Computer vision, video retrieval, action recognition, activity recognition, video scene analysis, dynamical systems, crowd behaviors


In this dissertation, we address the problem of analyzing the activities of people in a variety of scenarios, this is commonly encountered in vision applications. The overarching goal is to devise new representations for the activities, in settings where individuals or a number of people may take a part in specific activities. Different types of activities can be performed by either an individual at the fine level or by several people constituting a crowd at the coarse level. We take into account the domain specific information for modeling these activities. The summary of the proposed solutions is presented in the following. The holistic description of videos is appealing for visual detection and classification tasks for several reasons including capturing the spatial relations between the scene components, simplicity, and performance [1, 2, 3]. First, we present a holistic (global) frequency spectrum based descriptor for representing the atomic actions performed by individuals such as: bench pressing, diving, hand waving, boxing, playing guitar, mixing, jumping, horse riding, hula hooping etc. We model and learn these individual actions for classifying complex user uploaded videos. Our method bypasses the detection of interest points, the extraction of local video descriptors and the quantization of local descriptors into a code book; it represents each video sequence as a single feature vector. This holistic feature vector is computed by applying a bank of 3-D spatio-temporal filters on the frequency spectrum of a video sequence; hence it integrates the information about the motion and scene structure. We tested our approach on two of the most challenging datasets, UCF50 [4] and HMDB51 [5], and obtained promising results which demonstrates the robustness and the discriminative power of our holistic video descriptor for classifying videos of various realistic actions. In the above approach, a holistic feature vector of a video clip is acquired by dividing the video into spatio-temporal blocks then concatenating the features of the individual blocks together. However, such a holistic representation blindly incorporates all the video regions regardless of iii their contribution in classification. Next, we present an approach which improves the performance of the holistic descriptors for activity recognition. In our novel method, we improve the holistic descriptors by discovering the discriminative video blocks. We measure the discriminativity of a block by examining its response to a pre-learned support vector machine model. In particular, a block is considered discriminative if it responds positively for positive training samples, and negatively for negative training samples. We pose the problem of finding the optimal blocks as a problem of selecting a sparse set of blocks, which maximizes the total classifier discriminativity. Through a detailed set of experiments on benchmark datasets [6, 7, 8, 9, 5, 10], we show that our method discovers the useful regions in the videos and eliminates the ones which are confusing for classification, which results in significant performance improvement over the state-of-the-art. In contrast to the scenes where an individual performs a primitive action, there may be scenes with several people, where crowd behaviors may take place. For these types of scenes the traditional approaches for recognition will not work due to severe occlusion and computational requirements. The number of videos is limited and the scenes are complicated, hence learning these behaviors is not feasible. For this problem, we present a novel approach, based on the optical flow in a video sequence, for identifying five specific and common crowd behaviors in visual scenes. In the algorithm, the scene is overlaid by a grid of particles, initializing a dynamical system which is derived from the optical flow. Numerical integration of the optical flow provides particle trajectories that represent the motion in the scene. Linearization of the dynamical system allows a simple and practical analysis and classification of the behavior through the Jacobian matrix. Essentially, the eigenvalues of this matrix are used to determine the dynamic stability of points in the flow and each type of stability corresponds to one of the five crowd behaviors. The identified crowd behaviors are (1) bottlenecks: where many pedestrians/vehicles from various points in the scene are entering through one narrow passage, (2) fountainheads: where many pedestrians/vehicles are emerging from a narrow passage only to separate in many directions, (3) lanes: where many pedestrians/vehicles are moving at the same speeds in the same direction, (4) arches or rings: where the iv collective motion is curved or circular, and (5) blocking: where there is a opposing motion and desired movement of groups of pedestrians is somehow prohibited. The implementation requires identifying a region of interest in the scene, and checking the eigenvalues of the Jacobian matrix in that region to determine the type of flow, that corresponds to various well-defined crowd behaviors. The eigenvalues are only considered in these regions of interest, consistent with the linear approximation and the implied behaviors. Since changes in eigenvalues can mean changes in stability, corresponding to changes in behavior, we can repeat the algorithm over clips of long video sequences to locate changes in behavior. This method was tested on over real videos representing crowd and traffic scenes.


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Graduation Date





Shah, Mubarak


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Degree Program

Electrical Engineering








Release Date

August 2013

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Engineering and Computer Science, Engineering and Computer Science -- Dissertations, Academic