While pyramids/overviews are not part of the GeoTIFF standard, many tools support creating them. For example vips/nip2, Orfeo Toolbox (otb) and ossim which all promise some support for creating those. But I have no idea if they would all create files in a format that the others support. Looking through the documentation of the tools does not really mention anything about that.
vips is not a geospatial tool and I could not find any enduser-friendly documentation but the IIPImage docs mention its support for "Tiled Pyramidal TIFF" : http://iipimage.sourceforge.net/documentation/images/
otb does not mention anything about a format or spec for its "Multi Resolution Pyramids": https://www.orfeo-toolbox.org/CookBook/CookBooksu65.html
ossim says it supports various output formats for its "reduced resolution data sets" but I don't know what they actually mean: https://trac.osgeo.org/ossim/wiki/img2rr
GDAL also does not really specify things about its "overview images": http://www.gdal.org/gdaladdo.html
So they all have pyramids/overviews but it is not clear if they are cross-compatible.
On more general pages I found the following quotes:
Tiled Multi-Resolution (or Tiled Pyramidal) TIFF is simply a tiled multi-page TIFF image, with each resolution stored as a separate layer within the TIFF. This is a standard TIFF extension and is supported by most image processing applications including Photoshop, GIMP, VIPS and ImageMagick. The libtiff codec library is also perfectly capable of reading and writing such images.
Is that what everyone uses?
The Library of Congress also has some info: http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/formats/fdd/fdd000237.shtml They note:
Pyramid TIFF files created by different applications are not necessarily the same in structure. In particular, judging from analysis with JHOVE and the identify command in ImageMagick, Adobe's Photoshop and Image Magick generate files with different internal TIFF structures; in both cases, most software that can handle TIFFs appears to recognize the primary (full-size) TIFF without problem.
So, are those formats standardised and specified and documented somewhere? How can I find out which tool can produce them in compatible ways to others? Are there any geospatial tags in overviews/pyramids or could I use any software to create them on the image data?