I have a very huge GeoTIFF file (around 12GB).

enter image description here

Most of it is made with white spaces. So, I thought that if I removed these white spaces from it, the GeoTIFF file would reduce its size to something smaller than 12GB. After researching for a while, I found this solution:

gdalbuildvrt -srcnodata "0 0 0" virtualimage.vrt myTiffFile.tif
gdal_translate virtualimage.vrt outputTiffFile.tif

However, even though I can validate on QGIS that it has written No Data on whitespaces, the size of my GeoTIFF file is still 12GB. I'm not sure what's happening, can I reduce the size of a GeoTIFF layer by writing No Data to white pixels? If not, how can I reduce its size?

  • 4
    In uncompressed image every pixel takes the same amount of space. Contiguous areas with same pixel values can fortunately be compressed well even with lossless methods. Try gdal_translate virtualimage.vrt outputTiffFile.tif -co compress:deflate -co tiled=yes and feel the difference. Tile the image by the same, it is always a good default with any bigger images.
    – user30184
    Nov 25 '21 at 21:33
  • @user30184 Cool, it went from 12GB to 18MB in my case... Is there any downside of compressing it like this?
    – raylight
    Nov 25 '21 at 22:48
  • 2
    As @user30184 said, the command line calls a lossless compression algorithm. So there is no downside in the quality of the image. Depending on the relative speed of your processor vs. disk I/O, you might have a slowdown in loading the file because it has to be decompressed to be used in most applications. This will be most apparent on a system with a fast disk (eg, SSD) and slow CPU. You might actually come out ahead on a system with slow disk and fast CPU.
    – Llaves
    Nov 26 '21 at 4:00
  • @user30184 - please add your comment as an answer
    – Ian Turton
    Nov 26 '21 at 10:17

I uncompressed TIFF files each pixel takes a fixed number of bits. However, TIFF files can be compressed and contiguous areas with uniform pixel values like the nodata-area in your image can be compressed extremely well even with lossless compression method like "deflate" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deflate.

Basic command for creating a deflate compressed and tiled image from a GDAL virtual raster file with gdal_translate:

gdal_translate -of GTiff  -co compress=deflate -co tiled=yes virtualimage.vrt outputTiffFile.tif

Tiling makes it possible for client programs to access small areas of interest from a large tiff file efficiently without reading all too much unnecessary pixels.


To go along with the answer by user30184, adding the following will further decrease your file size:


Reference: https://kokoalberti.com/articles/geotiff-compression-optimization-guide/

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