use of this encoding, and ArcGIS Desktop Help: BIL, BIP, and BSQ Raster Files for ESRI specific information about use of this encoding in ESRI GIS.

File type signifiers and format identifiers Explanation of format description terms

Tag Value Note
Filename extension See related format.  See BIP_file, Band Interleaved by Pixel (BIP) Image File

Notes Explanation of format description terms


BSQ, BIL, and BIP represent alternative ways of storing images in memory or on disk. The initials stand for band-sequential, band-interleaved-by-line, and band-interleaved-by-pixel, respectively. These image formats are also sometimes called "band-interleaved", "row-interleaved", and "pixel-interleaved", respectively. Images are stored in one format or another to facilitate expected image manipulations. The BSQ format is optimal for spatial access to any part of a single spectral band. The BIP format is optimal for spectral analysis. The BIL (band-interleaved-by-line) encoding is a compromise format, allowing fairly easy access to both spatial and spectral information. It is straightforward, but resource-intensive for large images, to transpose BIL images to BIP or BSQ format and vice versa.

Color maintenance in this information resource pertains to a format's support for color management, e.g., by the inclusion of ICC profiles. The intention of color management is to maximize the retention of accurate color in terms of human perception, generally expressed in terms of tristimulus values. In contrast, the color encoded in multispectral and hyperspectral imaging does not relate to tristimulus values and human perception as defined in the 1931 CIE publication. Rather, the banded colors in multispectral and hyperspectral imaging (sometimes even called "false colors") map the distribution of electromagnetic radiation at defined wavelengths (including ones not visible to the eye) in order to support scientific and technological documentation. Thus there may be a special sense in which the concept of color maintenance applies: multispectral and hyperspectral formats must document the wavelength used to "expose" each band. Metadata in or associated with the format may also document the intention. For example, mid-infrared radiation at 1550-1750 nm is often placed in one band in order to image vegetation and soil moisture content and some forest fires.

History BIL, BIP, and BSQ encodings were documented for use in CCT tape formats for Landsat satellite data from 1972 on. File formats for disk were developed based on experience with the tape versions.

Format specifications Explanation of format description terms

Useful references


Last Updated: 06/17/2021