Background Subtraction in Matlab

The identification of changing or moving areas in the field of view of a camera is a fundamental pre-processing step in computer vision and video processing. Example applications include visual surveillance (e.g., people counting, action recognition, anomaly detection, post-event forensics), smart environments (e.g., room occupancy monitoring, fall detection, parking occupancy detection), and video retrieval (e.g., activity localization and tracking). 1

Background subtraction is a well known approach for detecting moving objects. To subtract foreground from background, we will calculate the difference between the current frame and the background frame.

In this tutorial, I am going to implement a system for background subtraction for a video of a stationary camera. I will use the video frames from changedetection website under the Dataset >2012> Baseline category.

First, I will implement median method over a selected time window of frames to estimate the value of background for each pixel. Then I will subtract each frame from the background to detect moving pixels.

Matlab Code
highway_path = '..\highway';


function median_background(absolute_folder_path)

    path = strcat(absolute_folder_path , '\input\*.jpg');
    srcFiles = dir(path);
    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% Median background %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
    for k = 1 : 200 % Window size can be adjusted
        filename = strcat(absolute_folder_path, '\input\', srcFiles(k).name);
        CurrentFrame = imread(filename);
        CurrentFrame = rgb2gray(CurrentFrame);
        imgSet{k} = CurrentFrame;

    dim = ndims(imgSet{1});          
    M = cat(dim+1,imgSet{:});        
    median_background = median(M,dim+1);

    Background = median_background;

    for i = 1: length(srcFiles)
        filename = strcat(absolute_folder_path, '\input\', srcFiles(i).name);
        CurrentFrame = imread(filename);
        CurrentFrame = rgb2gray(CurrentFrame);

        % I found out that imsubtract doesn't work the way I think. We can't use it for background subtraction
        %FrameDiff = imsubtract(CurrentFrame, Background);
        FrameDiff = abs(double(CurrentFrame) - double(Background));
        Foreground = zeros(size(Background));
        Foreground_logical = (FrameDiff > 30); % Tresholding, can be adjusted
        Foreground = (double(CurrentFrame)).*Foreground_logical;
        % Again tresholding can be done to remove remaining noise
        %Foreground = bwareaopen(Foreground, 10);

        % Output folder to write final images
        output = strcat(absolute_folder_path, '\output\', int2str(i), '.jpg');
        % Write output images to a folder
        imwrite(Foreground, output);

Example input frames:

Example output frames:


  1. Description taken from changedetection
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