CCTV Camera – Motion Detection


Getting Ready…

For this challenge you will need:

  • A Raspberry Pi with Python 2 installed,
  • A PiCamera

Follow the steps described on the following pages to make sure you have plugged the camera in your raspberry pi and that you have enabled it. ALso make sure you have installed the picamera library.

You will also need to setup the Python Imaging Library (PIL) which you can download from

Alternatively you can type the following code in a terminal window:
sudo apt-get install python-imaging-tk

How It Works

Before we start

Most burglar alarm systems using motion sensors would use Passive Infrared Sensors. It is possible to buy one for the Raspberry Pi. However in this tutorial we will use an alternative approach without using an infrared sensor.

Note that if you need a tutorial based on using a Passive Infrared Sensor use this tutorial instead.

We are going to use a script that:

  1. Takes a picture and saves it in a buffer,
  2. Takes another picture,
  3. Compares the current picture and the previous picture (buffer) by counting the number of pixels which are different,
  4. If the number of pixels which are different between both pictures is greater than a given threshold, we will assume that the camera has detected some movements.
    • In this case, add the date and time to the current picture and store the picture on file.
  5. Replaces the picture stored in the buffer with the current picture
  6. Repeats all the steps above (from step 2).

To do so we will use the following script, from Claude Pageau: Source:

To stop this script while it’s running press CTR + “C”. This will terminate the program.

# original script by brainflakes, improved by pageauc, peewee2 and Kesthal
# modified by Claude Pageau 4-Mar-2014 to include numbering sequence plus dat/lock files for grive script integration
# also made program independent of path and file names.
# You need to install PIL to run this script
# type "sudo apt-get install python-imaging-tk" in an terminal window to do this

import StringIO
import subprocess
import os
import time
import shutil
from datetime import datetime
from PIL import Image
from PIL import ImageFont
from PIL import ImageDraw

###########  Motion detection settings:
# find the path of the of this python script and set some global variables
progname = os.path.basename(__file__)
starttime =
# rightnow =  "%04d%02d%02d-%02d:%02d:%02d" % (starttime.year, starttime.month,, starttime.hour, starttime.minute, starttime.second)

# Threshold - how much a pixel has to change by to be marked as "changed"
threshold = 50

# Sensitivity - how many changed pixels before capturing an image, needs to be higher if noisy view
sensitivity = 100

# ForceCapture - whether to force an image to be captured every forceCaptureTime seconds, values True or False
forceCapture = True
forceCaptureTime = 60 * 60 # Once an hour

# filepath - location of folder to save photos 
filepath = baseDir + "google_drive"
if not os.path.isdir(filepath):
  print "%s - creating photo storage folder %s " % (progname, filepath)

# filenamePrefix - string that prefixes the file name for easier identification of files.  A dash will be added at end as part of formating. 
filenamePrefix = "Deck"

# Lock File is used to indicate photos are added
lockfilepath = baseDir + baseFileName + ".sync"

# Use filename sequence numbering instead of date and time
numsequence = True
countpath =  baseDir + baseFileName + ".dat"
startCount = 1000
maxPhotos = 500
showDateOnImage = True

# diskSpaceToReserve - Delete oldest images to avoid filling disk. How much byte to keep free on disk.
mbToReserve = 200
diskSpaceToReserve = mbToReserve * 1024 * 1024 # Keep 200 mb free on disk

# cameraSettings - "" = no extra settings; "-hf" = Set horizontal flip of image; "-vf" = Set vertical flip; "-hf -vf" = both horizontal and vertical flip
cameraSettings = "-vf -hf"

# settings of the full size photos to save
saveWidth   = 1296
saveHeight  = 972
saveQuality = 15 # Set jpeg quality (0 to 100)

# Test-Image settings
testWidth = 100
testHeight = 75

# this is the default setting, if the whole image should be scanned for changed pixel
testAreaCount = 1
testBorders = [ [[1,testWidth],[1,testHeight]] ]  # [ [[start pixel on left side,end pixel on right side],[start pixel on top side,stop pixel on bottom side]] ]
# testBorders are NOT zero-based, the first pixel is 1 and the last pixel is testWith or testHeight

# with "testBorders", you can define areas, where the script should scan for changed pixel
# for example, if your picture looks like this:
#     ....XXXX
#     ........
#     ........
# "." is a street or a house, "X" are trees which move arround like crazy when the wind is blowing
# because of the wind in the trees, there will be taken photos all the time. to prevent this, your setting might look like this:

# testAreaCount = 2
# testBorders = [ [[1,50],[1,75]], [[51,100],[26,75]] ] # area y=1 to 25 not scanned in x=51 to 100

# even more complex example
# testAreaCount = 4
# testBorders = [ [[1,39],[1,75]], [[40,67],[43,75]], [[68,85],[48,75]], [[86,100],[41,75]] ]

# in debug mode, a file debug.bmp is written to disk with marked changed pixel an with marked border of scan-area
# debug mode should only be turned on while testing the parameters above
debugMode = False # False or True

# Capture a small test image (for motion detection)
def captureTestImage(settings, width, height):
    command = "raspistill %s -w %s -h %s -t 200 -e bmp -n -o -" % (settings, width, height)
    imageData = StringIO.StringIO()
    imageData.write(subprocess.check_output(command, shell=True))
    im =
    buffer = im.load()
    return im, buffer

# Save a full size image to disk
def saveImage(settings, width, height, quality, diskSpaceToReserve):
    time =
    if numsequence:
        filename = filepath + "/" + filenamePrefix + "-" + fileCount + ".jpg"
        imageTagName = filenamePrefix + "-" + fileCount + "   %04d%02d%02d-%02d:%02d:%02d" % (time.year, time.month,, time.hour, time.minute, time.second)
        filename = filepath + "/" + filenamePrefix + "-%04d%02d%02d-%02d%02d%02d.jpg" % (time.year, time.month,, time.hour, time.minute, time.second)
        imageTagName = filenamePrefix + "-" + "%04d%02d%02d-%02d:%02d:%02d" % (time.year, time.month,, time.hour, time.minute, time.second)"raspistill %s -w %s -h %s -t 200 -e jpg -q %s -n -o %s" % (settings, width, height, quality, filename), shell=True)
    if (showDateOnImage):
    print "%s - %s saved %s" % (progname, imageTagName, filename)
    imageNow= filepath + "/" + filenamePrefix + "_current.jpg"

# Keep free space above given level
def keepDiskSpaceFree(bytesToReserve):
    if (getFreeSpace() < bytesToReserve):
        for filename in sorted(os.listdir(filepath + "/")):
            if filename.startswith(filenamePrefix) and filename.endswith(".jpg"):
                os.remove(filepath + "/" + filename)
                print "%s - Deleted %s/%s to avoid filling disk" % (progname,filepath,filename)
                if (getFreeSpace() > bytesToReserve):

# Write Date to Image
def writeDateToImage(imagename,datetoprint):
    FOREGROUND = (255, 255, 255)
    TEXT = datetoprint
    font_path = '/usr/share/fonts/truetype/freefont/FreeSansBold.ttf'
    font = ImageFont.truetype(font_path, 24, encoding='unic')
    text = TEXT.decode('utf-8')
    img =
    draw = ImageDraw.Draw(img)
    # draw.text((x, y),"Sample Text",(r,g,b))

    draw.text((500, 930),text,FOREGROUND,font=font)

# Get available disk space
def getFreeSpace():
    st = os.statvfs(filepath + "/")
    du = st.f_bavail * st.f_frsize
    return du

# Get first image
image1, buffer1 = captureTestImage(cameraSettings, testWidth, testHeight)

# Reset last capture time
lastCapture = time.time()

if numsequence:
    if not os.path.exists(countpath):
        print "%s - Creating New Counter File %s Counter=%i" % (progname, countpath,startCount)
        open(countpath, 'w').close()
        f = open(countpath, 'w+')
    with open(countpath, 'r') as f:
        writeCount =
    currentCount = int(writeCount) + 1
    if (currentCount > startCount + maxPhotos):
        currentCount = startCount

starttime =
rightnow = "%04d%02d%02d-%02d:%02d:%02d" % (starttime.year, starttime.month,, starttime.hour, starttime.minute, starttime.second)
print "---------------------------------- Settings -----------------------------------------"
print "    Motion .... Sensitivity=%i Threshold=%i Cam-Settings= %s ForceCapture=%s every %i seconds"  % (sensitivity, threshold, cameraSettings, forceCapture, forceCaptureTime)
print "    Image ..... W=%i H=%i Quality=%i DateOnImage=%s Prefix=%s Path=%s" % (saveWidth, saveHeight, saveQuality, showDateOnImage, filenamePrefix, filepath)
print "    Numbering . On=%s Start=%s Max=%i path=%s Counter=%i" % (numsequence, startCount, maxPhotos, countpath, currentCount)
print "    Sync File . On=%s Path=%s" % (createLockFile, lockfilepath)
print "    DiskSpace . Reserved=%i mb" % (mbToReserve)
print "    Debug ..... On=%s Path=%s/debug.bmp" % (debugMode, filepath)
print "-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------"
print "%s - Waiting for Motion %s ........" % (progname, rightnow)

# Start main motion capture loop
while (True):

    # Get comparison image
    image2, buffer2 = captureTestImage(cameraSettings, testWidth, testHeight)

    # Count changed pixels
    changedPixels = 0
    takePicture = False

    if (debugMode): # in debug mode, save a bitmap-file with marked changed pixels and with visible testarea-borders
        debugimage ="RGB",(testWidth, testHeight))
        debugim = debugimage.load()

    for z in xrange(0, testAreaCount): # = xrange(0,1) with default-values = z will only have the value of 0 = only one scan-area = whole picture
        for x in xrange(testBorders[z][0][0]-1, testBorders[z][0][1]): # = xrange(0,100) with default-values
            for y in xrange(testBorders[z][1][0]-1, testBorders[z][1][1]):   # = xrange(0,75) with default-values; testBorders are NOT zero-based, buffer1[x,y] are zero-based (0,0 is top left of image, testWidth-1,testHeight-1 is botton right)
                if (debugMode):
                    debugim[x,y] = buffer2[x,y]
                    if ((x == testBorders[z][0][0]-1) or (x == testBorders[z][0][1]-1) or (y == testBorders[z][1][0]-1) or (y == testBorders[z][1][1]-1)):
                        # print "Border %s %s" % (x,y)
                        debugim[x,y] = (0, 0, 255) # in debug mode, mark all border pixel to blue
                # Just check green channel as it's the highest quality channel
                pixdiff = abs(buffer1[x,y][1] - buffer2[x,y][1])
                if pixdiff > threshold:
                    changedPixels += 1
                    if (debugMode):
                        debugim[x,y] = (0, 255, 0) # in debug mode, mark all changed pixel to green
                # Save an image if pixels changed
                if (changedPixels > sensitivity):
                    takePicture = True # will shoot the photo later
                if ((debugMode == False) and (changedPixels > sensitivity)):
                    break  # break the y loop
            if ((debugMode == False) and (changedPixels > sensitivity)):
                break  # break the x loop
        if ((debugMode == False) and (changedPixels > sensitivity)):
            break  # break the z loop

    if (debugMode): + "/debug.bmp") # save debug image as bmp
        print "%s - Saved Debug to %s/debug.bmp  Changed Pixel=%i" % (progname, filepath, changedPixels)
    # else:
    #     print "%s changed pixel" % changedPixels

    # Check force capture
    if forceCapture:
        if time.time() - lastCapture > forceCaptureTime:
            takePicture = True

    if takePicture:
        lastCapture = time.time()
        if numsequence:
            fileCount = str(currentCount)
        saveImage(cameraSettings, saveWidth, saveHeight, saveQuality, diskSpaceToReserve)
        # increment image counter and reset to start if max reached
        if numsequence:
            currentCount += 1
            if (currentCount > startCount + maxPhotos):
                currentCount = startCount
            writeCount = str(currentCount)
            # write current photo counter to file
            if not os.path.exists(countpath):
                print "%s - Creating %s" % (progname,countpath)
                open(countpath, 'w').close()
            f = open(countpath, 'w+')
        # write a lock file so sync script knows when there are files to process for grive
        if createLockFile:
            if not os.path.exists(lockfilepath):
                print "%s - Creating %s" % (progname, lockfilepath)
                open(lockfilepath, 'w').close()
            f = open(lockfilepath, 'w+')
            f.write("Photos available to sync with grive using sync shell script")

    # Swap comparison buffers
    image1  = image2
    buffer1 = buffer2

Understanding the code

Answer the following questions to gain a better understanding of how this code actually works:

At which line (line number) does the main motion loop start?
What is the purpose of the variable called pixdiff?
What is the purpose of the variable called threshold?
What is the purpose of the variable called takePicture?
What is the purpose of the variables called forceCapture and forceCaptureTime?

Did you like this challenge?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4 / 5. Vote count: 4

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this challenge interesting...

Follow us on social media!

Tagged with: