INT8 Calibration

DL Workbench can lower the precision of a model from FP32 to INT8 with a process called calibration. Calibration accelerates the performance of certain models on hardware that supports INT8. An INT8 model takes up less memory footprint and speeds up inference time at the cost of a small reduction in accuracy. With the DL Workbench, you can calibrate your model locally, on a remote target, or in the Intel® DevCloud for the Edge.

To read more about INT8 inference, see Using Low-Precision INT8 Integer Inference and Post-Training Optimization Toolkit.

NOTE: INT8 calibration is not available in the following cases:

  • your configuration uses a generated dataset
  • your configuration uses a model with Intermediate Representation (IR) versions lower than 10
  • your model is already calibrated
  • you run the configuration on an Intel® Processor Graphics, Intel® Movidius™ Neural Compute Stick 2, or Intel® Vision Accelerator Design with Intel® Movidius™ VPUs plugin

INT8 Calibration Methods

DL Workbench supports two calibration methods: Default method and AccuracyAware. Each method is further configured with a calibration scheme configuration: the performance-oriented preset, which is the default scheme, or the mixed preset. Calibration schemes do not depend on a selected calibration method.

TIP: As a rule, the smaller the calibration subset, the less time the algorithms take. It is recommended to use at least a 3-5% subset of the validation dataset (300-1000 images).

NOTE: A model optimized by the Default method translates all layers that support INT8 execution into INT8 precision, while the AccuracyAware method translates only those layers that both can be executed in INT8 precision and almost do not affect increase accuracy drop.

Default Method

Default method optimizes your model to achieve best performance. The algorithm usually produces the fastest model and usually but not always results in accuracy drop within 1%. Also, this algorithm takes less time than the AccuracyAware optimization method.

NOTE: This method supports both annotated and unannotated datasets. See Dataset Types for details.

AccuracyAware method

AccuracyAware calibration optimizes your model to achieve best performance possible with the specified maximum acceptable accuracy drop. The AccuracyAware method might result in lower performance compared to the Default method, while the accuracy drop is predictable. Accuracy drop is the difference between the original model accuracy and the optimized model accuracy. Accuracy of the optimized model is guaranteed to be not smaller than the difference between the original model accuracy and the accuracy drop.

NOTE: This method supports only annotated datasets. See Dataset Types for details.

Performance Preset

Performance preset guarantees uncompromising performance of a selected calibration method, as with this preset both weights and activations are calibrated in a symmetric mode. Performance preset is a default option because it provides maximum performance speedup and is independent from a target platform.

Mixed Preset

Mixed preset is a tradeoff between accuracy and performance, and with this preset weights and activations are calibrated in symmetric and asymmetric modes correspondingly. Compared to the performance preset, the mixed preset may result in a more accurate model at the cost of performance drop. Depending on a target platform and a model, performance drop usually varies from 5 to 15%. For example, use this preset if a model has convolutional or fully-connected layers with both negative and positive activations, for example a model with non-ReLU activations.


Overall flow for converting a model from FP32 to INT8:

  1. Select an FP32 model
  2. Select an appropriate dataset
  3. Run a baseline inference
  4. Configure INT8 calibration settings and select a calibration dataset
  5. Configure inference settings for a calibrated model
  6. View INT8 calibration
  7. View inference results
  8. Compare the calibrated model with the original FP32 model

Use the links above to walk through the steps and workflow for creating a calibrated model. Topics specific only to the INT8 calibration process (steps 4-6) are described below.

Configure INT8 Calibration Settings

Once a model has been profiled by the DL Workbench, you can convert it from FP32 to to INT8. For non-FP32 models, the INT8 option is grayed out. Go to the Optimizing tab on the Configurations page:

NOTE: Using INT8 calibration, you can tune only an original (top-level) model.

Check INT8 and click Optimize. It takes you to the Calibration Options page where you must select or import a calibration dataset, define the percentage of images to use, select an optimization method, and optionally select an optimization scheme.

Once you configure your options and click Save, you are directed to the previous window. Click Calibrate.

Select Calibration Dataset (Optional)

NOTE: During the calibration process, a model tends to overfit the dataset its being calibrated on. To avoid overfitting, use separate datasets for calibration and validation.

Select a dataset you want to calibrate the model on, or import a calibration dataset by clicking Import:

Once you click Import, the Import Calibration Dataset page appears. Import a dataset, enter its name and click Import:

You are directed back to the Calibration Options page. Specify the percentage of images you will use during the calibration procedure in the Subset of Images box. The default value is 100%.

Select Optimization Method

Select an optimization method: Default Method or AccuracyAware Method.

For the AccuracyAware option, specify the Maximum Accuracy Drop to instruct the application to only convert layers that do not exceed the maximum accuracy drop you want to sacrifice. If a layer is estimated to exceed this value, it is not calibrated and remains at the original precision.

Click Optimize. Specify the model usage and accuracy parameters in the new window:

NOTE: See Configure Accuracy Settings for details.

Select Calibration Scheme (Advanced)

Calibration scheme is a collection of optimization algorithm parameters that improve a certain metric of an algorithm. See optimization parameters for details.

The default calibration scheme is the performance preset. To select the mixed preset, go to Advanced Settings:

View INT8 Calibration

Click Calibrate, and a new row for your model appears. You cannot proceed until the calibration is done.

View INT8 Calibration Results

Once the job is done, you can compare an optimized model with the original model. For more details, go to Compare Performance between Two Versions of Models.

The value of the outputPrecisions parameter in the Layer Name table for layers of INT8 optimized models is U8 (INT8 unsigned integer value).

Remote Calibration

Remote calibration is available only for configurations that use remote machines. To calibrate on a remote machine, follow the same workflow as for local calibration. However, remote calibration usually takes some more time due to data exchange between a host machine and a remote machine. Once inference on the remote machine is complete, the DL Workbench sends the calibrated model to the host machine and saves it there.

When you calibrate on a remote system, the progress bar first shows the progress for asset preparation and upload, and then for calibration and inference:

Calibration in the Intel® DevCloud for the Edge

To calibrate on a platform from the Intel® DevCloud for the Edge, follow the same workflow as for local calibration. However, calibration in the DevCloud usually takes some more time due to data exchange between a host machine and a remote machine.

When you calibrate in the DevCloud, the progress bar first shows the progress for asset preparation and upload, and then for calibration and inference:

See Also