Open Access

A multi-cue spatio-temporal framework for automatic frontal face clustering in video sequences

  • Simeon Schwab1, 2Email author,
  • Thierry Chateau1,
  • Christophe Blanc1, 2 and
  • Laurent Trassoudaine1
EURASIP Journal on Image and Video Processing20132013:10

DOI: 10.1186/1687-5281-2013-10

Received: 2 April 2012

Accepted: 23 November 2012

Published: 11 February 2013


Clustering of specific object detections is a challenging problem for video summarization. In this article, we present a method to form tracks by grouping face detections of a video sequence. Our clustering method is based on a probabilistic maximum a posteriori data association framework, and we apply it to face detection in a visual surveillance context. Optimal solution is found with a procedure using network-flow algorithms described in previous pedestrian tracking-by-detection works. To address difficult cases of small detections in scenes with multiple moving people, given that face detections are located in a video sequence, we use dissimilarities involving appearance and spatio-temporal information. The main contribution is the use of an optical flow or local front–back tracking to handle complex situations appearing in real sequences. The resulting algorithm is then able to deal with situations where people are crossing one another and face detections are scattered due to head rotation. The clustering step of our framework is compared to generic clustering methods (hierarchical clustering and affinity propagation) on several real challenging sequences, as evaluations indicate that this is more adapted to video-based detection clustering. We propose to use a new evaluation criteria, derived from purity and inverse purity of a clustering estimation, to assess performances of such methods. Results also show that optical flow and a skin color prior added to face detections improve the clustering quality.


Clustering Face detection Multiple visual tracking Optical flow Maximum a posteriori


Face detection on still images is becoming more and more common and efficient, yet use in real surveillance video sequences remains a big issue. Due to the large number of detections extracted from video, an automatic clustering of face detections is interesting for visual surveillance applications. For archive browsing or for face tagging on videos, it is easier to investigate with an album of faces than with a set of all the detected faces.

We propose a method to cluster-specific object detections of a video sequence, which we applied to face detections. Our efforts focus on real visual surveillance constraints: cluttered scenes, uncontrolled, and containing multiple small faces.

In uncontrolled visual surveillance scenes, the use of a face recognition system remains complicated due to the poor quality of face images. It is for this reason that our method focuses on grouping face detections extracted from a video sequence and we do not address directly the face recognition problem. Our goal is to form tracks of face detections occurring in a whole video sequence.

The proposed method is based on three main stages (cf. Figure 1). First we use a face detector to localize faces in all frames of the video and extract various features of the detections. These features are then used to compute a dissimilarity matrix based on appearance and space–time. Finally, an optimization method involving a probabilistic model is employed to group all the detections according to the dissimilarity matrix.
Figure 1

First, faces are extracted from each video frame by a standard face detector. Then appearance features and spatio-temporal features are built to compute different dissimilarity matrices. Finally, these dissimilarity matrices are combined to a single one and clustering is performed by solving a MAP estimation problem.

Related work

Actual face tagging systems present interesting results on TV shows/series or news videos. The main works [19] combine: a face detector in still image, face tracking techniques, and face recognition system with different probabilistic frameworks.

Some of them are semi-supervised: the study by Ramanan et al. [1] proposes a pre-clustering step to drastically reduce the hand-labeling time, Berg et al.’s study [2] automatically corrects inaccurately and ambiguously labeled face from news videos. In most of cases studied, a recognition system can be used, thanks to the detection quality and external information is sometimes added. Sivic et al. [4] work with near frontal faces and use other attributes such as hair or clothes to describe a person, and an extension of this method [3] uses subtitles to improve labeling and naming of persons.

All of these works use news, TV shows/series videos, as materials to face tagging in videos. However, in surveillance video scenes, people are not looking at the camera, close-up face views are rare, and a lot of mutual occlusions occurs. These are some of the reasons why face clustering remains extremely challenging in unconstrained visual surveillance situations.

Recent works on multi-object tracking can be seen as partial solutions to face clustering in video sequences. Such methods are generally divided into two main parts: (1) object detection and (2) data association. In these multi-object trackers, the data association problem is crucial having to handle complex situations such as partial or total occlusion. In fact, the problem of multi-object tracking and clustering of detected moving objects has many similarities to our problem. Many works in multi-object tracking have proposed some partial solution [1013] using sequential or global strategies to estimate object trajectories and overcome identification errors.

To track different objects we often have to extrapolate the trajectories to predict the tracking during occlusions. To improve the quality of multi-object tracking one way is to add space–time information, and one currently used solution is short-term tracking. The studies [1416] use a single object tracker with various probabilistic models and sampling.

For global tracking-by-detection, the main problem is to find a solution in a non-prohibitive computation time, because of the complexity of the possible detection combinations. To find a solution of a data association problem, as occurring in multi-target tracking, a lot of specific clustering algorithms are also employed: sampling with Monte Carlo methods [14, 15, 17], optimization methods like linear programming [18], Hungarian algorithm [19, 20], or successive min-cost flow [21] on a graph. We chose to use this last method, and find a solution to the maximum a posteriori (MAP) by successive searches of min-cost flows on a graph [21]. Even though it restricts the problem model, this method is advantageous in that it finds an optimal solution in a reasonable computation time.

In this article, we employ the problem definition and solving of [21]. To add space–time cue, we extended face detections with forward and backward tracking. However, most of the time, short-term object trackers cannot actually handle occlusions as they are just used to estimate the motion of the object to fill time gaps. That is why, our idea is to use optical flow to add a local space–time information. We also tested the use of a generic clustering method for the third stage of our method. As the dissimilarities employed in visual detection clustering are not necessarily metrics, we focus on non-metric clustering methods. We selected two clustering methods from all the algorithms available. The first is a classical and famous method: hierarchical ascendant clustering. This method is an agglomerative clustering building a hierarchy according to dissimilarities between objects, this hierarchy could then be thresholded to define clusters. The other selected algorithm is the affinity propagation [2224]. This algorithm performs unsupervised classification by identifying a subset of representative exemplars, and is also employed in a visual understanding context.

Probabilistic data-association model

This section presents the background we employed to define the probabilistic model used to cluster-detected faces. It is inspired by the model proposed by Nevatia and colleagues [21], we modified its formulation to clarify the likelihood and a priori probability terms and adapted it to the video-based face clustering case. To obtain an optimal clustering according to our probabilistic MAP framework, we used their network-flow-based algorithm.

MAP data-association model

The model is based on a probabilistic framework where a state (set of associations) has to be estimated from observations given by the set of faces extracted from a video sequence. State and observations are random variables, and the objective is to obtain MAP estimate of face associations.

Each observation (face detection) contains position on the frame, time in the sequence (frame index), appearance of the detection area, and motion information (detailed in the next section). Let Z = { z i } be the set of all the detections, where z i =(x i ,s i ,a i ,t i ) is a detection; x i represents the xy-position in pixels, s i its width in pixels, a i the appearance descriptor, and t i the time (frame index) in the video. We denote D the number of detection in Z .

The state to be estimated is a set of trajectories T={T 1,…,T K ,T FP}, where a trajectory is a set of detections: T k ={z k 1,…,z k n k } (k i =j means that the i th element of the k trajectory is the detection z j ). The cluster denoted by T FP represents the set of detections considered as false positives. As one detection can only belong to one trajectory and each detection is assigned to a trajectory, T is in fact a clustering of the D detections. T denotes the set of all the possible clustering of D detections.

The MAP estimation problem is then described as
T ̂ = arg max T T P ( T | Z ) = arg max T T P ( T ) P ( Z | T )
where T is the set of all the possible clustering of D detections. With independence hypothesis
T ̂ = arg max T T P ( T ) i P ( z i | T ) k P ( Z | T k )

In [21], the detection likelihood (P(z i |T)) is represented with a Bernoulli distribution with a constant parameter. This parameter corresponds to the false positive rate of the face detector. We chose to delegate this term to the prior because it does not involve any observation, and we introduced a detection likelihood based on observations. This likelihood is described by the probability that an observation z i is a real face and not a false positive of the detector. A more detailed description of this probability is given in Section 5.

As we delegate the false positive prior to the a priori probability, our a priori probability does not only involve the number of clusters as in [21], but also the number of detections considered as false positives. Assuming independence between the number of clusters and the number of false positive detections, the prior is defined as follows
P ( T ) = P start ( K ) P FP ( | T FP | ) = P e 2 ( K 1 ) β | T FP | ( 1 β ) D | T FP |

where P e represents the probability of starting a trajectory with a given detection (estimated as the number of people over the number of detections), K is the number of trajectories in T and |T F P | the number of detections considered as false positives. The β parameter is the false positive rate of the detector, and D denotes the total detection count.

The trajectory likelihood P(Z|T k ) represents the appearance and space–time consistency of a trajectory T k . It is expressed by a first-order Markov chain, where states are the detections of T k :
P ( Z | T k ) = P link ( z k 1 | z k 0 ) P link ( z k 2 | z k 1 ) P link ( z k l k | z k l k 1 )

Section 6 describes how we used dissimilarities (involving time, appearance, and movement) to define the P link probabilities.

In our case, we just used the following two parameters to describe a situation: the rate of false positive β and the probability of the detector P e to start a trajectory. These parameters could be statistically estimated with
β = False positives Number of detection P e = Number of people Number of detection

As the face detector fails when the camera is not in front of the face, missed detections are not necessarily attributed to occlusion events and an explicit occlusion model (as in [21]) is not very suitable.

It is therefore complicated to set up the P e parameter, however, experiments at Section 7.3 show that, in practice, results are quite stable with the P e variation, then we empirically set it to 1%.

Resolving the MAP

Computing all the solutions of the MAP model is in general a challenging task, mainly because of the computational complexity.

By using the first-order Markov chain hypothesis for the trajectory likelihood, the solution is tractable and an optimal solution to the MAP can be computed by successively solving min-cost flow problems on a specific graph [21]. Nodes of this graph represent detections and a path on the oriented graph represents a cluster. The cost of an arc between two nodes is assigned to computed transition dissimilarity (opposite of log-likelihood) between the corresponding two detections. So, with a given value, the min-cost flow determines the associations to be used for clustering. An optimal MAP solution is found by varying the flow value and iteratively solving min-cost flow problems.

Detection extension with movement information

In this section, we present the manner in which we introduce space–time information to face detections. Two ways of representing space–time cues are proposed: (1) a basic short-term tracker and (2) an optical flow estimation. The two approaches are compared in Section 7.3.2.

Short-term tracking

To overcome hard situations due to long periods of undetected faces, we first propose to extend detections by using short-term backward and forward tracking. This algorithm provides additional space–time information to help in situations involving two detections distant in time. The tracking system is based on the estimation of the optimal position and size of the reference face (which is the patch of the detection in the present frame) at a further frame. The optimization procedure uses a cost function based on the appearance dissimilarity with the reference patch. Search domain is bounded by priors: a maximum velocity and scale factor. The optimization core is achieved by a Nelder–Mead method based on simplexes with the previous estimation as starting point. Tracking is achieved for each detection, and pursuing in the past and future according to video time.

Introducing new space–time information with short-term tracking implies extending the observation z i of a detection with the new positions given by the tracker. We denote this new observation (called tracklet) as
z i ~ = { z i 1 , z i 2 , , z i N i }

where z i k = ( x i k , s i k , t i k ) are positions and sizes estimated with the short-term tracking and where N i is the number of elements in the tracklet of the detection i. The z i k are sorted by frame time and one of these is the previously defined z i .

Optical flow

Another way to take into account space–time information is to use optical flow. There are many methods to compute an optical flow between two frames, one of the main issues is to represent a large scale of displacements [2527]. In our case, we used a pyramidal version of the Lucas–Kanade algorithm to represent both small and large displacements as explained in [26].

In each frame having a detection, we compute the optical flow from the previous to the current frame and from the current to the next frame, then these two optical flows are averaged. The resulting speed vector of a detection is obtained by taking the most representative flow vector in the detection area. This vector is added to the observation z i .

Detection likelihood

In our MAP framework, the detection likelihood explains the fact that a detection is a true or false positive of the detector. In the case of a color video, we propose adding this information with the skin color proportion of a detection. We define the likelihood as follows
P ( z i | T ) = 1 P f ( a i ) if z i T FP P f ( a i ) else

where the probability to be a face (P f ) with an appearance a i is estimated by the proportion of skin color pixels over the detected face patch. The skin color segmentation is simply done by fixed colorimetric boundaries [28]. Due to ethnic skin differences and colorimetric noise, skin color detection is far from being the best representation of skin proportion, but it still adds information in the main cases. To limit the exclusion of true detection without skin color pixels, we threshold P f (a i ) to be 0.01 at minimum instead of 0.

Another way to improve the detector is to add the prior that a detection is on the foreground by using background extraction techniques. The drawback of this method is that it cannot handle moving objects such as pedestrian clothes or vehicles, and background extraction is complicated with non-fixed cameras.

Detection dissimilarities

This section describes the probability P link to transit from one detection to another, this probability is based on dissimilarities between detections. This transition probability combines four affinities: appearance (A a), motion(A m), speed (A s), and time (A t):
P link ( z j | z i ) = A a ( z i , z j ) A m ( z i , z j ) A s ( z i , z j ) A t ( z i , z j )
Dissimilarities are integrated into the MAP framework as the opposite of the log-likelihood of a transition (cf. Section 3.1). The dissimilarity expression is then defined as follows
d ( z i , z j ) = log ( P link ( z j | z i ) ) = log ( A a ( z i , z j ) ) log ( A m ( z i , z j ) ) log ( A s ( z i , z j ) ) log ( A t ( z i , z j ) ) = d a ~ ( z i , z j ) 2 + d m ~ ( z i , z j ) 2 + d s ~ ( z i , z j ) 2 + d t ~ ( z i , z j ) 2

with d a ~ the appearance dissimilarity, d m ~ the motion dissimilarity, and d t ~ the temporal dissimilarity.

All of these dissimilarities are reduced to be combined in a normalized way
d x ~ ( z i , z j ) = d x ( z i , z j ) σ x

where x is a, m, s, or t and σ x is the standard deviation estimated with all the d x (f,g) with ( f , g ) Z × Z . The next sections describe the different d x dissimilarities.

Appearance dissimilarity

Detection appearance is represented by an HS-V histogram [29]. This histogram is the concatenation of a 2D HS histogram and a 1D V histogram of image pixels (where H, S, and V represent hue, saturation, and value of a color, respectively). If the S and V values are large enough for a pixel, the pixel is counted in the HS histogram, or else it is counted in the V histogram. To measure the dissimilarity between two HS-V histograms, we used the Bhattacharyya coefficient.

By considering only the face detection area, color information is not sufficient to distinguish two different faces. We therefore extended the face detection to an area under the head, in order to retrieve color information from the pedestrian clothes, this is done by doubling down the detection area.

Space–time dissimilarities

For dissimilarities involving position in frame and frame time, we define four dissimilarities: two for the motion (based on tracklets or optical-flows), one for the speed (in pixel per frame time), and one for the time. If detections are extended with tracklets ( z i ~ instead of z i ) the tracklet dissimilarity is employed, if not, the optical flow is estimated and the optical flow dissimilarity is used.

Tracklet dissimilarity

To quantify the space–time continuity between two tracklets, the end of the first tracklet is interpolated to the beginning time of the other tracklet, and vice versa. An Euclidean distance is then measured between the final extrapolated position of the first tracklet and the beginning of the second, and another distance is computed between the extrapolated position of the second tracklet and the last position of the first tracklet (cf. Figure 2). Extrapolation is done using a constant velocity model estimated with an average of finite differences of the last tracklet positions. To use this measurement with two single detections, we just set their speed to zero.
Figure 2

Movement dissimilarity between two non-overlapping tracks.

The motion dissimilarity between two trajectories is obtained by averaging the two acquired distances, as shown in Figure 2. This average is weighted by the number of positions used to estimate the speed. In practice, in order to account possible high accelerations, the number of finite differences used to estimate the speed is limited.

If the two tracklets overlap (i.e., at least one date in common), the motion dissimilarity is computed from the spatial average of position distances on common frames.

Given T inter ij = { t i 1 , , t i N i } { t j 1 , , t j N j } the frame intersection and assuming that z i 1 is before z j 1 , the movement dissimilarity is defined by

  • if no overlapping (i.e., T inter ij = ):
    d m ( z i ~ , z j ~ ) = K i d pos ( z i ̂ , z j 1 ) + K j d pos ( z j ̂ , z i N i ) K i + K j
  • where z i ̂ is the forward extrapolation of z i ~ , z j ̂ the backward extrapolation of z i ~ , K i (resp. K j ) is the number of elements used to estimate speed from z i ~ (resp. z j ~ ). In practice, we take K i = min(10,N i ) for our experiments.

  • if overlapping:
    d m ( z i ~ , z j ~ ) = t T inter ij d pos ( z i k i ( t ) , z j k j ( t ) ) | T inter ij |
where k i ( t i n ) = n and d pos are the position distance between two observations. This distance is an Euclidean distance divided by the mean of the two detection widths:
d pos ( z i , z j ) = 2 | | x i x j | | s i + s j

this normalization is done to be closer to a spatial overlap measure than the simple Euclidean distance is.

Optical flow dissimilarity

Instead of using tracklets, motion can also be estimated using an optical flow. The optical flow is computed by a pyramidal version of the Lucas–Kanade [26] algorithm, we use five levels for the image pyramids. Figure 3 shows an example of the estimated optical flow for a video of our dataset. Two optical flows are computed at each frame: one with the previous frame and the other with the next frame. The two obtained optical flows are then averaged to reduce the noise. The resulting velocity of a detection is estimated by the flow vector the most represented on the detection area.
Figure 3

Optical flow computed with pyramidal Lucas–Kanade.

The motion dissimilarity from optical flow is defined as follows
d m ( z i , z j ) = 1 2 ( | | x i + v i ( t j t i ) x j | | + | | x j + v j ( t i t j ) x i | | )

where v i is the estimated optical flow vector of the detection i.

Speed dissimilarity

Some associations are physically impossible due to the maximum speed that a person can achieve. To limit these associations, we use, in addition to the previous movement dissimilarity, a speed-based dissimilarity:
d s ( z i , z j ) = | | x i x j | | | t i t j | + 1

Time dissimilarity

The dissimilarity based on time is defined as the difference of times:
d t ( z i , z j ) = t j t i if Δt t j t i > 0 else

where Δ t is empirically set (50 frames for our experiments).

If tracklets are used, the dissimilarity is simply defined as the smallest gap between starts and ends of the two compared tracklets:
d t ( z i ~ , z j ~ ) = min ( d t ( z i 1 , z j 1 ) , d t ( z i N i , z j N j ) , d t ( z i 1 , z j N j ) , d t ( z i N i , z j 1 ) )


This section presents the evaluation of the proposed method on several challenging videos.

Evaluation criteria

There are several ways to measure clustering quality: intrinsic methods (by measuring the proximity of elements inside a cluster and the proximity between clusters) and extrinsic methods that use manual ground truth classification.

As shown by Amig ó et al. [30], there are many ways to extrinsically evaluate clustering involving different quality measures, such as good and bad pair counting, purity, entropy measures, etc.

We propose an evaluation measurement based on purity and inverse-purity. We define estimated clustering as clustering obtained by a clustering algorithm, as opposed to ground-truth clustering manually achieved by a human expert. Moreover, the purity is called estimation purity (EP) and the inverse-purity ground-truth purity (GTP).

Assuming estimated clustering of all the detections, EP and GTP are defined as follows (cf. Figure 4):
  • EP:
    EP = 1 D k max j | E k GT j |
Figure 4

Illustration of EP and GTP.

where D is the number of detections, GT={GT j } the ground-truth clustering, and E={E k } the estimated clustering. The higher the EP, the less there are covering errors. We refer to a covering error when a cluster includes the faces of different people.

  • GTP:
    GTP = 1 D k max j | GT k E j |

    it shows the proportion of well-represented detections (i.e., it measures the fact that there are few people represented by multiple estimated clusters).

Considering the case of a single cluster gathering all the detections:
EP = max j | GT j | N ( noted EP min ) and GTP = 1
and the case where each detection is represented by each cluster:
EP = 1 and GTP = | GT | N ( noted GTP min )
we see that the minimum purities are not zero, but constants depending only on the number of detections and the largest cluster in the ground truth. To compare the various clustering algorithms, we made some changes to have the minimum of EP and GTP at 0.
EP n = EP EP min 1 EP min
GTP n = GTP GTP min 1 GTP min
The closer both EP and GTP are to 1, the better the clustering. So, we use an F-measure of EP n and GTP n to represent the quality by a single number between 0 and 1:
F = 2 EP n × GTP n EP n + GTP n

This measure is used in our experiments to compare the estimated clustering with the ground-truth clustering.



The experimentation dataset is based on Additional files 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Some figures are given in Table 1.
Table 1

Dataset for experiments




nb detect.

FP (%)






































Passages, number of people crossing the viewed area with a detected face; frames, total number of frames of the video; nb detect., number of detections; FP, observed rate of false positives for the face detector used; size, mean of detection width in pixels.

Additional file 1: Video 1. (AVI 8 MB)

Additional file 2: Video 2. (AVI 2 MB)

Additional file 3: Video 3. (AVI 2 MB)

Additional file 4: Video 4. (AVI 7 MB)

Videos (Additional file 1: Video 1, Additional file 2: Video 2, Additional file 3: Video 3, Additional file 4: Video 4, and Additional file 5: Video 5) constitute a challenging dataset because of the fast crossing and direction variation of pedestrians, and also the small size of detected faces (materials provided with this article contain these five videos). Video 6a is part of a dataset built to evaluate the detection of abandoned baggage systems in Advanced Video and Signal Based Surveillance Conference. The frame rate of videos Additional file 1: Video 1, Additional file 2: Video 2, Additional file 3: Video 3 and Video 6 is 25 frames per second and 13 frames per second for videos Additional file 4: Video 4 and Additional file 5: Video 5. To extract faces, we use the classic Viola–Jones [31] face detector implemented in OpenCV library. For all the videos, detections are rather small (from side 30 to 60 pixels) compared to the face recognition. It is close to the smallest face we can detect with the OpenCV implementation. Figure 5 shows the face images obtained from the face detector with our dataset.
Figure 5

Preview of face detections, we use the OpenCV implementation of the Viola–Jones face detector. Face images are obtained by growing the detection to the under-head area.

The ground-truth clustering is made by hand by classifying all the detections, with a cluster for each people passage, plus a false positive cluster. Figure 6 shows some video screen-shots of our dataset.
Figure 6

Preview of our dataset videos. From top left to bottom right: Additional file 1: Video 1, scene of videos Additional file 2: Video 2 and Additional file 3: Video 3, scene of videos Additional file 4: Video 4 and Additional file 5: Video 5, Video 6. Frame sizes in pixels: 800×600 for videos Additional file 1: Video 1, Additional file 2: Video 2 and Additional file 3: Video 3, 704×576 for 4–5, and 720×576 for 6.

Experimental procedures

In the following experiments, we compare the clustering stage in the MAP framework with two generic clustering methods using the same dissimilarity matrices. The first one is the hierarchical clustering with single-link, and the second one is a relatively new method based on affinity propagation between elements [2224].

Then, we compare different movement dissimilarities: one based on optical flow, another with forward and backward tracking, and the last one with just the pixel distance between detections. We also present some results showing the impact of the skin color term P f in detection appearance likelihood.


Performance of the MAP clustering method

Table 2 compares the clustering stage of our MAP clustering method to hierarchical clustering and affinity propagation clustering. It shows the best F-measures observed for the three algorithms, using the same dissimilarity measure. For the movement dissimilarity, we use the one based on optical flow measure. Optimized F-measures are found by varying parameters which impacts the number of clusters. These parameters are dissimilarity cutting threshold for the hierarchical method, global preference parameter for affinity propagation, and P e for our method.
Table 2

Best performances reached by three clustering algorithms with the same dissimilarity matrix





























MAP, presented method; HAC, hierarchical clustering, and AP, affinity propagation clustering. Best results are in bold and lowest in italic.

Results show that MAP clustering leads to better performances than the two other clustering methods. We can also see that hierarchical clustering outperforms affinity propagation. This is probably due to the fact that hierarchical clustering (with single-link) often suffers from the chain effect. In our case, the chain effect is not so problematic, mostly because one detection has high affinity with two other detections: one in previous frames the other in the next frames. This naturally gives clusters a chain shape. Affinity propagation selects exemplars in each cluster, so the clusters are grouped around exemplars. This cluster structure is not as suited to our application as the chain one.

The performance of the MAP clustering seems to come from the fact that it is mostly suited to the video-based detection situation. The two other methods just use dissimilarities and no prior on clusters shape, while the presented MAP model uses a first-order Markov chain to model clusters and handles false positives in a specific way.

Performance of our dissimilarity measure

Table 3 shows F-measures obtained with four versions of the presented algorithm. The first (basic) is the base algorithm without tracklets or optical flow, it just uses time, appearance, and speed dissimilarities. The second version (tracklet) is based on the basic version but with the tracklet dissimilarities, it is the same for the third (OF) but with optical flow instead of tracklet dissimilarities. The last one (no prior) is like the basic, except it does not use the prior of the skin color ratio P f (a i ) in the likelihood P(z i |T).
Table 3

F -measure (in %) of different methods and videos





No prior































Values represent mean and standard deviation of the F-measures for 100 values of the P e parameter. Best results are in bold.

The mean and standard deviation of F-measures are estimated over results obtained by varying the P e parameter, which is the probability to start (or stop) a cluster at a given detection. This parameter is used to force the number of clusters. For these experiments we take 100 values of P e between 0.04 and 25%. Results show that the quality does not appear to be very sensitive to the large P e variation.

Although dataset videos have various false positive rates (from 1.5 to 11%), we arbitrarily set the false positive parameter (β) to 1% for all the videos. This is done to avoid manual adjustment of a priori parameter to each video.

Table 3 shows that the use of optical flow dissimilarities gives better results compared to the use of dissimilarities based on tracklets. We can also see that the prior information based on skin color pixels improves results due to a better estimation of false positive cluster.

Concerning the running time, for Additional file 1: Video 1 (1934 frames and 1725 detections), the face detector takes 8 min 30 s to treat all the frames, the feature extraction stage (optical-flow version) takes 1 min 8 s, the computation of the dissimilarity matrix takes 8 s, and the optimization used to find the optimal clustering takes 20 s. We used a C++ implementation and run the test on a 2.4-GHz processor without parallelization. These figures give an overview of the different processing times, this indicates that most of the computation time is used in detection and image processing tasks.

As a qualitative and applicative result, we show (Figure 7) three examples of face summarization. After clustering face detections of a video, with MAP method (P e fixed to 1%) and optical-flow dissimilarities, we remove small clusters and select a representative detection to build an album of faces. Detections are selected with a simple algorithm using a score based on detection size and contrast. As we do not use a re-identification process when people re-appear after being out of the field for a certain period, the main duplicates in faces summarizations are because persons cross several times the field of view.
Figure 7

Example of face summarizations given by selecting a representative detection per cluster found, different colors represent different clusters. Left: 20% of the detected faces of a video (50% for Additional file 3: Video 3), right: selected faces.


In the main presented experiments, the method based on the MAP clustering is more suited to our problem than hierarchical clustering or affinity propagations are. The movement dissimilarity based on the optical flow improves the results, more than the tracklet dissimilarity does in the main cases. Using a skin color term in the face likelihood enhances clustering quality, by improving false positive cluster quality.


This article proposes a method to cluster face detections on challenging video sequences. Our method relies on a data-association framework by resolving a MAP problem. In the case of a frontal face detector, where detections are particularly sparse due to head rotations, experiments show that hat adding movement information to detection dissimilarities improves the results. Two different approaches are tested: the first based on short-term tracking and the second using optical flow extraction. We also present a new criteria to evaluate the performances of the resulting clustering.

Although our method has not reached the required quality for visual surveillance applications, we present a starting point for a video face summarization system based on tracking-by-detection, in scenes where automatic face recognition remains a challenging issue.


Consent was obtained from the persons appearing in the videos 1 to 5 used for this publication.




This study was supported by Vesalis and ANRT (France), we thank Instut Pascal and Bio-Rafale consortium. We also used the video AVSS AB Hard from the i-Lids dataset for AVSS 2007.

Authors’ Affiliations

Institut Pascal, Université Blaise Pascal
Vesalis, Parc Technologique de la Pardieu


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