Training a Custom Object Detector with TensorFlow and Using it with OpenCV DNN module

Training a Custom Object Detector with TensorFlow and Using it with OpenCV DNN module

Main Image

This is a really descriptive and interesting tutorial, let me highlight what you will learn in this tutorial.

  1. A Crystal Clear step by step tutorial on training a custom object detector.
  2. A method to download videos and create a custom dataset out of that.
  3. How to use the custom trained network inside the OpenCV DNN module so you can get rid of the TensorFlow framework.

Plus here are two things you will receive from the provided source code:

  1. A Jupyter Notebook that automatically downloads and installs all the required things for you so you don’t have to step outside of that notebook.
  2. A Colab version of the notebook that runs out of the box, just run the cells and train your own network.

I will stress this again that all of the steps are explained in a neat and digestible way. I’ve you ever plan to do Object Detection then this is one tutorial you don’t want to miss.

As mentioned, by downloading the Source Code you will get 2 versions of the notebook: a local version and a colab version.

So first we’re going to see a complete end to end pipeline for training a custom object detector on our data and then we will use it in the OpenCV DNN module so we can get rid of the heavy Tensorflow framework for deployment. We have already discussed the advantages of using the final trained model in OpenCV instead of Tensorflow in my previous post.

Today’s post is the 3rd tutorial in our 3 part Deep Learning with OpenCV series. All three posts are titled as:

  1. Deep Learning with OpenCV DNN Module, A Comprehensive Guide
  2. Training a Custom Image Classifier with OpenCV, Converting to ONNX, and using it in OpenCV DNN module.
  3. Training a Custom Object Detector with Tensorflow and using it with OpenCV DNN (This Post)

Now to follow along and to learn the full pipeline of training a custom object detector with TensorFlow you don’t need to read the previous two tutorials but when we move to the last part of this tutorial and use the model in OpenCV DNN then those tutorials would help.

What is Tensorflow Object Detection (TFOD) API:

To train our custom Object Detector we will be using TensorFlow Object Detection API (TFOD API). This API is a framework built on top of TensorFlow that makes it easy for you to train your own custom models.

The workflow generally goes like this :

You take a pre-trained model from this model zoo and then fine-tune the model for your own task.
Fine-tuning is a transfer learning method that allows you to utilize features of the model which it learned from a different task to your own task. Because of this, you won’t require thousands of images to train the network, only a few hundred will suffice.
If you’re someone who prefers PyTorch instead of Tensorflow then you may want to look at Detectron 2

For this Tutorial I will be using TensorFlow Object Detection API version 1, If you want to know why we are using version 1 instead of the recently released version 2, then you can read below optional explanation.

Why we’re using TFOD API Version 1? (OPTIONAL READ)


TFOD v2 comes with a lot of improvements, the new API contains some new State of The ART (SoTA) models, some pretty good changes including New binaries for train/eval/export that are eager mode compatible. You can check out this release blog from the TFOD API developers.

But the thing is because TF 2 no longer supports sessions so you can’t easily export your model to frozen_inference_graph, furthermore TensorFlow depreciates the use of frozen_graphs and promotes saved_model format for future use cases.

For TensorFlow, this is the right move as the saved_model format is an excellent format.

So what’s the issue?

The problem is that OpenCV only works with frozen_inference_graphs and does not support saved_model format yet, so for this reason if your end goal is to deploy it in OpenCV then you should use TFOD API v1. Although you can still generate frozen_graphs, those graphs produce errors with OpenCV most of the time, we’ve tried limited experiments with TF2 so feel free to carry out your experiments but do share if you find something useful.

Now One great thing about this situation is that the Tensorflow team decided to keep the whole pipeline and code of TFOD API 2 almost identical to TFOD API 1 so learning how to use TFOD v1 will also teach you how to use TFOD API v2.

Now Let’s start with the code

Code For TF Object Detection Pipeline:

Download Source Code For This Tutorial

Download Source Code 

Make sure to download the source code, which also contains the support folder with some helper files that you will need.

Here’s the hierarchy of the source code folder:

Here’s a Description of what these folder & files are:

  • Custom_Object_Detection.ipynb: This is the main notebook which contains all the code.
  • Colab Notebook Link: This text file contains the link for the colab version of the notebook.
  • This file will create tf records from the images and labels.
  • fronzen_graph_inference.pb: This is the model we trained, you can try to run this on test images.
  • graph_ours.pbtxt: This is the graph file we generated for OpenCV, you’ll learn to generate your own.
  • This file creates the above graph.pbtxt file for OpenCV.
  • This is a helper file used by the file.
  • labels: These are .xml labels for each image
  • test_images: These are some sample test images to do inference on.

Note: There are some other folder and files which you will generate along the way, I will explain their use later.

Now Even though I make it really easy but still if you don’t want to worry about environment setup, installation, then you can use the colab version of the notebook that comes with the source code.

The Colab version doesn’t require any Configuration, It’s all set to go. Just run the cells in order. You should also be able to use the Colab GPU to speed up the training process.

The full code can be broken down into the following parts

  • Part 1: Environment Setup
  • Part 2: Installation & TFOD API Setup
  • Part 3: Data Collection & Annotation
  • Part 4: Downloading Model & Configuring it
  • Part 5: Training and Exporting Inference Graph.
  • Part 6: Generating .pbtxt and using the trained model with just OpenCV.

Part 1: Environment Setup:

First let’s Make sure you have correctly set up your environment.

Since we are going to install tensorflow version 1.15.0 so we should use a virtual environment, you can either install virtualenv or anaconda distribution.. I’m using Anaconda. I will start by creating virtual environment.

Open up the command prompt and do conda create --name tfod1 python==3.7

Now you can move into that environment by activating it:

conda activate tfod1

Make sure there is a (tfod1) at the beginning of each line in your cmd. This means you’re using that environment. Now anything you install will be in that environment and won’t affect your base/root environment.

The first thing You want to do install a jupyter notebook in that environment. Otherwise, your environment will use the jupyter notebook of the base environment, so do:

pip install jupyter notebook

Now you should go into the directory/folder which I provided you and contains this notebook and open up the command prompt.

First, activate the environment tfod1 environment and then launch the jupyter notebook by typing jupyter notebook and hit enter.

This will launch the jupyter notebook in your newly created environment. You can now Open up Custom_Object_Detection Notebook.

Make sure your Notebook is Opened up in the Correct environment


Part 2: Installation & TFOD API Setup: 

You can install all the required libraries by running this cell

If you want to install Tensorflow-GPU for version 1 then you can take a look at my tutorial for that here

Note: You would need to change the Cuda Toolkit version and CuDNN version in the above tutorial, since you’ll be installing for TF version 1 instead of version 2. You can look up the exact version requirements here

Another Library you will need is pycocotools

Alternatively You can also use this command to install in windows:

pip install git+^&subdirectory=PythonAPI

Alternatively you can also use this command to install in Linux and osx:

pip install pycocotools

Note: Make sure you have Cython installed first by doing: pip install Cython

Import Required Libraries

This will also confirm if your installations were successful or not.

This should be Version 1.15.0, DETECTED VERSION: 1.15.0

Clone Tensorflow Object Detection Model Repository

You need to clone the TF Object Detection API repository, you can either download the zip file and extract it or if you have git installed then you can git clone it.

Option 1: Download with git:

You can run git clone if you have git installed, this is going to take a while, its 600 MB+, have a coffee or something.

Option 2: Download zip and extract all: (Only do this if you don’t have git)

You can download the zip by clicking here, after downloading make sure to extract the contents of this zip inside the directory containing this notebook. I’ve already provided you the code that automatically downloads and unzips the repo in this directory.

The models we’ll be using are in the research directory of the above repo. The research directory contains a collection of research model implementations in TensorFlow 1 or 2 by researchers. There are a total of 4 directories in the above repo, you can learn more about them here.

Install Tensorflow Object Deteciton API & Compile Protos

Download Protobuff Compiler:

TFOD contains some files .proto format, I’ll explain more about this format in a later step, for now you need to download the protobuf compiler from here, make sure to download the correct one based on your system. For e.g. I downloaded for my 64 bit windows. For linux and osx there are different files.

After downloading unzip the proto folder, go to its bin directory, and copy the proto.exe file. Now paste this proto.exe inside the models/research directory.

The below script does all of this, but you can choose to do it manually if you want. Make sure to change the URL if you’re using a system other than 64-bit windows.

Now you can install the object detection API and compile the protos:
Below two operations must be performed in this directory, otherwise it won’t work, especially the proto command.

Note: Since I already had installed pycocotools so after running this line cp object_detection/packages/tf1/ . I edited the file to get rid of pycocotools package inside the REQUIRED_PACKAGES list then I saved the file and ran the python -m pip install . command. I did this because I was facing issues installing pycocotools this way which is why I installed the pycocotools-windows package, you probably won’t need do this.

If you wanted to install TFOD API version 2 instead of version 1 then you can just replace tf1 with tf2 in the cp object_detection/packages/tf1/ . command.

You can Check your installation of TFOD API by running

Part 3: Data Collection & Annotation:

Now for this tutorial I’m going to train a detector to detect the faces of Tom & Jerry. I didn’t wanted to use the common animal datasets etc. So I went with this.

While I was writing the above sentence I just realized I’m still using a Cat, mouse dataset albeit an animated one so I guess its still a unique dataset.

In this tutorial, I’m not only going to show you how to annotate the data but also show you one approach on how to go about collecting data for a new problem.

So What I’ll be doing is that I’m going to download a video of Tom & Jerry from Youtube and then split the frames of the video to create my dataset and then annotate each of those frames with bounding boxes. Now instead of downloading my Tom & Jerry video you can use any other video and try to detect your own classes.

Alternatively you can also generate training data from other methods including getting images from Google Images.

To prepare the Data we need to perform these 5 steps:

  • Step 1: Download Youtube Video.
  • Step 2: Split Video Frames and store it.
  • Step 3: Annotate Images with labelImg.
  • Step 4: Create a label Map file.
  • Step 5: Generate TFRecords.

Step 1: Download Youtube Video:

11,311,502.0 Bytes [100.00%] received. Rate: [7788 KB/s]. ETA: [0 secs]

For more options on how you can download the video take a look at the documentation here

Step 2: Split Video Frames and store it:

Now we’re going to split the video frames and store them in a folder. Since most videos have a high FPS (30-60 frames/sec) and we don’t exactly need this many frames for two reasons:

  1. If you take a 30 FPS video then for each second of the video you will get 30 images and most of those images won’t be different from each other, there will be a lot of repetition of information.
  2. We’re already going to use Transfer Learning with TFOD API, the benefit of this is that we won’t be needing a lot of images and this is good since we don’t want to annotate thousands of images.

So we can do two two things we can skip frames and save every nth frame or we can save a frame every nth second of the video. I’m going with the latter approach, although both are valid approaches.

Done Splitting Video, Total Images saved: 165

You can go to the directory where the images are saved and manually go through each image and delete the ones where Tom & Jerry are not visible or hardly visible. Although this is not a strict requirement since you can easily skip these images in the annotation step.

Step 3: Annotate Images with labelImg

You can watch this video below to understand how to use labelImg to annotate images and export annotations. You can also take a look at the github repo here.

For the current Tom & Jerry problem I am providing you with a labels folder which already contains the .xml annotation file for each image. If you want to try a different dataset then go ahead, make sure to put the labels of that dataset in the labels folder

Note: We are not splitting the images into train and validation folder right now because we’ll be doing that automatically at tfrecord creation step. Although it would still be a good idea to separate 10% of the data for proper testing/evaluation of the final trained detector, but since my purpose is to make this tutorial as simple as possible so I won’t be doing that today, I already have test folder with 4-5 images which I will evaluate on.

Step 4: Create a label Map file

TensorFlow requires a label map file, which maps each of the class labels to an integer values. This label map is used in training and detection process. This file should be saved in training directory which also contains the labels folder

Step 5: Generate TFrecords

What are TFrecords?

Tfrecords are just protocol buffers, they help make the data reading/processing process computationally efficient. The only downside they have is that they are not human readable.

What are protocol Buffers?

A protocol buffer is a type of serialized structured data. It is more efficient than JSON, XML, pickle, and text storage formats. Google created this Protobuf (protocol buffer) format in 2008 because of their efficiency, Since then they have been widely used by Google and the community. To read the protobuf files (.proto files) you will first need to compile them by a protobuf compiler. So now you probably understand why we needed to compile those proto files at the beginning.

Here’s a nice tutorial by Naveen that explains how you can create a tfrecord for different data types and Here’s a more detailed explanation of protocol buffers with an example.

The script I’ll be using to convert images/labels to tfrecords is taken from the TensorFlow’s pet example but I’ve modified the script so now it accepts the following 5 arguments:

  1. Directory of images
  2. Directory of labels
  3. % of Split of Training data
  4. Path to label_map.pbtxt file
  5. Path to output tfrecord files

And it returns a train.record and val.record. So it splits the training data into training/validation sets. For this data I’m using a training set of 70% and validation is 30%.

Done Writing, Saved: training\\tfrecords\train.record Done Writing, Saved: training\\tfrecords\val.record

You can ignore these warnings, we already know that we’re using an older 1.15 version of TFOD API which contains some depreciated functions.

Most of the tfrecord scripts available online will first tell you to convert your xml files to csv and then you will use another script to split the data into training and validation folder and then another script to convert to tfrecords. The Script above is doing all of this.

Part 4: Downloading Model & Configuring it:

You can now go to the Model Zoo, select a model, and download its zip. Now unzip the contents of that folder and put inside a directory named pretrained_model. The below script does this automatically for a Faster-RCNN-Inception model which is already trained on the COCO dataset. You can change the model name to download a different model.

Model Downloaded

Modify pipline.config file:

After downloading you will have a number of files present in the pretrained_model folder, I will explain about them later but for now, let’s take a look at the pipeline.config file.

Pipeline.config defines how the whole training process will take place, what optimizers, loss, learning_rate, batch_size will be used. Most of these params are already set by default, its up to you if you want to change them or not but there are some paths in the pipeline.config file that you will need to change so that this model can trained on our data.

So open up pipeline.config with a text editor like Notepad ++ and change these 4 paths:

  • Change: PATH_TO_BE_CONFIGURED/model.ckpt  to  pretrained_model/model.ckpt
  • Change: PATH_TO_BE_CONFIGURED/mscoco_train.record  to  training/tfrecords/train.record
  • Change: PATH_TO_BE_CONFIGURED/mscoco_val.record   to  training/tfrecords/val.record
  • Change: PATH_TO_BE_CONFIGURED/mscoco_label_map.pbtxt  to  training/label_map.pbtxt
  • Change: num_classes: 90  to  num_classes: 2

If you’re lazy like me then no prob, below script does all this

Notice the correction I did by replacing step: 0 with step: 1, unfortunately for different models sometimes there are some corrections required but you can easily understand what exactly needs to be changed by pasting the error generated during training on google. Click on github issues for that error and you’ll find a solution for that.

Note: These issues seems to be mostly present in TFOD API Version 1

Changing Important Params in Pipeline.config File:

Additionally I’ve also changed the batch size of the model, just like batch_size there are lots of important parameters that you would want to tune. I would strongly recommend that you try to change the values according to your problem. Almost always the default values are not optimal for your custom use case. I should tell you that to tune most of these values you need some prior knowledge, make sure to atleast change the batch_size according to your system’s memory and learning_rate of the model.

Part 5 Training and Exporting Inference Graph: 

You can start training the model by calling the script from the Object_detection folder, we are giving it the following arguments.

  • num_train_steps: These are the number of times your model weights will be updated using a batch of data.
  • pipeline_config_path: This is the path to your pipeline.config file.
  • model_dir: Path to the output directory where the final checkpoint files will be saved.

Now you can run below cell to start training but I would recommend that you run this cell in the command line, you can just paste this line:

Note: When you start training you will see a lot of warnings, just ignore them as TFOD 1 contains a lot of depreciated functions.

Once you start training, the network will take some time to initialize and then the training will start, after every few minutes, you will see a report of loss values and a global loss. The Network is learning if the loss is going down. If you’re not familiar with the Object detection Jargon Like IOU etc, then just make note of the final global loss after each report.

You ideally want to set the num_train_steps to tens of thousands of steps, you can always end training by pressing CTRL + C on the command prompt if the loss has decreased sufficiently. If training is taking place in jupyter notebook then you can end it by pressing the Stop button on top.

After training has ended or you’ve stopped it, there would be some new files in the pre_trained folder. Among all these files we will only need the checkpoint (ckpt) files.

If you’re training for 1000s of steps (which is most likely the case) then I would strongly recommend that you don’t use your CPU but utilize a GPU. If you don’t have one then its best to use Google Colab’s GPU. I’m already providing you a ready to run colab Notebook.

Note: There’s another script for training called, this is an older script where you can see the loss value for each step, if you want to use that sicpt then you can find it at models / research / object_detection / legacy /

You can run this script by doing:

The best way to monitor training is to use Tensorboard, I will discuss about this another time

Export Frozen Inference Graph:

Now we will use the script to create a frozen_inference_graph from the checkpoint files.

Why are we doing this?

After training our model it is stored in checkpoint format and a saved_model format but in OpenCV we need the model to be in a frozen_inference_graph format. So we need to generate the frozen_inference_graph using the checkpoint files.

What are these checkpoint files?

After Every few minutes of training, tensorflow outputs some checkpoint (ckpt) files. The number on those files represent how many train steps they have gone through. So during the frozen_inference_graph creation we only take the latest checkpoint file (i.e. the file with the highest number) because this is the one which has gone through the most training steps.

Now every time a checkpoint file is saved, its split into 3 parts.

For the initial step these files are:

  • This file contains the value of each single variable, its pretty large.
  • This file contains metadata for each tensor. e.g. checksum, auxiliary data etc.
  • model.ckpt-000.meta: This file stores the graph structure of the model

If you take a look at the fine_tuned_model folder wihch will be created after running the above command then you’ll find that it contains the same files you got when you downloaded the pre_trained model. This is the final folder.

Now Your trained model is in 3 different formats, the saved_model format, the frozen_inference_graph format and the checkpoint file format. For OpenCV we only need the frozen inference graph format.

The checkpoint format is ideal for retraining purposes and getting to know other sorts of information about the model, for production and serving the model you will need to use is either the frozen_inference_graph or saved_model format. Its worth mentioning that both these files contain the extension .pb

In TF 2, frozen_inference_graph is depreciated and TF 2 encourages to use the saved_model format, as said previously unfortunately we can’t use the saved_model format with OpenCV yet.

Run Inference on Trained Model (Bonus Step):

You can optionally choose to run inference using tensorflow sessions, I’m not going to explain much here as Tf sessions are depreciated and our final goal is to actually use this model in OpenCV DNN.

Part 6: Generating .pbtxt and using the trained model with just OpenCV 

6 a) Export Graph.pbxt with frozen inference graph:

We can use the above generated frozen graph inside the OpenCV DNN module to do detection but most of the time we need another file called a graph.pbtxt file. This file contains a description of the network architecture, it is required by OpenCV to rewire some network layers for Optimization purposes.

This graph.pbtxt can be generated by using one of the 4 scripts provided by OpenCV. These scripts are:


They can be downloaded here, you will also find more information regarding them on that page.

Now since the Detection architecture we’re using is Faster-RCNN (you can tell by looking at the name of the downloaded model) so we will use to generate the pbtxt file. For .pbtxt generation you will need the frozen_inference_graph.pb file and the pipeline.config file.

Note: When you’re done with training then you will also see a graph.pbtxt file inside the pretrained folder, this graph.pbtxt is different from the one generated by OpenCV’s .pbtxt generator scripts. One major difference is that the OpenCV’s graph.pbtxt do not contain the model weights but only contains the graph description, so they will be much smaller in size.

Number of classes: 2
Scales: [0.25, 0.5, 1.0, 2.0] Aspect ratios: [0.5, 1.0, 2.0]
Width stride: 16.000000
Height stride: 16.000000
Features stride: 16.000000

For model architectures that are not one of the above 4, then for those, you will need to convert TensorFlow’s .pbtxt file to OpenCV’s version. You can find more on how to do that here. But we warned this conversion is not a smooth process and there are a lot of low-level issues that come up.

6 b) Using the Frozen inference graph along with Pbtxt file in OpenCV:

Now that we have generated the graph.pbtxt file with OpenCV’s tf_text_graph function we can pass this file to cv2.dnn.readNetFromTensorflow() to initialize the network. All of our work is done now Make sure you’re familiar with with OpenCV’s DNN module, if not you can read my previous post on it.

Now we will create following two functions:

Initialization Function: This function will intialize the network using the .pb and .pbtxt file, it will also set the class labels.

Main Function: This function will contain all the rest of the code from preprocessing to postprocessing, it will also have the option to either return the image or display it with matplotlib

This is our Main function, the comments will explain what’s going on

Note: When you do net.forward() you get an output of shape (1,1,100,7). Since we’re predicting on a single image instead of a batch of images so you will get (1,1) at the start now the remaining (100,7) means that there are 100 detections for that image and each image contains 7 properties/variables.

There will be 100 detections for each image, this was set in the pipeline.config, you can choose to change that.

So here are what these 7 properties correspond to:

  1. This is the index of image for a single image its 0
  2. This is the index of the target CLASS
  3. This is the score/confidence of that CLASS

Remaining 4 values are x1,y1,x2,y2. These are used to draw the bounding box of that CLASS object

  1. x1
  2. y1
  3. x2
  4. y2

Initialize the network

You will just need to call this once to initialize the network

Predict On Images

Now you can use the main funciton to predict on different images, The images we will predict on are placed inside a folder namded test_images. These images were not in the training dataset.

What’s Next?

computer vision

If you want to go forward from here and learn more advanced things and go into more detail, understand theory and code of different algorithms then be sure to check out our Computer Vision & Image Processing with Python Course (Urdu/Hindi). In this course, I go into a lot of detail regarding vision fundamentals and cover a plethora of algorithms and techniques to help you master Computer Vision.

If you want to start a career in Computer Vision & Artificial Intelligence then this course is for you. One of the best things about this course is that the video lectures are in Urdu/Hindi Language without any compromise on quality, so there is a personal/local touch to it.


Limitations: Our Final detector has a decent accuracy but it’s not that robust because of 4 reasons:

  1. Transfer Learning works best when the dataset you’re training on shares some features with the original dataset it was trained on, most of the models are trained on ImageNet, COCO, PASCAL VOC datasets. Which is filled with animals and other real-world images. Now our dataset is a dataset of Cartoon images, which is drastically different from real-world images. We can solve this problem by including more images and training more layers of the model.

  2. Animations of cartoon characters are not consistent, they change a lot in different movies. So if you train the model on these pictures and then try to detect random google images of tom and jerry then you won’t get good accuracy. We can solve this problem by including images of these characters from different movies so the model learns the features that are the same throughout the movies.

  3. The images generated from the sample video created an imbalanced dataset, There are more Jerry Images than Tom images, there are ways to handle this scenario but try to get a decent balance of images for both classes to get the best results.

  4. The annotation is poor, Yeah so the annotation I did was just for the sake of making this tutorial, in reality, you want to set a clear outline and standard about how you’ll be annotating, are you going to annotate the whole head, are ears included, is the neck part of it.. so you need answer all these questions ahead of time.

I will stress this again that if you’re not planning to use OpenCV for the final deployment then use TFOD API version 2, it’s a lot more cleaner. However, if the final objective is to use OpenCV at the end then you could get away with TF 2 but its a lot of trouble.

Even with TFOD API v1, you can’t be sure that your custom trained model will always be loaded in OpenCV correctly, there are times when you would need to manually edit the graph.pbtxt file so that you can use the model in OpenCV. If this happens and you’re sure you have done everything correctly then your best bet is to raise an issue here.

Hopefully, OpenCV will catch up and start supporting TF 2 saved_model format but its gonna take time. If you enjoyed this tutorial then please feel free to comment and I’ll gladly answer you.

(LearnOpenCV) Playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with AI

(LearnOpenCV) Playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with AI

Let’s play rock, paper scissors.

You think of your move and I’ll make mine below this line in 1…2…and 3.

I choose ROCK.

Well? …who won. It doesn’t matter cause you probably glanced at the word “ROCK” before thinking about a move or maybe you didn’t pay any heed to my feeble attempt at playing rock, paper, scissor with you in a blog post.

So why am I making some miserable attempts trying to play this game in text with you?

Let’s just say, a couple of months down the road in lockdown you just run out of fun ideas. To be honest I desperately need to socialize and do something fun. 

Ideally, I would love to play games with some good friends, …or just friends…or anyone who is willing to play.

Now I’m tired of video games. I want to go for something old fashioned, like something involving other intelligent beings, ideally a human. But because of the lockdown, we’re a bit short on those for close proximity activities. So what’s the next best thing?

AI of course. So yeah why not build an AI that would play with me whenever I want.

Now I don’t want to make a dumb AI bot that predicts randomly between rock, paper, and scissor, but rather I also don’t want to use any keyboard inputs or mouse. Just want to play the old fashioned way.

Building a Smart Intruder Detection Surveillance System with OpenCV and your Phone

Building a Smart Intruder Detection Surveillance System with OpenCV and your Phone

Did you know that you can actually stream a Live Video wirelessly from your phone’s camera to OpenCV’s cv2.VideoCapture() function in your PC and do all sorts of image processing on the spot?

Cool huh?

In today’s post not only we will do just that but we will also build a robust Intruder Detection surveillance system on top of that, this will record video samples whenever someone enters your room and will also send you alert messages via Twilio API.

This post will serve as your building blocks for making smart surveillance systems with computer vision. Although I’m making this tutorial for a home surveillance experiment, you can easily take this setup and swap the mobile camera with multiple IP Cams to create a much larger system.

Today’s tutorial can be split into 4 parts:

  1. Accessing the Live stream from your phone to OpenCV.
  2. Learning how to use the Twilio API to send Alert messages.
  3. Building a Motion Detector with Background Subtraction and Contour detection.
  4. Making the Final Application

So most of the people have used the cv2.videocapture() function to read from a webcam or a video recording from a disk but only a few people know how easy it is to stream a video from a URL, in most cases this URL is from an IP camera. 

By the way with cv2.VideoCapture() you can also read a sequence of images, so yeah a GIF can be read by this.

So let me list out all 4 ways to use VideoCapture() class depending upon what you pass inside the function.

1. Using Live camera feed: You pass in an integer number i.e. 0,1,2 etc e.g. cap = cv2.VideoCapture(0), now you will be able to use your webcam live stream. The number depends upon how many USB cams you attach and on which port.

2. Playing a saved Video on Disk: You pass in the path to the video file e.g. cap = cv2.VideoCapture(Path_To_video).

3. Live Streaming from URL using Ip camera or similar: You can stream from a URL e.g. cap = cv2.VideoCapture( protocol://host:port/video) Note: that each video stream or IP camera feed has its own URL scheme.  

4. Read a sequence of Images: You can also read sequences of images, e.g. GIF.

Part 1: Accessing the Live stream from your phone to OpenCV:

For those of you who have an Android phone can go ahead and install this IP Camera application from playstore. 

For people that want to try a different application or those of you who want to try on their iPhone I would say that although you can follow along with this tutorial by installing a similar IP camera application on your phones but one issue that you could face is that the URL Scheme for each application would be different so you would need to figure that out, some application makes it really simple like the one I’m showing you today. 

You can also use the same code I’m sharing here to work with an actual IP Camera, again the only difference will be the URL scheme, different IP Cameras have different URL schemes. For our IP Camera, the URL Scheme is: protocol://host:port/video

After installing the IP Camera application, open it and scroll all the way down and click start server.

After starting the server the application will start streaming the video to the highlighted URL:

If you paste this URL in the browser of your computer then you would see this:

Note: Your computer and mobile must be connected to the same Network

Click on the Browser or the Flash button and you’ll see a live stream of your video feed:

Below the live feed, you’ll see many options on how to stream your video, you can try changing these options and see effects take place in real-time.

Some important properties to focus on are the video Quality, FPS, and the resolution of the video. All these things determine the latency of the video. You can also change front/back cameras.

Try copying the image Address of the frame:

If you try pasting the address in a new tab then you will only see the video stream. So this is the address that will go inside the VideoCapture function.

Image Address:

So the URL scheme in our case is : protocol://host:port/video, where protocol is “http” ,  host is: “”  and port is: “8080”

All you have to do is paste the above address inside the VideoCapture function and you’re all set.

Download Code for this post

Download Code for this post

Here’s the Full Code:

As you can see I’m able to stream video from my phone.

Now there are some options you may want to consider, for e.g you may want to change the resolution, in my case I have set the resolution to be 640x480. Since I’m not using the web interface so I have used the app to set these settings.

There are also other useful settings that you may want to do, like settings up a password and a username so your stream is protected. Setting up a password would, of course, change the URL to something like:

cv2.VideoCapture( protocol://username:[email protected]:port/video)

I’ve also enabled background mode so even when I’m out of the app or my phone screen is closed the camera is recording secretly, now this is super stealth mode.

Finally here are some other URL Schemes to read this IP Camera stream, with these URLs you can even load audio and images from the stream:

  • http://19412.168.3.:8080/video is the MJPEG URL.
  • fetches the latest frame.
  • is the audio stream in Wav format.
  • is the audio stream in AAC format (if supported by hardware).

Part 2: Learning how to use the Twilio API to send Alert messages:

What is Twilio?

Twilio is an online service that allows us to programmatically make and receive phone calls, send and receive SMS, MMS and even Whatsapp messages, using its web  APIs.

Today we’ll just be using it to send an SMS, you won’t need to purchase anything since you get some free credits after you have signed up here.

So go ahead and sign up, after signing up go to the console interface and grab these two keys and your trial Number:


After getting these keys you would need to insert them in the credentials.txt file provided in the source code folder. You can download the folder from above.

Make sure to replace the INSERT_YOUR_ACCOUNT_SID with your ACCOUNT SID and also replace INSERT_YOUR_AUTH_TOKEN with your AUTH TOKEN.

There are also two other things you need to insert in the text file, this is your trail Number given to by the Twilio API and your personal number where you will receive the messages.

So replace PERSONAL_NUMBER with your number and TRIAL_NUMBER with the Twilio number, make sure to include the country code for your personal number. 

Note: in the trail account the personal number can’t be any random number but its verified number. After you have created the account you can add verified numbers here.

Now you’re ready to use the twilio api, you first have to install the API by doing:

pip install twilio

Now just run this code to send a message:

Check your phone you would have received a message. Later on we’ll properly fill up the body text.

Part 3: Building a Motion Detector with Background Subtraction and Contour detection:

Now in OpenCV, there are multiple ways to detect and track a moving object, but we’re going to go for a simple background subtraction method. 

What are Background Subtraction methods?

Basically these kinds of methods separate the background from the foreground in a video so for e.g. if a person walks in an empty room then the background subtraction algorithm would know there’s disturbance by subtracting the previously stored image of the room (without the person ) and the current image (with the person). 

So background subtraction can be used as effective motion detectors and even object counters like a people counter, how many people went in or out of a shop.

Now what I’ve described above is a very basic approach to background subtraction, In OpenCV, you would find a number of complex algorithms that use background subtraction to detect motion, In my Computer Vision & Image Processing Course I have talked about background subtraction in detail. I have taught how to construct your own custom background subtraction methods and how to use the built-in OpenCV ones. So make sure to check out the course if you want to study computer vision in depth.

For this tutorial, I will be using a Gaussian Mixture-based Background / Foreground Segmentation Algorithm. It is based on two papers by Z.Zivkovic, “Improved adaptive Gaussian mixture model for background subtraction” in 2004 and “Efficient Adaptive Density Estimation per Image Pixel for the Task of Background Subtraction” in 2006

Here’s the code to apply background subtraction:

The cv2.createBackgroundSubtractorMOG2() takes in 3 arguments:

detectsSadows: Now this algorithm will also be able to detect shadows, if we pass in detectShadows=True argument in the constructor.  The ability to detect and get rid of shadows will give us smooth and robust results. Enabling shadow detection slightly decreases speed.

history: This is the number of frames that is used to create the background model, increase this number if your target object often stops or pauses for a moment.

varThreshold: This threshold will help you filter out noise present in the frame, increase this number if there are lots of white spots in the frame. Although we will also use morphological operations like erosion to get rid of the noise.

Now after we have our background subtraction done then we can further refine the results by getting rid of the noise and enlarging our target object.

We can refine our results by using morphological operations like erosion and dilation. After we have cleaned our image then we can apply contour detection to detect those moving big white blobs  (people) and then draw bounding boxes over those blobs.

If you don’t know about Morphological Operations or Contour Detection then you should go over this Computer Vision Crash course post, I published a few weeks back.

So in summary 4 major steps are being performed above:

  • Step 1: We’re Extracting moving objects with Background Subtraction and getting rid of the shadows
  • Step 2: Applying morphological operations to improve the background subtraction mask
  • Step 3: Then we’re detecting Contours and making sure you’re not detecting noise by filtering small contours
  • Step 4: Finally we’re computing a bounding box over the max contour, drawing the box, and displaying the image.

Part 4: Creating the Final Application:

Finally, we will combine all the things above, we will also use the cv2.VideoWriter() class to save the images as a video in our disk. We will alert the user via Twilio API whenever there is someone in the room.

Here are the final results:

This is the function that detects if someone is present in the frame or not.

This function uses twilio to send messages.

Explanation of the Final Application Code:

The function is_person_present()  is called on each frame and it tells us if a person is present in the current frame or not, if it is then we append True to a deque list of length 15, now if the detection has occurred 15 times consecutively we then change the Room occupied status to True. The reason we don’t change the Occupied status to True on the first detection is to avoid our system being triggered by false positives. As soon as the room status is true the VideoWriter is initialized and the video starts recording.

Now when the person is not detected anymore then we wait for 7 seconds before turning the room status to False, this is because the person may disappear from view for a moment and then reappear or we may miss detecting the person for a few seconds. 

Now when the person disappears and the 7-second timer ends then we make the room status to False, we release the VideoWriter in order to save the video and then send an alert message via send_message() function to the user.

Also I have designed the code in a way that our patience timer (7 second timer) is not affected by False positives.

Here’s a high level explanation of the demo:

See how I have placed my mobile, while the screen is closed it’s actually recording and sending live feed to my PC.  No one would suspect that you have the perfect intruder detection system setup in the room.


Right now your IP Camera has a dynamic IP so you may be interested in learning how to make your device have a static IP address so you don’t have to change the address each time you launch your IP Camera.

Another limitation you have right now is that you can only use this setup when your device and your PC are connected to the same network/WIFI so you may want to learn how to get this setup to run globally.

Both of these issues can be solved by some configuration, All the instructions for that are in a manual which you can get by downloading the source code from above.

What’s Next?

computer vision

If you want to go forward from here and learn more advanced things and go into more detail, understand theory and code of different algorithms then be sure to check out our Computer Vision & Image Processing with Python Course (Urdu/Hindi). In this course, I go into a lot of detail regarding vision fundamentals and cover a plethora of algorithms and techniques to help you master Computer Vision.

The 3 month course contains:

✔ 125 Video Lectures
✔ Discussion Forums
✔ Quizzes
✔ 100+ High Quality Jupyter notebooks
✔ Practice Assignments
✔Certificate of Completion

If you want to start a career in Computer Vision & Artificial Intelligence then this course is for you. One of the best things about this course is that the video lectures are in Urdu/Hindi Language without any compromise on quality, so there is a personal/local touch to it.


In this tutorial you learned how to turn your phone into a smart IP Camera, you learned how to work with URL video feeds in general.

After that we went over how to create a background subtraction based motion detector. 

We also learned how to connect the twilio api to our system to enable alert messages. Right now we are sending alert messages every time there is motion so you may want to change this and make the api send you a single message each day containing a summary of all movements that happened in the room throughout the day.

Finally we created a complete application where we also saved the recording snippets of people moving about in the room.

This post was just a basic template for a surveillance system, you can actually take this and make more enhancements to it, for e.g. for each person coming in the room you can check with facial recognition if it’s actually an intruder or a family member. Similarly there are lots of other things you can do with this.

If you enjoyed this tutorial then I would love to hear your opinion on it, please feel free to comment and ask questions, I’ll gladly answer them.

Deep Learning with OpenCV DNN Module, A Comprehensive Guide

Deep Learning with OpenCV DNN Module, A Comprehensive Guide

In this tutorial we will go over OpenCV’s DNN module in detail, I plan to cover various important details of the DNN module that is never discussed, things that usually trip of people like, selecting preprocessing params correctly and designing pre and postprocessing pipelines for different models.

This post is the first of 3 in our brand new Deep Learning with OpenCV series. All three posts are titled as:

  1. Deep Learning with OpenCV DNN Module, A Comprehensive Guide
  2. Training a Custom Image Classifier with Tensorflow, Converting to ONNX and using it in OpenCV DNN module
  3. Using a Custom Trained Object Detector with OpenCV DNN Module

This post can be split into 3 sections.

  1. Introduction to OpenCV’s DNN module.
  2. Using a Caffe DenseNet121 model for classification.
  3. Important Details regarding the DNN module, e.g. where to get models, how to configure them, etc.

If you’re just interested in the image classification part then you can skip to the second section or you can even read this great classification with DNN module post by Adrian. However, if you’re interested in getting to know the DNN module in all its glory then keep reading.

Introduction to OpenCV’s DNN module

First let me start by introducing the DNN module for all those people who are new to it, so as you can probably guess, the DNN module stands for Deep Neural Network module. This is the module in OpenCV which is responsible for all things deep learning related.

It was introduced in OpenCV version 3 and now in version 4.3 it has evolved a lot. This module lets you use pre trained neural networks from popular frameworks like tensorflow, pytorch  etc and use those models directly in OpenCV.

This means you can train models using a popular framework like Tensorflow and then do inference/prediction with just OpenCV.

So what are the benefits here?

Here are some advantages you might want to consider when using OpenCV for inference.

  • By using OpenCV’s DNN module for inference the final code is a lot compact and simpler.
  • Someone who’s not familiar with the training framework can also use the model.
  • Beside supporting CUDA based NVIDIA’s GPU, OpenCV’s DNN module also supports OpenCL based Intel GPUs.
  • Most Importantly by getting rid of the training framework not only makes the code simpler but it ultimately gets rid of a whole framework, this means you don’t have to build your final application with a heavy framework like TensorFlow. This is a huge advantage when you’re trying to deploy on a resource-constrained edge device, e.g. a Raspberry pie.

One thing that might put you off is the fact that OpenCV can’t be used for training deep learning networks. This might sound like a bummer but fret not, for training neural networks you shouldn’t use OpenCV there are other specialized libraries like Tensorflow, PyTorch etc for that task.

So which frameworks can you use to train Neural Networks:

These are the frameworks that are currently supported with the DNN module.

Now there are many interesting pre-trained models already available in the OpenCV Model Zoo that you can use, to keep things simple for this tutorial, I will be using an image classification network to do classification.

I have also made a tutorial on doing Super-Resolution with DNN module and Facial expression recognition that you can look at after going through this post.

Details regarding other types of models are discussed in the 3rd section. By the way, I actually go over 13-14 different types of models in our Computer Vision and Image processing Course. These contain notebooks tutorials and video walk-throughs.

Image Classification pipeline with OpenCV DNN

Now we will be using a DenseNet121 model, which is a caffe model trained on 1000 classes of ImageNet. The model is from the paper Densely Connected Convolutional Networks by Gap Huang et al.

Generally there are 4 steps you need to perform when doing deep learning with DNN module.

  1. Read the image and the target classes.
  2. Initialize the DNN module with an architecture and model parameters.
  3. Perform the forward pass on the image with the module
  4. Post-process the results.

The pre and post processing steps are different for different tasks.

Let’s start with the code

Download Code for this post

Download Code for this post

You can go ahead and download the source code from the download code section. After downloading the zip folder, unzip it and you will have the following directory structure.

Now run the Image Classification with DenseNet121.ipynb notebook, and start executing the cells.

Import Libraries

First we will import the required libraries.

Loading Class Labels

Now we’ll start by loading class names, In this notebook, we are going to classify among 1000 classes defined in ImageNet.

All these classes are in the text file named synset_words.txt. In this text file, each class is in on a new line with its unique id, Also each class has multiple labels for e.g look at the first 3 lines in the text file:

  • ‘n01440764 tench, Tinca tinca’
  • ‘n01443537 goldfish, Carassius auratus’
  • ‘n01484850 great white shark, white shark

So for each line, we have the Class ID, then there are multiple class names, they all are valid names for that class and we’ll just use the first one. So in order to do that we’ll have to extract the second word from each line and create a new list, this will be our labels list.

Number of Classes 1000 [‘n01440764 tench, Tinca tinca’, ‘n01443537 goldfish, Carassius auratus’, ‘n01484850 great white shark, white shark, man-eater, man-eating shark, Carcharodon carcharias’, ‘n01491361 tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvieri’, ‘n01494475 hammerhead, hammerhead shark’]

Extract the Label

Here we will extract the labels (2nd element from each line) and create a labels list.

[‘tench’, ‘goldfish’, ‘great white shark’, ‘tiger shark’, ‘hammerhead’, ‘electric ray’, ‘stingray’, ‘cock’, ‘hen’, ‘ostrich’, ‘brambling’, ‘goldfinch’, ‘house finch’, ‘junco’, ‘indigo bunting’, ‘robin’, ‘bulbul’, ‘jay’, ‘magpie’, ‘chickadee’]

Initializing the DNN Module

Now before we can use the DNN Module we must initialize it using one of the following functions.

  • Caffe Modles: cv2.dnn.readNetFromCaffe
  • Tensorflow Models: cv2.dnn.readNetFromTensorFlow
  • Pytorch Models: cv2.dnn.readNetFromTorch

As you can see the function you use depends upon Original Architecture the model was trained on.

Since we’ll be using a DenseNet121 which was trained using Caffe so our function will be:

retval = cv2.dnn.readNetFromCaffe( prototxt[, caffeModel] )


  • prototxt: Path to the .prototxt file, this is the text description of the architecture of the model.
  • caffeModel: path to the .caffemodel file, this is your actual trained neural network model, it contains all the weights/parameters of the model. This is usually several MBs in size.

Note: If you load the model and proto file via readNetFromTensorFlow then the order of architecture and model inputs are reversed.

Read An Image

Let’s read an example image and display it with matplotlib imshow

Pre-processing the image

Now before you pass an image in the network you need to preprocess it, this means resizing the image to the size it was trained on, for many networks, this is 224×224, in pre-processing step you also do other things like Normalize the image (make the range of intensity values between 0-1) and mean subtraction, etc. These are all the steps the authors did on the images that were used during model training.

Fortunately, In OpenCV you have a function called cv2.dnn.blobFromImage() which most of the time takes care of all the pre-processing for you.

blob = cv2.dnn.blobFromImage(image[, scalefactor[, size[, mean[, swapRB[, crop]]]]])


  • Image Input image.
  • Scalefactor Used to normalize the image. This value is multiplied by the image, value of 1 means no scaling is done.
  • Size The size to which the image will be resized to, this depends upon the each model.
  • Mean These are mean R,G,B Channel values from the whole dataset and these are subtracted from the image’s R,G,B respectively, this gives illumination invariance to the model.
  • swapRB Boolean flag (false by default) this indicates weather swap first and last channels in 3-channel image is necessary.
  • crop flag which indicates whether the image will be cropped after resize or not. If crop is true, input image is resized so one side after resize is equal to the corresponding dimension in size and another one is equal or larger. Then, a crop from the center is performed. If crop is false, direct resize without cropping and preserving aspect ratio is performed.

So After this function we get a 4d blob, this is what we’ll pass to the network.

(1, 3, 224, 224)

Note: There is also blobFromImages() which does the same thing but with multiple images.

Input the Blob Image to the Network 

Here you’re setting up the blob image as the input to the network.

Forward Pass 

Here the actual computation will take place, Most of the time in your whole pipeline will be taken here. Here your image will go through all the model parameters and in the end, you will get the output of the classifier.

Wall time: 166 ms

Total Number of Predictions are: 1000

array([[[-2.0572357 ]], [[-0.18754716]], [[-3.314731 ]], [[-6.196114 ]]], dtype=float32)

Apply Softmax Function to get Probabilities

By looking at the output, you can tell that the model has returned a set of scores for each class but we need Probabilities between 0-1 for each class. We can get them by applying a softmax function on the scores.

array([5.7877337e-06, 3.7540856e-05, 1.6458317e-06, 9.2260699e-08], dtype=float32)

The Maximum probability is the confidence of our target class.


The index Containing the maximum confidence/probability is the index of our target class.


By putting the index from above into our labels list we can get the name of our target class.


As we have successfully performed the classification, now we will just annotate the image with the information we have.

Creating Functions 

Now that we have understood step by step how to create the pipeline for classification using OpenCV’s DNN module, we’ll now create functions that do all the above in a single step. In short we will be creating following two functions.

Initialization Function: This function will contain parts of the network that will be set once, like loading the model.

Main Function: This function will contain all the rest of the code from preprocessing to postprocessing, it will also have the option to either return the image or display it with matplotlib.

Initialization Function

This method will be run once and it will initialize the network with the required files.

Main Method

returndata is set to True when we want to perform classification on video.

Initialize the Classifier

Calling our initializer to initialize the network.

Using our Classifier Function

Now we can call our classifier function and test on multiple images.

Real time Image Classification

If you want to this classifier in real time then here is the code for that.

Important Details Regarding the DNN module 

Let’s discuss some interesting details and some tips to fully utilize the DNN module.

Where to get the pre-trained Models:

Earlier I mentioned that you can get other pre-trained models, so where are they? 

The best place to get pre-trained models is here. This page is a wiki for Deep learning with OpenCV, you will find models that have been tested by the OpenCV team.

There are a variety of models present here, for things like Classification, Pose Detection, Colorization, Segmentation, Face recognition, text detection, style transfer, and more. You can take models from any of the above 5 frameworks.

Just click on the models to go to their repo and download them from there. Note: The models listed on the page above are only the tested models, in theory, you can almost take any pre-trained model and use it in OpenCV. 

A faster and easier way to download models is to go here. Now, this is a python script that will let you download not only the most commonly used models but also some State of the Art ones like Yolo v4 etc. You can download this script and then run from the command line. Alternatively, if you’re in a rush and just one specific model then you can take the downloadable URL of any model and download it.

After downloading the model, you will need a couple of more things before you can actually use the model in the OpenCV dnn module.

You’re now probably familiar with those things, so yeah you will need the model configuration file like the prototxt file we just used with our Caffe model above. You will also need class labels, now for classification problems, models are usually trained on the ImageNet dataset so we needed synset_word.txt file, for Object detection you will find models trained on COCO or Pascal VOC dataset. And similarly, other tasks may require other files.

So where are all these files present ?

You will find most of these configuration files present here and the class names here. If the configuration file you’re looking for is not present in the above links then I would recommend that you look at the GitHub repo of the model, the files would be present there. Otherwise, you have to create it yourself. (More on this later)

After getting the configuration files, the only thing you need is the pre-processing parameters that go in blobFromImage. E.g. the mean subtraction values, scaling params etc. 

You can get that information from here. Now, this script only contains parameter details for a few popular models. 

So how do you get the details for other models ?

For that you would need to go to the repo of the model and look in the ReadMe section, the authors usually put that information there. 

For e.g. If I visit the github repo of the Human Pose Estimation model using this link which I got from the model downloading script.

By scrolling down the readme I can find these details here:

Note: These details are not always present in the Readme and sometimes you have to do quite some digging before you can find these parameters.

What to do if there is no GitHub repo link with the model, for e.g. this shuffleNet model does not have a GitHub link, in that case, I can see that the framework is ONNX.

So now I will visit the ONNX model zoo repo and find that model. 

After clicking on the model I will find its readme and then its preprocessing steps.

Notice that this model contains some preprocessing steps that are not supported by blobfromImage function. So this could happen and at times you would need to write custom preprocessing steps without using blobfromImage function, for e.g. in our Super Resolution post, I had to write a custom pre-processing pipeline for the network.

How to use our own Custom Trained Networks

Now that we have learned to use different models, you might wonder exactly how can we use our own custom trained models. So the thing is you can’t directly plug a trained network in a DNN module but you need to perform some operations to get a configuration file, which is why we needed a prototxt file along with the model.

Fortunately, In the next two blog posts, I plan to cover exactly this topic and show you how to use a custom trained classifier and a custom trained Detection network.

For now, you can take a look at this page which briefly describes how you can use models trained with Tensorflow Object Detection API in OpenCV.

One thing to note is that not all networks are supported by the DNN module, this is because DNN module supports some 30+ layer types, these layer names can be found at the wiki here. So if a model contains layers that are not among the supported layers then it won’t run, this is not a major issue as most common layers used in deep learning models are supported. 

Also OpenCV provides a way for you to define your own custom layers.

Using GPU’s and Faster Backends to speed up OpenCV DNN Module

By default OpenCV’s DNN module runs on the default C++ implementation which itself is pretty fast but OpenCV further allows you to change this backend to increase the speed even more.

Option 1: Use NVIDIA GPU with CUDA backend in the DNN module:

If you have an Nvidia GPU present then great, you can use that with the DNN module, you can follow my OpenCV source installation guide to configure your NVIDIA GPU for OpenCV and learn how to use it. This will make your networks run several times faster.

Option 2: Use OpenCL based INTEL GPU’s:

If you have an OpenCL based GPU then you can use that as a backend, although this increases speed but in my experience, I’ve seen speed gains only in 32 bit systems. To use the OpenCL as a backend you can see the last section of my OpenCV source installation section linked above.

Option 3: Use Halide Backend:

As described on this post from, for some time in the past using the halide backend increased the speed but then OpenCV engineer’s optimized the default C++ implementation so much that the default implementation actually got faster. So I don’t see a reason to use this backend now, Still here’s how you configure halide as a backend.

Option 4: Use Intel’s Deep Learning Inference Engine backend:

Intel’s Deep Learning Inference Engine backend is part of OpenVINO toolkit, OpenVINO stands for Open Visual Inferencing and Neural Network Optimization. OpenVINO is designed by Intel to speed up inference with neural networks, especially for tasks like classification, detection, etc. OpenVINO speeds up by optimizing the model in a hardware-agnostic way. You can learn to install OpenVINO here and here’s a nice tutorial for it.

What’s Next?

computer vision

If you want to go forward from here and learn more advanced things and go into more detail, understand theory and code of different algorithms then be sure to check out our Computer Vision & Image Processing with Python Course (Urdu/Hindi). In this course, I go into a lot of detail regarding vision fundamentals and cover a plethora of algorithms and techniques to help you master Computer Vision.

The 3 month course contains:

✔ 125 Video Lectures
✔ Discussion Forums
✔ Quizzes
✔ 100+ High Quality Jupyter notebooks
✔ Practice Assignments
✔Certificate of Completion

If you want to start a career in Computer Vision & Artificial Intelligence then this course is for you. One of the best things about this course is that the video lectures are in Urdu/Hindi Language without any compromise on quality, so there is a personal/local touch to it.


In today’s tutorial, we went over a number of things regarding OpenCV’s DNN module. From using pre-trained models to Optimizing for faster inference speed.

We also learned to perform a classification pipeline using densenet121.

This post should serve as an excellent guide for anyone trying to get started in Deep learning using OpenCV’s DNN module.

Finally, OpenCV’s DNN repo contains an example python scripts to run common networks like classification, text, object detection, and more. You can start utilizing the DNN module by using these scripts and here are a few DNN Tutorials by OpenCV.

The main contributor for the DNN module in OpenCV is Dmitry Kurtaev and formerly it was Aleksandr Rybnikov, so big thanks to them and the rest of the contributors for making such a great module.

I hope you enjoyed today’s tutorial, feel free to comment and ask questions.

A Crash Course with Dlib Library, 101 to Mastery

A Crash Course with Dlib Library, 101 to Mastery

Main Image

This tutorial will serve as a crash course to dlib library. Dlib is another powerful computer vision library out there. It is not as extensive as OpenCV but still, there is a lot you can do with it.

This crash course assumes you’re somewhat familiar with OpenCV, if not then I’ve also published a crash course on OpenCV too. Make sure to download Dlib Resource Guide above which includes all important links in this post.

Side Note: I missed publishing a tutorial last week as I tested covoid positive and was ill, still not 100% but getting better 🙂

Dlib is created and maintained by Davis King, It’s a C++ toolkit containing machine learning & Computer Vision algorithms for a number of important tasks including, Facial Landmark detection, Deep Metric Learning, Object tracking and more. It also has a python API.

Note: It’s worth noting that the main power of dlib is in numerical optimization but today I’m only going to focus on applications, you can look at optimization examples here.

Its a popular library which is used by people in both industry and academia in a wide range of domains including robotics, embedded devices and other areas.

I plan to cover most of the prominent features and algorithms present in dlib so this blog post alone can give you the best overview of dlib and its functionality. Now, this is a big statement, If I had to explain most of dlib features in a single place then I would probably be writing a book or making a course on it but rather I plan to explain it all in this post.

So how am I going to accomplish that?

So here’s the thing I’m not going to write and explain the code for each algorithm with dlib, because I don’t want to write several thousand’s of words worth of a blog post and also because almost all of the features of dlib have been explained pretty well in several posts on the internet.

So if everything is out there then why the heck am I trying to make a crash course out of it ?

So here’s the real added value of this crash course:

In this post, I will connect all the best and the most important tutorials on different aspects of dlib out there in a nice hierarchical order. This will not only serve as a golden Dlib 101 to Mastery post for people just starting out with dlib but will also serve as a well-structured reference guide for dlib users.

The post is split into various sections, in each section, I will briefly explain a useful algorithm or technique present in dlib. If that explanation intrigues you and you feel that you need to explore that particular algorithm further then in each section I provide links to high-quality tutorials that goes in-depth about that function, the links would mostly be from Pyimagesearch, LearnOpenCV as these are golden sites when it comes to Computer Vision Tutorials. 

When learning some topic, ideally we prefer these two things:

  • A Collection of all the useful material regarding the topic presented at one place in a nice and neat hierarchical order.
  • Each material presented and delivered in a high-quality format preferably by an author who knows how to teach it the right way.

In this post, I’ve made sure both of these points are true, all the information is presented in a nice order and the posts that I link to will be of high quality. Other than that I will also try to include other extra resources where I feel necessary. 

Now let’s get started

Download Resource Guide for this post

Download Resource Guide for this post

Here’s the outline for this crash course:


The easiest way to install dlib is to do:

pip install dlib

This will only work if you have Visual Studio (i.e. you need a C++ compiler) and CMake installed as dlib will build and compile first before installing. If you don’t have these then you can use my OpenCV’s source installation tutorial to install these two things.

If you don’t want to bother installing these then here’s what you can do, if you have a python version greater then 3.6 then create a virtual environment for python 3.6 using Anaconda or virtualenv.

After creating a python 3.6 environment you can do:

pip install dlib==19.8.1

This will let you directly install pre-built binaries of dlib but this currently only works with python 3.6 and below.

Extra Resources:

Installing dlib in Mac, Raspi & Ubuntu.

Face Detection:

Now that we have installed dlib, let’s start with face detection.

Why face detection ?

Well, most of the interesting use cases in dlib for computer vision is with faces, like facial landmark detection, face recognition, etc so before we can detect facial landmarks, we need to detect faces in the image.

Dlib not only comes with a face detector but it actually comes with 2 of them. If you’re a computer vision practitioner then you would most likely be familiar with the old Haar cascade based face detector. Although this face detector is a lot popular, it’s almost 2 decades old and not very effective when it comes to different orientations of the faces.

Dlib comes with 2 face detection algorithms that are way more effective than the haar cascade based detectors.

These 2 detectors are:

HOG (histogram of oriented gradients) based detection: This detector uses HOG and Support vector machines, its slower than haar cascades but its more accurate and able to handle different orientations
CNN Based Detector: This is a really accurate deep learning based detector but its extremely slow on a CPU, you should only use this if you’ve compiled dlib with GPU.

You can learn more about these detectors here. Other than that I published a library called bleedfacedetector which lets you use these 2 detectors using just a few lines of the same code, and the library also has 2 other face detectors including the haar cascade one. You can look at bleedfacedetector here.

Extra Resources:

Here’s a tutorial on different Face detection methods including the dlib ones.

Facial Landmark Detection:

Now that we have learned how to detect faces in images, we will now learn the most common use case of dlib library which is facial landmark detection, with this method you will be able to detect key landmarks/features of the face like eyes, lips, etc.

The detection of these features will allow you to do a lot of things like track the movement of eyes, lips to determine the facial expression of a person, control a virtual Avatar with your facial expressions, understand 3d facial pose of a person, virtual makeover, face swapping, morphing, etc.

Remember those smart Snapchat overlays which trigger based on the facial movement, like that tongue that pops out when you open your mouth, well you can also make that using facial landmarks.

So its suffice to say that Facial landmark detection has a lot of interesting applications.

The landmark detector in dlib is based on the paper “One Millisecond Face Alignment with an Ensemble of Regression Trees”, its robust enough to correctly detect landmarks in different facial orientations and expressions. And it easily runs in real-time.

The detector returns 68 important landmarks, these can be seen in below image.

The 68 specific human face landmarks | Download Scientific Diagram

You can read a detailed tutorial on Facial Landmark detection here.

After reading the above tutorial the next step is to learn to manipulate the ROI of these landmarks so, you can modify or extract the individual features like the eyes, nose lips, etc. You can learn that by reading this Tutorial.

After you have gone through both of the above tutorials then you’re ready for running the landmark detector in real time but if you’re still confused about the exact process then take a look at this tutorial

Extra Resources:

Here’s another great tutorial on Facial Landmark Detection.

Facial Landmark Detection Applications (Blink, yawn, smile detection & Snapchat filters):

After you’re fully comfortable working with facial landmarks that’s when the fun starts. Now you’re ready to make some exciting applications, you can start by making a blink detection system by going through the tutorial here. 

The main idea for a blink detection system is really simple, you just look at 2 vertical landmark points of the eyes and take the distance between these points, if the distance is too small (below some threshold) then that means the eyes are closed.

Of course, for a robust estimate, you won’t just settle for the distance between two points but rather you will take a smart average of several distances. One smart approach is to calculate a metric called Eye aspect ratio (EAR) for each eye. This metric was introduced in a paper called “ Real-Time Eye Blink Detection using Facial Landmarks

This will allow you to utilize all 6 x,y landmark points of the eyes returned by dlib, and this way you can accurately tell if there was a blink or not.

Here’s the equation to calculate the EAR.

The full implementation details are explained in the tutorial linked above.

You can also easily extend the above method to create a drowsiness detector that alerts drivers if they feel drowsy, this can be done by monitoring how long the eyes are closed for. This is a really simple extension of the above and have real-world applications and could be used to save lives. Here’s a tutorial that explains how to build a step by step drowsiness detection system.

Interestingly you can take the same blink detection approach above and apply it to lips instead of the eyes, and create a smile detector. Yeah, the only thing you would need to change would be the x,y point coordinates (replace eye points with lip points), the EAR equation (use trial and error or intuition to change this), and the threshold.

Few years back I created this smile camera application with only a few lines of code, it takes a picture when you smile. You can easily create that by modifying the above tutorial.

What more can you create with this ?

How about a yawn detector, or a detector that tells if the user’s mouth is opened or not. You can do this by slightly modifying the above approach, you will be using the same lips x,y landmark points, the only difference would be how you’re calculating the distance between points.

Here’s a cool application I built a while back, its the infamous google dino game that’s controlled by me opening and closing the mouth.

The only drawback of the above application is that I can’t munch food while playing this game.

Taking the same concepts above you can create interesting snapchat overlay triggers. 

Here’s an eye bulge and fire throw filter I created that triggers when I glare or open my mouth.

Similarly you can create lots of cool things using the facial landmarks.

Facial Alignment & Filter Orientation Correction:

Doing a bit of math with the facial landmarks will allow you to do facial alignment correction. Facial alignment allows you to correctly orient a rotated face.

Why is facial alignment important?

One of the most important use case for facial alignment is in face recognition, there are many classical face recognition algorithms that will perform better if the face is oriented correctly before performing inference on them.

Here’s a full tutorial on facial Alignment.

One other useful thing concerning facial alignment is that you can actually extract the angle of the rotated face, this is pretty useful when you’re working with an augmented reality filter application as this will allow you to rotate the filters according to the orientation of the face.

Here’s an application I built that does that. 

Head Pose Estimation:

A problem similar to facial alignment correction could be head pose estimation. In this technique instead of determining the 2d head rotation, you will learn to extract the full 3d head pose orientation. This is particularly useful when you’re working with an augmented reality application like overlaying a 3d mask on the face. You will only be able to correctly render the 3d object on the face if you know the face’s 3d orientation.

Here’s a great tutorial that teaches you head pose estimation in great detail.

Single & Multi-Object Tracking with Dlib:

Landmark detection is not all dlib has to offer, there are other useful techniques like a correlation tracking algorithm for Object Tracking that comes packed with dlib.

The tracker is based on Danelljan et al’s 2014 paper, Accurate Scale Estimation for Robust Visual Tracking

This tracker works well with changes in translation and scale and it works in real time.

Object Detection VS  Object Tracking:

If you’re just starting out in your computer vision journey and have some confusion regarding object detection vs tracking then understand that in Object Detection, you try to find an instance of the target object in the whole image. And you perform this detection in each frame of the video. There can be multiple instances of the same object and you’ll detect all of them with no differentiation between those object instances.

What I’m trying to say above is that a single image or frame of a video can contain multiple objects of the same class for e.g. multiple cats can be present on the same image and the object detector will see it as the same thing CAT with no difference between the individual cats throughout the video.

Whereas an Object Tracking algorithm will track each cat separately in each frame and will recognize each cat by a unique ID throughout the video. 

You can read this tutorial that goes over Dlib correlation tracker.

After reading the above tutorial you can go ahead and read this tutorial for using the correlation tracker to track multiple objects.

Face Swapping, Averaging & Morphing:

Here’s a series of cool facial manipulations you can do by utilizing facial landmarks and some other techniques.

Face Morphing:

What you see in the above video is called facial morphing. I’m sure you have seen such effects in other apps and movies. This effect is a lot more than a simple image pixel blending or transition.

To have a morph effect like the above, you need to do image alignment, establish pixel correspondences using facial landmark detection and more.

Here’s a nice tutorial that teaches you face morphing step by step.

By understanding and utilizing facial morphing techniques you can even do morphing between dissimilar objects like a face to a lion.

Face Swapping:

After you’ve understood face morphing then another really interesting you can do is face swapping, where you take a source face and put it over a destination face. Like putting Modi’s face over Musharaf’s above.

The techniques underlying face swapping is pretty similar to the one used in face morphing so there is not much new here.

The way this swapping is done makes the results look real and freakishly weird. See how everything from lightning to skin tone is matched.

Here’s a full tutorial on face swapping.

Tip: If you want to make the above code work in real-time then you would need to replace the seamless cloning function with some other faster cloning method, the results won’t be as good but it’ll work in real-time.

Alternative Tutorial:
Switching eds with python

Note: It should be noted this technique although gives excellent results but the state of the art in face swapping is achieved by deep learning based methods (deepfakes, FaceApp etc).

Face Averaging:

Average face of: Aiman Khan, Ayeza Khan, Mahira Khan, Mehwish Hayat, Saba Qamar & Syra Yousuf 

Similar to above methods there’s also Face averaging where you smartly average several faces together utilizing facial landmarks.

The face image you see above is the average face I created using 6 different Pakistani female celebrities.

Personally speaking out of all the applications here I find face averaging the least useful or fun. But Satya has written a really interesting Tutorial on face averaging here that is worth a read.

Face Recognition:

It should not come as a surprise that dlib also has a face recognition pipeline, not only that but the Face recognition implementation is really robust one and is a modified version of  ResNet-34, based on the paper “ Deep Residual Learning for Image Recognition paper by He et al.”, it has an accuracy of 99.38% on the Labeled Faces in the Wild (LFW) dataset. This dataset contains ~3 million images.

The model was trained using deep metric learning and for each face, it learned to output a 128-dimensional vector. This vector encodes all the important information about the face. This vector is also called a face embedding.

First, you will store some face embeddings of target faces and then you will test on different new face images. Meaning you will extract embedding from test images and compare it with the saved embeddings of the target faces.

If two vectors are similar (i.e. the euclidean distance between them is small) then it’s said to be a match. This way you can make thousands of matches pretty fast. The approach is really accurate and works in real-time.

Dlib’s Implementation of face recognition can be found here. But I would recommend that you use the face_recognition library to do face recognition.This library uses dlib internally and makes the code a lot simpler.

You can follow this nice tutorial on doing face recognition with face_recognition library.

Extra resources:

An Excellent Guide on face recognition by Adam Geitgey.

Face Clustering:

Image Credit: Dlib Blog

Consider this, you went to a museum with a number of friends, all of them asked you to take their pictures behind several monuments/statues such that each of your friend had several images of them taken by you. 

Now after the trip, all your friends ask for their pictures, now you don’t want to send each of them your whole folder. So what can you do here?

Fortunately, face clustering can help you out here, this method will allow you to make clusters of images of each unique individual.

Consider another use case: You want to quickly build a face recognition dataset for 10 office people that reside in a single room. Instead of taking manual face samples of each person, you instead record a short video of everyone together in the room, you then use a face detector to extract all the faces in each frame, and then you can use a face clustering algorithm to sort all those faces into clusters/folders. Later on, you just need to name these folders and your dataset is ready.

Clustering is a useful unsupervised problem and has many more use cases.
Face clustering is built on top of face recognition so once you’ve understood the recognition part this is easy.

You can follow this tutorial to perform face clustering.

Training a Custom Landmark Predictor:

Just like the Dlib’s Facial Landmark detector, you can train your own custom landmark detector. This detector is also called a shape predictor. Now you aren’t restricted to only facial landmarks but you can go ahead and train a landmark detector for almost anything, body joints of a person, some key points of a particular object, etc. 

As long as you can get sufficient annotated data for the key points, you can use dlib to train a landmark detector on it.

Here’s a tutorial that teaches you how to train a custom Landmark detector.

After going through the above tutorial, you may want to learn how to further optimize your trained model in terms of model size, accuracy, and speed. 

So there are multiple Hyperparameters that you can tune to get better performance, here’s a tutorial that lets you automate the tuning process, also take a look a this too.

Extra Resources:

Here’s another tutorial on training a shape predictor.

Training a Custom Object Detector:

Just like a custom landmark detector, you can train a custom Object detector with dlib. Dlib uses Histogram of Oriented Gradients (HOG) as features and a Support Vector Machine (SVM) Classifier. This combined with sliding windows and image pyramids, you’ve got yourself an Object detector. The only limitation is that you can train it to detect a single object at a time.

The Object detection approach in dlib is based on the same series of steps used in the sliding window based object detector first published by Dalal and Triggs in 2005 in the Histograms of Oriented Gradients for Human Detection.

HOG + SVM based detector are the strongest non Deep learning based approach for object detection, Here’s a hand detector I built using this approach a few years back. 

I didn’t even annotated nor collected training data for my hands but instead made a sliding window application that automatically collected my hand pictures as it moved on the screen and I placed my hands in the bounding box.

Afterward, I took this hand detector created a  Video car game controller, so now I was steering the Video game car with my hands literally. To be honest, that wasn’t a pleasant experience, my hand was sore afterwards. Making something cool is not hard but it would take a whole lot effort to make a practical VR or AR-based application. 

Here’s Dlib Code for Training an Object Detector and here’s a blog post that teaches you how to do that.

Extra Resources:
Here’s another Tutorial on training the detector.

Dlib Optimizations For Faster & Better Performance:

Here’s a bunch of techniques and tutorials that will help you get the most out of dlib’s landmark detection.

Using A Faster Landmark Detector:

Beside’s the 68 point landmark detector, dlib also has 5 point landmark detector that is 10 times smaller and faster (about 10%) than the 68 point one. If you need more speed and the 5 landmark points as visualized above is all you need then you should opt for this detector. Also from what I’ve seen its also somewhat more efficient than the 68 point detector.

Here’s a tutorial that explains how to use this faster landmark detector.

Speeding Up the Detection Pipeline:

There are a bunch of tips and techniques that you can use to get a faster detection speed, now a landmark detector itself is really fast, the rest of the pipeline takes up a lot of time. Some tricks you can do to increase speed are:

Skip Frames:

If you’re reading from a high fps camera then it won’t hurt to perform detection on every other frame, this will effectively double your speed.

Reduce image Size: 

If you’re using Hog + Sliding window based detection or a haar cascade + Sliding window based one then the face detection speed depends upon the size of the image. So one smart thing you can do is reduce the image size before face detection and then rescale the detected coordinates for the original image later.

Both of the above techniques and some others are explained in this tutorial.

Tip: The biggest bottleneck you’ll face in the landmark detection pipeline is the HOG based face detector in dlib which is pretty slow. You can replace this with haar cascades or the SSD based face detector for faster performance.

What’s Next?

computer vision

If you want to go forward from here and learn more advanced things and go into more detail, understand theory and code of different algorithms then be sure to check out our Computer Vision & Image Processing with Python Course (Urdu/Hindi). In this course, I go into a lot of detail regarding vision fundamentals and cover a plethora of algorithms and techniques to help you master Computer Vision.

The 3 month course contains:

✔ 125 Video Lectures
✔ Discussion Forums
✔ Quizzes
✔ 100+ High Quality Jupyter notebooks
✔ Practice Assignments
✔Certificate of Completion

If you want to start a career in Computer Vision & Artificial Intelligence then this course is for you. One of the best things about this course is that the video lectures are in Urdu/Hindi Language without any compromise on quality, so there is a personal/local touch to it.


Let’s wrap up, in this tutorial we went over a number of algorithms and techniques in dlib.

We started with installation, moved on to face detection and landmark prediction, and learned to build a number of applications using landmark detection. We also looked at other techniques like correlation tracking and facial recognition.

We also learned that you can train your own landmark detectors and object detectors with dlib.

At the end we learned some nice optimizations that we can do with our landmark predictor. 

Extra Resources:

Final Tip: I know most of you won’t be able to go over all the tutorials linked here in a single day so I would recommend that you save and bookmark this page and tackle a single problem at a time. Only when you’ve understood a certain technique move on to the next.

It goes without saying that Dlib is a must learn tool for serious computer vision practitioners out there.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it useful. If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll happily address it.