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Team H's CS452 final project: Ross Traffic Jam-Cam! Find out when Ross Dining hall has really long lines...

Harrison Govan, Kevin Hernandez (Team Hernandez)

CSCI 452

Professor Vaccari

December 11, 2018


We would like to thank Professor Vaccari as well as Joey Hernandez for all their help on this assignment.

Semester Long Project draft Reportpng

As we were coming up with ideas for our CS452 semester-long project, we had a variety of broad suggestions from our professor. However, we wanted to take on a task that would be more relatable to the average Middlebury student. And we thought, “What does every Middlebury student deal with on a daily basis outside of academics?” We quickly came to our answer: Nobody likes dealing with long lines in Ross Dining Hall! Thus, we decided to take on the task of using image processing to find out when the lines in Ross Dining Hall were the longest during lunch hours.

As Middlebury students ourselves, we already have an intuitive sense of when lines form to be the longest in Ross. The line builds quite commonly around what we will call the “primary” station, which usually serves fresh cooked meats, sandwiches, fries, veggie patties, etc. We figured that we would need to take video of this line from a high angle to be able to capture enough of the line to do our processing. We did just that Monday through Friday for two weeks from 11am-2pm. Then, we created an algorithm that takes this format of video as input and will output the data necessary to create a graph that outlines when the best times to go eat are.

To get to that point, however, we first had to find out if we were allowed to even conduct this project. We contacted many professors and were eventually told about the Institutional Review Board. The IRB is responsible for handling any research based projects that involve human participants. We quickly found out that because our project was not in the general scope and the results would not be published, we would be able to conduct our project. We then had to get approval from the dining hall staff, human resources and public safety, to make sure that if there were any issues in conducting this experiment we were not at fault. With that all squared away we could now focus on how to actually acquire the necessary data (film) for the experiment. We reached out to media services to get a video camera to start gathering our data. The camera that we got, we quickly found out, was shooting in to high of quality making the file sizes too large to work with as well as the export file that we received was a mts file. This file type was causing us difficulty because two of our three laptops could not open the file and the third was struggling to download the file efficiently. After attempting to change the setting internally with in the camera as well as downloading third party software, we decided to get a new camera. This camera allowed us to easily change the internal settings as well as gave us an mp4 type file which is much easier to process and condense. This was perfect for what we were doing because we did not care about having a high-quality image, all we wanted was to be able to identify when people were in a given frame and for that we could significantly reduce the quality of the video.

Our original Plan:

  1. Collecting data. (10/31 ~ 11/13)

  2. Working on code to:

    • Get our background subtracted white blobs to be more connected (11/4)
    • Remove any outliers like the grey noise or people wandering around (11/11)
    • Define what a line of people looks like in our algorithm ( 11/11)
    • Remove as much noise as possible ( 11/4)
    • Establish thresholds that allows us to dictate how (full) the dinning all is at a given time(This was removed due to time constraints)
  3. Aggregate video data from Ross Dining Hall for the next two weeks (10/31 ~ 11/13)

  4. Finish implementing thresholds to our code (11/4)

  5. Create a graph of our data that shows when peak times are in Ross Dining Hall for each day of the week

Due to some unfortunate events, we have been forced to adapt our project, which was initially to identify timeframes when the line in Ross dining hall is short. Now it is to be able to accurately guess how many people make up a “blob” in ross dining hall line at a specific moment. The “blob” is a group of students, depending on how many students there are the “blob” shall change in size. To define this “blob” we will extract data from the videos that we have taken by utilizing different image processing techniques from OpenCV and Skimage to focus on the group of people that create the “blob”. We will place the information in a go/link (a shortcut to web pages that students can access when connected to middlebury wifi. -- Eg. go/menu) that will be connected to our Github page.


To create the “blob” we have created an algorithm which process the video that we have obtained from two weeks of filming in Ross Dining Hall. This algorithm utilizes an OpenCV2 method, cv2.createBackgroundSubtractorKNN(). We found this specific background subtractor to be most useful for the dimmer lighting conditions that we have to adjust to in our videos. We then begin to read in every 1800 frames, or every minute in our 30 frame-per-second video, and then begin our processing. For every selected frame, we run a median filter to get rid of salt and pepper noise that will appear in our initial background subtraction. We then run other morphological filters to our mask to try to achieve a solid “blob”. Afterwards, we use region finding to find the largest “blob” of people that appears in mask and focus on the size in pixels of that “blob”.

alt text

Since not all blobs will signify lines, we also needed a way to find out when the largest blob was at the primary station. Luckily, the left-most portion of our videos cut off where the primary station begins. To make this experiment more conducive to our mission, we will implement a check at the primary station to see if a line has been formed. This check will be based around the largest “blob” in the frame, however, if the “blob” is not by the Primary station(x amount of pixels from the left side) then we will not account for it. To account for giant blobs being outside the checkpoint, we use bounding boxes around our blobs. A bounding box is a box that is drawn around the extreme points of a blob. What’s useful about these bounding boxes is that we can get the x-coordinate of furthest-left or right edge of the blob. We then run another check for other significantly sized blobs of >25,000 pixels in area, draw a bounding box around that, then add the leftmost or rightmost bounding edge to the bounding edge of the largest blob depending on its relevant position to the largest blob on screen. We also add the areas of these significantly sized blobs to the largest blob area. This allows us to get a more accurate representation of which blobs are a part of the line. We then store the data of each blob area per minute corresponding to each day to use to create a graph afterwards. To smooth out each graph, we run a 1-D median filter as well as a Gaussian filter.


Due to the nature of this project we will not include the mp4 files that we had gathered through our experimentation. Rather, we have included the txt files in which we have saved the data that we have collected.

What we accomplished:

  1. Gained approval to film in the dining halls.
  2. Acquired a camera to film data
  3. Acquired the necessary data
  4. Developed a functional Background Subtraction Algorithm Using Open CV2
  5. Creating a graph for each day of the week to visually represent the data that we produce


Ideally, we would have recorded several weeks or months of data and then averaged out the data for each day of the week. However, this was not possible due to time constraints. Luckily, we are able to cross-reference our data with Google’s own graphs of Ross Dining Hall. If one searches the term “Ross Dining Hall hours” on, there is a section of the page called “popular times” that contains graphs of each day of the week that roughly indicates when peak hours are. Remember that for the scope of this project we are only interested in Ross lunch hours, between 11am to 2pm. Thus, our own results are compared with Google’s.

While Google’s data is very rough and take data every hour (we took data every minute), we can see that our graphs are similar enough. In our graphs, we can come to the following conclusion of peak hours per day of the week:


We find peak hours to be close to noon and 1:00pm. This data doesn’t correlate well with Google’s data, nor our intuition of Ross’s lines at rush hour, which is generally at 12:15 on Mondays.

Our Results Google's Data
alt text alt text


The spike at the beginning of the graph is unclear to be reliable or not. Regardless, the data for this day is a lot smoother and readable. Peak hour starts at noon, in which the line stays long for about half an hour, dips for about 20 minutes, and peaks again at around 1:15pm. This appears consistent with Google’s graph.

Our Results Google's Data
alt text alt text


Peak times begin around noon again, with another peak happening at 12:45pm and 1:15pm. This is roughly consistent with Google’s graph.

Our Results Google's Data
alt text alt text


Peak times begin at 11:45am, and the line stays consistently long for the next hour and a half. This is very consistent with Google’s data.

Our Results Google's Data
alt text alt text


The line grows linearly beginning at 11:50 and grows to its peak at 12:15. The line stays long for roughly half an hour. This is consistent with Google’s data.

Our Results Google's Data
alt text alt text

Issues that we have faced:

Throughout the whole project we have had many issues, starting with acquiring the necessary permission to conduct this study. We first had to contact the Institutional Review Board to understand how to proceed, to which they directed us to the appropriate departments to consult. From there we then contacted the Dining Hall Staff, Human Resources, and Public Safety. Once we got the go ahead we also had to find the proper technology to capture our raw data. The largest hurdle that we have had to face, however, was losing one of our group members due to unforeseen circumstances. This severely set us back and forced us to change our approach in what the outcome of our study would be.

Future work:

Future work would include creating more accurate model utilizing a machine learning algorithm to give an estimate of how many people are in the frame waiting in line. We would have also liked to expand on the idea of establishing thresholds in which we can determine the fullness of ross dining hall and to be able to chart that change every day from 11-2 (which was our initial experiment).



Team H's CS452 final project: Ross Traffic Jam-Cam! Find out when Ross Dining hall has really long lines...



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