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A discrete cosine transform (DCT) expresses a sequence of finitely many data points in terms of a sum of cosine functions oscillating at different frequencies. DCTs are important to numerous applications in science and engineering, from lossy compression of audio and images (where small highfrequency components can be discarded), to spectral methods for the numerical solution of partial differential equations. The use of cosine rather than sine functions is critical in these applications: for compression, it turns out that cosine functions are much more efficient (as explained below, fewer are needed to approximate a typical signal), whereas for differential equations the cosines express a particular choice of boundary conditions.
In particular, a DCT is a Fourierrelated transform similar to the discrete Fourier transform (DFT), but using only real numbers. DCTs are equivalent to DFTs of roughly twice the length, operating on real data with even symmetry (since the Fourier transform of a real and even function is real and even), where in some variants the input and/or output data are shifted by half a sample. There are eight standard DCT variants, of which four are common.
The most common variant of discrete cosine transform is the typeII DCT, which is often called simply "the DCT"; its inverse, the typeIII DCT, is correspondingly often called simply "the inverse DCT" or "the IDCT". Two related transforms are the discrete sine transform (DST), which is equivalent to a DFT of real and odd functions, and the modified discrete cosine transform (MDCT), which is based on a DCT of overlapping data.
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