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Motion Detection Algorithms Posted: 30 Apr 2005


By Andrew Kirillov Updated: 27 Mar 2007
Views: 840,489
Some approaches to detect motion in a video stream.
Bookmarked: 845 times

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CHAPTERS
Desktop Development
Web Development
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Platforms, Frameworks &
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General Programming Introduction
Graphics / Design
Development Lifecycle There are many approaches for motion detection in a continuous video stream. All of them are based on
General Reading comparing of the current video frame with one from the previous frames or with something that we'll call
Third Party Products
background. In this article, I'll try to describe some of the most common approaches.
SERVICES
Job Board In description of these algorithms I'll use the AForge.NET framework, which is described in some other articles on
Product Catalog Code Project: [1], [2]. So, if you are common with it, it will only help.
Free Magazines
FEATURE ZONES The demo application supports the following types of video sources:
Product Showcase
.NET Bug Tracking AVI files (using Video for Windows, interop library is included);
Free DevExpress Tools updating JPEG from internet cameras;
WhitePapers / Webcasts MJPEG (motion JPEG) streams from different internet cameras;
IBM DeveloperWorks local capture device (USB cameras or other capture devices, DirectShow interop library is included).
ASP.NET Web Hosting

Algorithms
One of the most common approaches is to compare the current frame with the previous one. It's useful in video
compression when you need to estimate changes and to write only the changes, not the whole frame. But it is not
the best one for motion detection applications. So, let me describe the idea more closely.

Assume that we have an original 24 bpp RGB image called current frame (image), a grayscale copy of it
(currentFrame) and previous video frame also gray scaled (backgroundFrame). First of all, let's find the regions
where these two frames are differing a bit. For the purpose we can use Difference and Threshold filters.

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1 of 7 4/1/2009 4:08 AM
CodeProject: Motion Detection Algorithms. Free source code and progra... http://www.codeproject.com/KB/audio-video/Motion_Detection.aspx

// create filters

Difference differenceFilter = new Difference( );


IFilter thresholdFilter = new Threshold( 15 );
// set backgroud frame as an overlay for difference filter

differenceFilter.OverlayImage = backgroundFrame;
// apply the filters

Bitmap tmp1 = differenceFilter.Apply( currentFrame );


Bitmap tmp2 = thresholdFilter.Apply( tmp1 );

On this step we'll get an image with white pixels on the place where the current frame is different from the
previous frame on the specified threshold value. It's already possible to count the pixels, and if the amount of it
will be greater than a predefined alarm level we can signal about a motion event.

But most cameras produce a noisy image, so we'll get motion in such places, where there is no motion at all. To
remove random noisy pixels, we can use an Erosion filter, for example. So, we'll get now mostly only the regions
where the actual motion was.
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// create filter

IFilter erosionFilter = new Erosion( );


// apply the filter

Bitmap tmp3 = erosionFilter.Apply( tmp2 );

The simplest motion detector is ready! We can highlight the motion regions if needed.
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// extract red channel from the original image

IFilter extrachChannel = new ExtractChannel( RGB.R );


Bitmap redChannel = extrachChannel.Apply( image );
// merge red channel with motion regions

Merge mergeFilter = new Merge( );


mergeFilter.OverlayImage = tmp3;
Bitmap tmp4 = mergeFilter.Apply( redChannel );
// replace red channel in the original image

ReplaceChannel replaceChannel = new ReplaceChannel( RGB.R );


replaceChannel.ChannelImage = tmp4;
Bitmap tmp5 = replaceChannel.Apply( image );

Here is the result of it:

From the above picture we can see the disadvantages of the approach. If the object is moving smoothly we'll
receive small changes from frame to frame. So, it's impossible to get the whole moving object. Things become
worse, when the object is moving so slowly, when the algorithms will not give any result at all.

There is another approach. It's possible to compare the current frame not with the previous one but with the first
frame in the video sequence. So, if there were no objects in the initial frame, comparison of the current frame
with the first one will give us the whole moving object independently of its motion speed. But, the approach has a
big disadvantage - what will happen, if there was, for example, a car on the first frame, but then it is gone? Yes,
we'll always have motion detected on the place, where the car was. Of course, we can renew the initial frame
sometimes, but still it will not give us good results in the cases where we can not guarantee that the first frame
will contain only static background. But, there can be an inverse situation. If I'll put a picture on the wall in the
room? I'll get motion detected until the initial frame will be renewed.

The most efficient algorithms are based on building the so called background of the scene and comparing each
current frame with the background. There are many approaches to build the scene, but most of them are too

2 of 7 4/1/2009 4:08 AM
CodeProject: Motion Detection Algorithms. Free source code and progra... http://www.codeproject.com/KB/audio-video/Motion_Detection.aspx

complex. I'll describe here my approach for building the background. It's rather simple and can be realized very
quickly.

As in the previous case, let's assume that we have an original 24 bpp RGB image called current frame (image), a
grayscale copy of it (currentFrame) and a background frame also gray scaled (backgroundFrame). At the
beginning, we get the first frame of the video sequence as the background frame. And then we'll always compare
the current frame with the background one. But it will give us the result I've described above, which we obviously
don't want very much. Our approach is to "move" the background frame to the current frame on the specified
amount (I've used 1 level per frame). We move the background frame slightly in the direction of the current frame
- we are changing colors of pixels in the background frame by one level per frame.
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// create filter

MoveTowards moveTowardsFilter = new MoveTowards( );


// move background towards current frame

moveTowardsFilter.OverlayImage = currentFrame;
Bitmap tmp = moveTowardsFilter.Apply( backgroundFrame );
// dispose old background

backgroundFrame.Dispose( );
backgroundFrame = tmp;

And now, we can use the same approach we've used above. But, let me extend it slightly to get a more interesting
result.
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// create processing filters sequence

FiltersSequence processingFilter = new FiltersSequence( );


processingFilter.Add( new Difference( backgroundFrame ) );
processingFilter.Add( new Threshold( 15 ) );
processingFilter.Add( new Opening( ) );
processingFilter.Add( new Edges( ) );
// apply the filter

Bitmap tmp1 = processingFilter.Apply( currentFrame );

// extract red channel from the original image

IFilter extrachChannel = new ExtractChannel( RGB.R );


Bitmap redChannel = extrachChannel.Apply( image );
// merge red channel with moving object borders

Merge mergeFilter = new Merge( );


mergeFilter.OverlayImage = tmp1;
Bitmap tmp2 = mergeFilter.Apply( redChannel );
// replace red channel in the original image

ReplaceChannel replaceChannel = new ReplaceChannel( RGB.R );


replaceChannel.ChannelImage = tmp2;
Bitmap tmp3 = replaceChannel.Apply( image );

Now it looks much better!

There is another approach based on the idea. As in the previous cases, we have an original frame and a gray
scaled version of it and of the background frame. But let's apply Pixellate filter to the current frame and to the
background before further processing.
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3 of 7 4/1/2009 4:08 AM
CodeProject: Motion Detection Algorithms. Free source code and progra... http://www.codeproject.com/KB/audio-video/Motion_Detection.aspx

// create filter

IFilter pixellateFilter = new Pixellate( );


// apply the filter

Bitmap newImage = pixellateFilter( image );

So, we have pixellated versions of the current and background frames. Now, we need to move the background
frame towards the current frame as we were doing before. The next change is only the main processing step:
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// create processing filters sequence

FiltersSequence processingFilter = new FiltersSequence( );


processingFilter.Add( new Difference( backgroundFrame ) );
processingFilter.Add( new Threshold( 15 ) );
processingFilter.Add( new Dilatation( ) );
processingFilter.Add( new Edges( ) );
// apply the filter

Bitmap tmp1 = processingFilter.Apply( currentFrame );

After merging tmp1 image with the red channel of the original image, we'll get the following image:

May be it looks not so perfect as the previous one, but the approach has a great possibility for performance
optimization.

Looking at the previous picture, we can see, that objects are highlighted with a curve, which represents the
moving object's boundary. But sometimes it's more likely to get a rectangle of the object. Not only this, what to do
if we want not just highlight the objects, but get their count, position, width and height? Recently I was thinking:
"Hmmm, it's possible, but not so trivial". Don't be afraid, it's easy. It can be done using the BlobCounter class
from my imaging library, which was developed recently. Using BlobCounter we can get the number of objects,
their position and the dimension on a binary image. So, let's try to apply it. We'll apply it to the binary image
containing moving objects, the result of Threshold filter.

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BlobCounter blobCounter = new BlobCounter( );


...
// get object rectangles

blobCounter.ProcessImage( thresholdedImage );
Rectangle[] rects = BlobCounter.GetObjectRectangles( );
// create graphics object from initial image

Graphics g = Graphics.FromImage( image );


// draw each rectangle

using ( Pen pen = new Pen( Color.Red, 1 ) )


{
foreach ( Rectangle rc in rects )
{
g.DrawRectangle( pen, rc );

if ( ( rc.Width > 15 ) && ( rc.Height > 15 ) )


{
// here we can higligh large objects with something else

}
}
}
g.Dispose( );

Here is the result of this small piece of code. Looks pretty. Oh, I forgot. In my original implementation, there is
some code instead of that comment for processing large objects. So, we can see a small numbers on the objects.

4 of 7 4/1/2009 4:08 AM
CodeProject: Motion Detection Algorithms. Free source code and progra... http://www.codeproject.com/KB/audio-video/Motion_Detection.aspx

[14.06.2006] There was a lot of complains that the idea of MoveTowards filter, which is used for updating
background image, is hard to understand. So, I was thinking a little bit about changing this filter to something
else, which is clearer to understand. And the solution is to use Morph filer, which became available in 2.4 version
of AForge.Imaging library. The new filter has two benefits:

It is much more simpler to understand;


The implementation of the filter is more efficient, so the filter produce better performance.

The idea of the filter is to preserve specified percentage of the source filter and to add missing percentage from
overlay image. So, if the filter was applied to source image with percent value equal to 60%, then the result
image will contain 60% of source image and 40% of overlay image. Applying the filter with percent values around
90% makes background image changing continuously to current frame.

Motion Alarm
It is pretty easy to add motion alarm feature to all these motion detection algorithms. Each algorithm calculates a
binary image containing difference between current frame and the background one. So, the only we need is to just
calculate the amount of white pixels on this difference image.
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// Calculate white pixels

private int CalculateWhitePixels( Bitmap image )


{
int count = 0;
// lock difference image

BitmapData data = image.LockBits( new Rectangle( 0, 0, width, height ),


ImageLockMode.ReadOnly, PixelFormat.Format8bppIndexed );
int offset = data.Stride - width;
unsafe
{
byte * ptr = (byte *) data.Scan0.ToPointer( );
for ( int y = 0; y < height; y++ )
{
for ( int x = 0; x < width; x++, ptr++ )
{
count += ( (*ptr) >> 7 );
}
ptr += offset;
}
}
// unlock image

image.UnlockBits( data );
return count;
}

For some algorithms it could be done even simpler. For example, in blob counting approach we can accumulate not
the white pixels count, but the area of each detected object. Then, if the computed amount of changes is greater
than a predefined value, we can fire an alarm event.

Video Saving
There are many different ways to process motion alarm event: just draw a blinking rectangle around the video, or
play sound to attract attention. But, of course, the most useful one is video saving on motion detection. In the
demo application I was using the AVIWriter class, which uses Video for Windows interop to provide AVI files
saving capabilities. Here is the small sample of using the class to write small AVI file, which draw diagonal line:
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CodeProject: Motion Detection Algorithms. Free source code and progra... http://www.codeproject.com/KB/audio-video/Motion_Detection.aspx

SaveFileDialog sfd = new SaveFileDialog( );


if ( sfd.ShowDialog( ) == DialogResult.OK )
{
AVIWriter writer = new AVIWriter( "wmv3" );
try
{
writer.Open( sfd.FileName, 320, 240 );
Bitmap bmp = new Bitmap( 320, 240, PixelFormat.Format24bppRgb );
for ( int i = 0; i < 100; i++ )
{
bmp.SetPixel( i, i, Color.FromArgb( i, 0, 255 - i ) );
writer.AddFrame( bmp );
}
bmp.Dispose( );
}
catch ( ApplicationException ex )
{
}
writer.Dispose( );
}

Note: In this small sample and in the demo application I was using Windows Media Video 9 VCM codec.

AForge.NET framework
The Motion Detection application is based on the AForge.NET framework, which provides all the filters and image
processing routines used in this application. To get more information about the framework, you may read
dedicated article on Code Project or visit project's home page, where you can get all the latest information about
it, participate in a discussion group or submit issues or requests for enhancements.

Applications for motion detection


Some people ask me one question from time to time, which is a little bit strange to me. The question is "What is
the application for motion detectors". There is a lot to do with them and it depends on the imagination. One of the
most straight forward applications is video surveillance, but it is not the only one. Since the first release of this
application, I've received many e-mails from different people, who applied this application to incredible things.
Some of them have their own articles, so you can take a look:

"Laser Gesture Recognition" by Ashish Derhgawen;


"Everyone Loves Babies! Webcams and Motion Detection" by Scott Hanselman;
"Motion-Detecting, Blood Squirting Halloween Skull" by Brian Peek.

Conclusion
I've described only ideas here. To use these ideas in real applications, you need to optimize its realization. I've
used an image processing library for simplicity, it's not a video processing library. Besides, the library allows me to
research different areas more quickly, than to write optimized solutions from the beginning. A small sample of
optimization can be found in the sources.

History
[20.04.2007] - 1.5
Project converted to .NET 2.0;
Integrated with AForge.NET framework;
Motion detectors updated to use new features of AForge.NET to speed-up processing.
[15.06.2006] - 1.4 - Added fifth method based of Morph filter of AForge.Imaging library.
[08.04.2006] - 1.3 - Motion alarm and video saving.
[22.08.2005] - 1.2 - Added fourth method (getting objects' rectangles with blob counter).
[01.06.2005] - 1.1 - Added support of local capture devices and MMS streams.
[30.04.2005] - 1.0 - Initial release.

License
This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The GNU General Public License
(GPL)

About the Author

Andrew Kirillov
Occupation: Software Developer (Senior)
Location: Latvia

6 of 7 4/1/2009 4:08 AM
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WoooooW! Shahriyar A. 9:39 27 Mar '09

try the code [modified] Member 3617910 6:09 25 Mar '09

?about motion detection sldi 7:03 24 Mar '09

please sldi 6:52 24 Mar '09

vb.Net simple Motion Detection issues chrismalyon 1:37 24 Mar '09

questions about the relationship among the tracking objects across multi- 5:27 20 Mar '09
mightyhao
cameras
MPEG huge file catherine kuramitz 16:48 10 Mar '09

Re: MPEG huge file Andrew Kirillov 21:58 10 Mar '09

Re: MPEG huge file nohear_t 17:57 20 Mar '09

avi question (Thank You) catherine kuramitz 3:43 6 Mar '09

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Re: avi question (Thank You) Andrew Kirillov 4:27 6 Mar '09

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Re: avi question (Thank Y ou) Andrew Kirillov 22:41 6 Mar '09

Re: avi question (Thank You) catherine kuramitz 16:30 10 Mar '09

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kindly help me arunvikc 6:33 19 Feb '09

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