Improving multimodal datasets with image captioning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Datasets and Benchmarks Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Thao Nguyen, Samir Yitzhak Gadre, Gabriel Ilharco, Sewoong Oh, Ludwig Schmidt


Massive web datasets play a key role in the success of large vision-language models like CLIP and Flamingo. However, the raw web data is noisy, and existing filtering methods to reduce noise often come at the expense of data diversity. Our work focuses on caption quality as one major source of noise, and studies how generated captions can increase the utility of web-scraped datapoints with nondescript text. Through exploring different mixing strategies for raw and generated captions, we outperform the best filtering method proposed by the DataComp benchmark by 2% on ImageNet and 4% on average across 38 tasks, given a candidate pool of 128M image-text pairs. Our best approach is also 2x better at Flickr and MS-COCO retrieval. We then analyze what makes synthetic captions an effective source of text supervision. In experimenting with different image captioning models, we also demonstrate that the performance of a model on standard image captioning benchmarks (e.g., NoCaps CIDEr) is not a reliable indicator of the utility of the captions it generates for multimodal training. Finally, our experiments with using generated captions at DataComp's large scale (1.28B image-text pairs) offer insights into the limitations of synthetic text, as well as the importance of image curation with increasing training data quantity. The synthetic captions used in our experiments are now available on HuggingFace.