Skip to main content

Feature I/O for TensorFlow

Project description


FIO is short for Feature I/O.

FIO is a concept stemming TensorFlow's low-level API. More specifically, FIO is a concept of how to join the methods dealing with the protocol buffers that write data to the TF.Record format and from the TF.Record format.

FIO works by defining your features once in a "schema"

e.g. for "normal" features:

'my-features':     {'length': 'fixed', 'dtype': tf.string,  'shape': []}

and we are done. Make this a tf.train.Example or tf.train.SequenceExample, write to a record, and read from it.

For rank 2 features:

'seq':         {
      'length': 'fixed',
      'dtype': tf.int64,
      'shape': [3, 3],
      'encode': 'channels',
      'channel_names': ['Channel 1', 'Channel 2', 'Channel 3'],
      'data_format': 'channels_last'

and we are done again. I can now encode this as a tf.train.Example (with the optional, but here provided channel names) or tf.train.SequenceExample without the names.

See the Demo notebook

Useful resources


How to decompose tensors for TF.Record How to recover TF Record data


Playing with Rank 2 Tensors and TF Records Recovering TF Records


Disclaimer: I am not familiar with the intricacies of TF, Protocol Buffers, and the like. So my motivation here may actually not make sense to the experts who actually designed this for TF. From my uninformed view, I find parts of this interface cumbersome and lacking documentation and FIO is as much as an over-engineered solution to my specific problem (getting some data in and out of TF Records) as it is an exploration of what works regarding TF Records.

"Duplicate code"

Consider the exceptionally trivial data of writing and reading:

my_feature = 'hi'

from a TF.Record.


To get this feature into a record we must first wrap this data as follows:

example = tf.train.Example(
      'my-feature': tf.train.Feature(
          value=[my_feature.encode()] # wrap as list
        ) # end byteslist
      ) # end feature
  ) # end features
) # end example

which returns:

features {
  feature {
    key: "my-feature"
    value {
      bytes_list {
        value: "hi"

and we can write this to a record with:

with tf.python_io.TFRecordWriter('my_record.tfrecord') as writer:

and we can retrieve it from this file with:

DATASET_FILENAMES = tf.placeholder(tf.string, shape=[None])
dataset = r: parse_fn(r)).repeat().batch(1)
iterator = dataset.make_initializable_iterator()
next_element = iterator.get_next()

for _ in range(1): # epochs, feed_dict={DATASET_FILENAMES: ['my_record.tfrecord']})
    for _ in range(1): # batch
        recovered =

Now it is very important to note that:

  1. the above code is a bit more sophisticated than the base example needed (given the iterator), which I will not go into detail here about,

  2. the above code will not run because parse_fn is not defined

Since we are using a TF Example, I will demonstrate how we can simply read the example to get the data back:

def parse_fn(record):
    features = {
        'my-feature': tf.FixedLenFeature([], dtype=tf.string)
    parsed = tf.parse_single_example(record, features)
    # other things can be done if needed
    return parsed

now running the above code yields:

{'my-feature': array([b'hi'], dtype=object)}

So if we want to get back to {'my-feature': 'hi'} we still need to unwrap the list and decode the string:

recovered['my-feature'] = recovered['my-feature'][0].decode()

Note: this can not be done in the parsing function (at least as I have done here).

What I would like to solve

The point of showing all of this, is that if so much care goes into converting our data for TF.Records, why must I then also write similar code to extract it out?

A goal of FIO is to define a singular schema which gets data both into a TF Record and can recover it (as we put it in).

De/re-composing tensors:

I will touch on the difference between tf.train.Example and tf.train.SequenceExample in the next section. Regardless of which you choose to use, any tensor of rank 2 or greater must be decomposed.

For simplicity consider the sequence:

seq = [
    # ch1, ch2, channel_3
    [   1,   1,  1], # element 1
    [   2,   2,  2], # element 2
    [   3,   3,  3], # element 3
    [   4,   5,  6]  # element 4

Both tf.train.Example and tf.train.SequenceExample require seq to be decomposed by channel:

either as:

# for tf.train.Example
    'channel 1': tf.train.Feature(int64_list=tf.train.Int64List(value=seq[0])),
    'channel 2': tf.train.Feature(int64_list=tf.train.Int64List(value=seq[1])),
    'channel 3': tf.train.Feature(int64_list=tf.train.Int64List(value=seq[2]))

or as:

      for i in range(number_of_channels(seq))

The difference here being that for SequenceExample, the channels are unnamed features. For many channels, this is advantageous as one needs not worry about reassembling the sequence from all the channels. However, if one has only a few channels (e.g. rgb), then one could - prior to feeding into the model - rearrange the channels, or if there are multiple-inputs, this may be of use.

Either-way, FIO aims to handle this part, both for decomposing tensors and recomposing them (in the case of the Example).

Singular interface

As mentioned above, a core distinction between Example and SequenceExample is whether or not each feature is named. However, there is one other core distinction: SequenceExample is a tuple. Rather, I should say, SequenceExample allows one to store "context" (metadata), where the context are features that adhere to all the restrictions of those for an Example.

The example given in the docs is that the context might be the same across sequences, but the large sequences may vary. Thus it saves space.

I admit, while that sound like a structure, I do not understand how to utilize that in practice. A SequenceExample requires a context (although it can be just an empty dict). Thus if one is storing examples individually, they would most likely store the context in each record. Furthermore, given my current understanding, only sequence features can be stored in the feature_lists part of SequenceExample.

From my uninformed perspective, it might have been nicer to just maintain a single Example interface, and then using something like (the imaginary) tf.train.SequenceFeature allow everything to be stored together. Better yet, tf.train.TensorFeature might solve a lot of issues.

Anyway, FIO aims to be a singular interface for handling Example and SequenceExample, making it easy to decompose tensors to (un)named features and export / import correspondingly.

Decomposing techniques

There are many ways to decompose a Tensor into its channels. I will only consider some of the possibilities for the aforementioned seq:

  • separate each channel of seq and store as corresponding numeric type, name and store in Example
  • separate each channel of seq, and store as bytes after converting via numpy.ndarray.tostring(), name and store in Example
  • separate each channel of seq, and convert each element to bytes, and then store as a BytesList, name and store in Example
  • store altogether by dumping seq to bytes via numpy.ndarray.tostring(), name and store in Example
  • separate each channel of seq and store as corresponding numeric type, leave unnamed and store in SequenceExample
  • separate each channel of seq, and store as bytes after converting via numpy.ndarray.tostring(), leave unnamed and store in SequenceExample
  • separate each channel of seq, and convert each element to bytes, and then store as a BytesList, leave unnamed and store in SequenceExample
  • store altogether by dumping seq to bytes via numpy.ndarray.tostring() and wrap as a single element bytes list.

Which one of these is best? No idea. Maybe TF encoded Float and Int64 Features to bytes behind the scene.

I will note that sometimes when trying to recover the data, if encoded as bytes, then the tensor is flattened. e.g. [[1,2],[3,4]] is restored as [1,2,3,4].

Anyway, FIO aims to allow for tensors to be encoded and decoded via some of these methods, as I honestly do not know which is best (in terms of file size, read efficiency, etc).

Again, I think TF could do this better via a tf.train.TensorFeature

p.s. if anyone knows why how to encoded features are under tf.train (e.g. tf.train.Feature(int64_list=tf.train.Int64List(value=value))) and how to decoded features are just under tf (e.g. tf.FixedLenFeature) I would like to know. This seems odd to me...

Project details

Download files

Download the file for your platform. If you're not sure which to choose, learn more about installing packages.

Filename, size & hash SHA256 hash help File type Python version Upload date
fio-0.0.6-py3-none-any.whl (13.4 kB) Copy SHA256 hash SHA256 Wheel py3
fio-0.0.6.tar.gz (14.0 kB) Copy SHA256 hash SHA256 Source None

Supported by

Elastic Elastic Search Pingdom Pingdom Monitoring Google Google BigQuery Sentry Sentry Error logging AWS AWS Cloud computing DataDog DataDog Monitoring Fastly Fastly CDN SignalFx SignalFx Supporter DigiCert DigiCert EV certificate StatusPage StatusPage Status page