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In this paper, we propose a coding tree unit (CTU)-level rate control scheme from the perspective of SSIM-based rate-distortion optimization to improve the coding efficiency. First, we establish the SSIM-based rate-distortion model based on the divisive normalization scheme, which characterizes the relationship between the local visual quality and the coding bits. Then, the established model is applied to the CTU-level rate control and transformed into a global optimization problem solved by convex optimization. Finally, a new model parameter updating strategy for the CTU-level rate control is presented that is robust to scene variations. Our algorithm can achieve optimal CTU-level bit allocation given the bit-rate budget. The experimental results show that our algorithm substantially enhances the coding performance and consistently outperforms both the rate control scheme in the HEVC reference software and existing algorithms in terms of rate-perceptual distortion performance using different test configurations.
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