Investigating optical flow and tracking techniques for recovering motion within image sequences
Analysing objects interacting in a 3D environment and captured by a video camera requires knowledge of their motions. Motion estimation provides such information, and consists of re-covering 2D image velocity, or optical flow, of the corresponding moving 3D objects. A gradient-based optical flow estimator is implemented in this thesis to produce a dense field of velocity vectors across an image. An iterative and parameterised approach is adopted which fits planar motion models locally on the image plane. Motion is then estimated using a least-squares minimisation approach. The possible approximations of the optical flow derivative are shown to differ greatly when the magnitude of the motion increases. However, the widely used derivative term remains the optimal approximation to use in the range of accuracies of the gradient-based estimators i.e. small motion magnitudes. Gradient-based estimators do not estimate motion robustly when noise, large motions and multiple motions are present across object boundaries. A robust statistical and multi-resolution estimator is developed in this study to address these limitations. Despite significant improvement in performance, the multiple motion problem remains a major limitation. A confidence measurement is designed around optical flow covariance to represent motion accuracy, and is shown to visually represent the lack of robustness across motion boundaries. The recent hyperplane technique is also studied as a global motion estimator but proved unreliable compared to the gradient-based approach. A computationally expensive optical flow estimator is then designed for the purpose of detecting at frame-rate moving objects occluding background scenes which are composed of static objects captured by moving pan and tilt cameras. This was achieved by adapting the estimator to perform global motion estimation i.e. estimating the motion of the background scenes. Moving objects are segmented from a thresholding operation on the grey-level differences between motion compensated background frames and captured frames. Filtering operations on small object dimensions and using moving edge information produced reliable results with small levels of noise. The issue of tracking moving objects is studied with the specific problem of data correspondence in occlusion scenarios.