Developing Algorithmic Multimedia Exercises (CSC-397 98S)

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Algorithms for Cut Detection


In turning raw or processed video into useful components for a multimedia project, you will often need to segment the video into coherent chunks. One common method of extracting chunks is based on the identification of cuts between shots. Typically, when the author of a video program chooses to change the camera used or angle, it is a reasonable place to segment the video. Unfortunately, cut detection is a nontrivial task as a number of cinematic techniques are used for switching between shots, including dissolves, fades, and wipes.

In this exercise, you will implement a generic cut detection algorithm and experiment with a number of variations on that algorithm.


Before beginning this exercise, you should spend some time watching common categories of television show, including news and drama. Make a list of the types of transitions you observe and the differences between shots before and after transitions. If you have time, develop a short film that includes cuts that you think will be difficult to detect.


While there are many algorithms for cut detection, most algorithms rely on comparisons of successive frames in the image. In a generic imperative language, we might phrase the algorithm for detecting the cuts in a film as

cuts(film f)
  for i = 1 to the number of frames in the film
    if difference(frame i of f, frame i+1 of f) > cutoff
      report a cut between frame i and i + 1

The success of this cut detection algorithm depends on the algorithm used for comparing two frames and the cutoff value selected. For example, a comparison algorithm that compares individual pixels in the two frames is likely to be confused by pans. A low cutoff tends to mistakenly report cuts when there are none. A high cutoff tends to miss cuts.

Implement a cut detection algorithm that takes the difference function and cutoff as parameters and test it on your own video clips as well as the sample video clips supplied in the Cut Detection folder. We have supplied a number of comparison routines in that folder, including

The films for the exercise are:

Optional Tasks

There are a number of additional tasks you might perform to further your understanding of this problem or to improve your algorithm. In particular, you might add a history component to the algorithm, develop your own comparison routines, or analyze the variants to determine the types of video clips for which the methods are likely to succeed or fail.

Using a History of Comparisons

It may be possible to improve this algorithm by looking at longer-term changes to the scene. For example, in a pan shot, there will be a small difference between the histograms of successive scenes. Rather than stopping when this difference gets too big, you might base your notion of "too big" on the previous values. If there tends to be a ten point difference between successive frames, then a difference of fifteen points is not likely to be a cut. However, if there tends to be a one point difference between successive frames, then a difference of fifteen points is likely to be a cut.

Implement an algorithm that takes the history of changes into account. In a functional language, you may want to use a series of calls to map or insert, the first to determine the differences between successive frames, the next to determine the differences between those differences.

Better Comparisons

It may be possible to improve the core algorithm by coming up with better comparison algorithms. Try developing your own comparison algorithm, using the image manipulation primitives we've discussed in previous classes. If you can't come up with your own algorithm, try combinations of the other algorithms.

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