Motion detection in a video footage has always been an interesting topic among the Machine Learning enthusiasts. It has many purposes. Motion detection can be used for automatic video analysis in video surveillance systems. It can be used to capture movements on a wildlife camera. Another application is to detect number of vehicles passing by on a highway.

In this article, we will build a fully working motion detector. It will not only detect motion, but will also be able to track motion of different objects. By this process, we will learn a lot about image processing techniques in OpenCV. By the end, you will have all the codes required to build your own motion detector.

Problem Statement

We will build a Computer Vision model for motion detection. It will be able to detect moving people in a video footage. Each person detected will have a different colored bounding box. The motion’s path will be shown with the same color as that of the bounding box.

We will achieve motion detection by comparing each video frame to the previous one. The spots which are different from the last frame are detected. For the predicting motion’s path, Kalman Filter is used. The final result will look like this:

Coding Our Motion Detector with Python

Firstly, we look at and understand the code for the motion detection. Then, we write scripts for tracking the path of moving objects. We will use the scripts and draw path of the objects on the frame. So, let’s begin-

1. Reading the video from location

We’ve used cv2.VideoCapture to capture the video from a file location. You can change it to your own location.

import cv2 
import imutils 
import numpy as np 
cap = cv2.VideoCapture('video.mp4')

2. Preparing the frames

while cap.isOpened():

# Capture frame-by-frame
    ret, frame =
    if ret is None:
        frame = imutils.resize(frame, width=750)

    gray = cv2.cvtColor(frame, cv2.COLOR_BGR2GRAY)
    gray = cv2.GaussianBlur(gray, (21, 21), 0)

In this block of code, we capture each frame of the video and resize it. Then, we convert it to gray scale image. Now the frame’s pixels have values in the range of 0-255. Later, the frame is blurred to smooth it out a little.

3. Detecting motion in the frames

We begin with setting the first frame if it is None. If the number of frames exceed 5, we reset the delay counter and set the first frame with next frame.Motion is detected by comparing first frame with the next frame. The difference between frames is calculated using absdiff method.

if first_frame is None:
    first_frame = gray
next_frame = gray

delay_counter += 1

if delay_counter > 5:
    delay_counter = 0
    first_frame = next_frame

frame_delta = cv2.absdiff(first_frame, next_frame)
thresh = cv2.threshold(frame_delta, 25, 255, cv2.THRESH_BINARY)[1]

thresh = cv2.dilate(thresh, None, iterations=2)
cnts, _ = cv2.findContours(thresh.copy(), cv2.RETR_EXTERNAL, cv2.CHAIN_APPROX_SIMPLE)

threshold() method is used to make the pixels white whose values are greater than threshold value 25. The frames are dilated and we finally find the contours where motion is detected.

This is what it looks like-

5. Finding centroids of the objects in motion

For each contour with contour area greater than 1000, we find its centroid and store it. Simultaneously, we also store the coordinates of bounding box the centroid belongs to.

centers = []
coords = []
for c in cnts:
        (x, y, w, h) = cv2.boundingRect(c)
        if cv2.contourArea(c) > 1000:
            b = np.array([[x + w // 2], [y + h // 2]])

            coords.append([x, y, x + w, y + h])
    except ZeroDivisionError:

We have successfully detected bounding boxes and their centroids for the motion detected in the video footage. So, the first half of our task is completed. Now, we proceed towards tracking the objects in motion.

Kalman Filter

Kalman filter algorithm estimates the states of a system given the observations or measurements. It is a useful tool for a variety of different applications including object tracking and autonomous navigation systems, economics prediction, etc.

The Kalman filter is essentially a set of mathematical equations that implement a predictor-corrector type estimator that is optimal in the sense that it minimizes the estimated error covariance when some presumed conditions are met [1].

Mathematical Equation [1]:

The Kalman filter addresses the general problem of trying to estimate the state x ∈ ℜn of a discrete-time controlled process that is governed by the linear stochastic difference equation

xk = Axk-1 + Buk + wk-1

with a measurement m y ∈ℜ that is

yk = Hxk +vk

The random variables wk and kv represent the process and measurement noise respectively. They are assumed to be independent of each other, white, and with normal probability distributions p(w) ≈ N ,0( Q) (3) p(v) ≈ N ,0( R)

The more detailed working of Kalman filter can be found in [1].

Tracking Path of Moving Object

We provide you with two python scripts named and The scripts contain codes to track the object with its centroid. It makes use of Kalman filter algorithm. The codes are explained within the scripts with the help of comments.

# Import python libraries
import numpy as np
from kalman_filter import KalmanFilter
from common import dprint
from scipy.optimize import linear_sum_assignment

class Track(object):
    """Track class for every object to be tracked
    def __init__(self, prediction, trackIdCount):
        """Initialize variables used by Track class
            prediction: predicted centroids of object to be tracked
            trackIdCount: identification of each track object
        self.track_id = trackIdCount  # identification of each track object
        self.KF = KalmanFilter()  # KF instance to track this object
        self.prediction = np.asarray(prediction)  # predicted centroids (x,y)
        self.skipped_frames = 0  # number of frames skipped undetected
        self.trace = []  # trace path

class Tracker(object):
    """Tracker class that updates track vectors of object tracked
    def __init__(self, dist_thresh, max_frames_to_skip, max_trace_length,
        """Initialize variable used by Tracker class
            dist_thresh: distance threshold. When exceeds the threshold,
                         track will be deleted and new track is created
            max_frames_to_skip: maximum allowed frames to be skipped for
                                the track object undetected
            max_trace_lenght: trace path history length
            trackIdCount: identification of each track object
        self.dist_thresh = dist_thresh
        self.max_frames_to_skip = max_frames_to_skip
        self.max_trace_length = max_trace_length
        self.tracks = []
        self.trackIdCount = trackIdCount

    def Update(self, detections):
        """Update tracks vector using following steps:
            - Create tracks if no tracks vector found
            - Calculate cost using sum of square distance
              between predicted vs detected centroids
            - Using Hungarian Algorithm assign the correct
              detected measurements to predicted tracks
            - Identify tracks with no assignment, if any
            - If tracks are not detected for long time, remove them
            - Now look for un_assigned detects
            - Start new tracks
            - Update KalmanFilter state, lastResults and tracks trace
            detections: detected centroids of object to be tracked
        # Create tracks if no tracks vector found
        if (len(self.tracks) == 0):
            for i in range(len(detections)):
                track = Track(detections[i], self.trackIdCount)
                self.trackIdCount += 1

        # Calculate cost using sum of square distance between
        # predicted vs detected centroids
        N = len(self.tracks)
        M = len(detections)
        cost = np.zeros(shape=(N, M))   # Cost matrix
        for i in range(len(self.tracks)):
            for j in range(len(detections)):
                    diff = self.tracks[i].prediction - detections[j]
                    distance = np.sqrt(diff[0][0]*diff[0][0] +
                    cost[i][j] = distance

        # Let's average the squared ERROR
        cost = (0.5) * cost
        # Using Hungarian Algorithm assign the correct detected measurements
        # to predicted tracks
        assignment = []
        for _ in range(N):
        row_ind, col_ind = linear_sum_assignment(cost)
        for i in range(len(row_ind)):
            assignment[row_ind[i]] = col_ind[i]

        # Identify tracks with no assignment, if any
        un_assigned_tracks = []
        for i in range(len(assignment)):
            if (assignment[i] != -1):
                # check for cost distance threshold.
                # If cost is very high then un_assign (delete) the track
                if (cost[i][assignment[i]] > self.dist_thresh):
                    assignment[i] = -1
                self.tracks[i].skipped_frames += 1

        # If tracks are not detected for long time, remove them
        del_tracks = []
        for i in range(len(self.tracks)):
            if (self.tracks[i].skipped_frames > self.max_frames_to_skip):
        if len(del_tracks) > 0:  # only when skipped frame exceeds max
            for id in del_tracks:
                if id < len(self.tracks):
                    del self.tracks[id]
                    del assignment[id]
                    dprint("ERROR: id is greater than length of tracks")

        # Now look for un_assigned detects
        un_assigned_detects = []
        for i in range(len(detections)):
                if i not in assignment:

        # Start new tracks
        if(len(un_assigned_detects) != 0):
            for i in range(len(un_assigned_detects)):
                track = Track(detections[un_assigned_detects[i]],
                self.trackIdCount += 1

        # Update KalmanFilter state, lastResults and tracks trace
        for i in range(len(assignment)):

            if(assignment[i] != -1):
                self.tracks[i].skipped_frames = 0
                self.tracks[i].prediction = self.tracks[i].KF.correct(
                                            detections[assignment[i]], 1)
                self.tracks[i].prediction = self.tracks[i].KF.correct(
                                            np.array([[0], [0]]), 0)
            if(len(self.tracks[i].trace) > self.max_trace_length):
                for j in range(len(self.tracks[i].trace) -
                    del self.tracks[i].trace[j]

            self.tracks[i].KF.lastResult = self.tracks[i].prediction

import numpy as np

class KalmanFilter(object):
    """Kalman Filter class keeps track of the estimated state of
    the system and the variance or uncertainty of the estimate.
    Predict and Correct methods implement the functionality
    Attributes: None
    def __init__(self):
        """Initialize variable used by Kalman Filter class
        self.dt = 0.005  # delta time

        self.A = np.array([[1, 0], [0, 1]])  # matrix in observation equations
        self.u = np.zeros((2, 1))  # previous state vector

        # (x,y) tracking object center
        self.b = np.array([[0], [255]])  # vector of observations

        self.P = np.diag((3.0, 3.0))  # covariance matrix
        self.F = np.array([[1.0, self.dt], [0.0, 1.0]])  # state transition mat

        self.Q = np.eye(self.u.shape[0])  # process noise matrix
        self.R = np.eye(self.b.shape[0])  # observation noise matrix
        self.lastResult = np.array([[0], [255]])

    def predict(self):
        """Predict state vector u and variance of uncertainty P (covariance).
            u: previous state vector
            P: previous covariance matrix
            F: state transition matrix
            Q: process noise matrix
            u'_{k|k-1} = Fu'_{k-1|k-1}
            P_{k|k-1} = FP_{k-1|k-1} F.T + Q
                F.T is F transpose
            vector of predicted state estimate
        # Predicted state estimate
        self.u = np.round(, self.u))
        # Predicted estimate covariance
        self.P =,, self.F.T)) + self.Q
        self.lastResult = self.u  # same last predicted result
        return self.u

    def correct(self, b, flag):
        """Correct or update state vector u and variance of uncertainty P (covariance).
        u: predicted state vector u
        A: matrix in observation equations
        b: vector of observations
        P: predicted covariance matrix
        Q: process noise matrix
        R: observation noise matrix
            C = AP_{k|k-1} A.T + R
            K_{k} = P_{k|k-1} A.T(C.Inv)
            u'_{k|k} = u'_{k|k-1} + K_{k}(b_{k} - Au'_{k|k-1})
            P_{k|k} = P_{k|k-1} - K_{k}(CK.T)
                A.T is A transpose
                C.Inv is C inverse
            b: vector of observations
            flag: if "true" prediction result will be updated else detection
            predicted state vector u

        if not flag:  # update using prediction
            self.b = self.lastResult
        else:  # update using detection
            self.b = b
        C =,, self.A.T)) + self.R
        K =,, np.linalg.inv(C)))

        self.u = np.round(self.u +, (self.b -,
        self.P = self.P -,, K.T))
        self.lastResult = self.u
        return self.u

Now, in the final part of the article, we will first draw tracking lines. Then, we draw bounding boxes for each object. The color of bounding box and tracking lines will be same and unique for each object.

We begin with importing Tracker class from the script. We write the following code before the while loop i.e. before while cap.isOpened():-

from tracker import Tracker
traces = []
tracker = Tracker(200, 30, 20, 100)
# Variables initialization
skip_frame_count = 0
track_colors = [(255, 0, 0), (0, 255, 0), (0, 0, 255), (255, 255, 0),
                (0, 255, 255), (255, 0, 255), (255, 127, 255),
                (127, 0, 255), (127, 0, 127)]

After adding this code, we proceed to write code within the while loop i.e. within while cap.isOpened() loop.

# If centroids are detected then track them
if len(centers) > 0:

    # Track object using Kalman Filter

    # For identified object tracks draw tracking line
    # Use various colors to indicate different track_id
    colors = {}
    for i in range(len(tracker.tracks)):
        if len(tracker.tracks[i].trace) > 1:
            for j in range(len(tracker.tracks[i].trace) - 1):
                # Draw trace line
                x1 = tracker.tracks[i].trace[j][0][0]
                y1 = tracker.tracks[i].trace[j][1][0]
                x2 = tracker.tracks[i].trace[j + 1][0][0]
                y2 = tracker.tracks[i].trace[j + 1][1][0]
                clr = tracker.tracks[i].track_id % 9
            for trace in traces:
                frame = cv2.line(frame, (int(trace[0]), int(trace[1])), (int(trace[2]), int(trace[3])),
                         track_colors[trace[4]], 2)
            if clr not in colors.keys():
                colors[clr] = [x2, y2]

                c = []
                for z in range(len(coords)):
                    minv = np.linalg.norm(np.array(centers[z]) - np.array(list(colors.values())[0]))
                    v = list(colors.keys())[0]

                    for val in range(1, len(colors.keys())):
                        dist = np.linalg.norm(np.array(centers[z]) - np.array(list(colors.values())[val]))
                        if dist < minv:
                            minv = dist
                            v = list(colors.keys())[val]
                    if v in c:
                        c.append(v + 1)
                for z in range(len(coords)):
                    cv2.rectangle(frame, (coords[z][0], coords[z][1]), (coords[z][2], coords[z][3]),
                                  track_colors[c[z]], 2)


The above code block successfully draws tracking paths and bounding boxes on the frame. The frame can be shown using imshow() method.


In this article, we’ve examined how motion detection works in a video. We also worked with image processing techniques like blurring, diluting, finding differencesbetween frames. In addition, we saw how Kalman filter can be used to track the moving objects. At last, we learned about drawing bounding boxes and lines on the image with unique colors.


[1]. Mohamed LAARAIEDH. “Implementation of Kalman Filter with Python Language“. IETR Labs, University of Rennes 1.