JavaCV Basics: Contouring

Here, we look at contouring in JavaCV 3. Contouring discovers the boundaries in an image that stand out from the background. It is a key part of object tracking, rotation, and many other tasks. JavaCV and OpenCV allow for the creation of bounding boxes around objects discovered through contouring.

The tutorials utilizes GoatImage.  The Image object is from this library.

All code is available on GitHub under GoatImage.

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Remember contouring in Calc3. The same principal is used in image processing. Contour lines have a constant value. In imaging the value can be of a certain intensity or color. This differs from contouring a shape which uses values such as those obtained from the derivative of an equation.



JavaCV includes functions for finding contours. The MatVector is used to store the discovered contour lines. MatVector in JavaCV is used in place of the CvSeq from OpenCV.

 val chainType : Int = CHAIN_APPROX_SIMPLE //chaining explained below
 val contourType : Int = CV_RETR_LIST //return values described below 
 val contours = new MatVector()
 val hierarchy = new Mat()
 val contImage : IplImage = image.image.clone()
 findContours(new Mat(image.image.clone()), contours,contourType, chainType, new Point(0, 0))

Contour lines can be stored in the MatVector in several forms. These options are:

  • CV_RETR_EXTERNAL : Returns only external contours
  • CV_RETR_LIST : Returns a list of every contour including nested contours
  • CV_RETR_CCOMP : Returns contours organized by inner and outer contours
  • CV_RETR_TREE : Returns a hierarchical ordering of contours nested by tree level

Similarly, several forms of chaining are available with varying effects. Chaining defines the level of approximation used in estimating the points forming the contour line. Approximation types include:

  • CHAIN_APPROX_NONE : Store every point
  • CHAIN_APPROX_SIMPLE : Encode values by storing only the endpoints of an interval and coefficients for the line through the endpoints
  • CHAIN_APPROX_TC89_L1 : Use a variant of the Ten Chin algorithm
  • CHAIN_APPROX_TC89_KCOS : Another variant of Ten Chin

A paper is available describing the Ten Chin algorithm.

Draw Image Contours

JavaCV contains a method for drawing your contours. Specifically, drawContours may be used from opencv_imgproc.

    * A test function that draws the contours found in the Image.
    * @param image
    * @param contourType
    * @return
  def drawImageContours(image : Image, contourType : Int = CV_RETR_LIST):(Image,Image,Long)={
    val dstMat : Mat = new Mat(image.image.clone())
    val srcMat = new Mat(image.image)
    val storage : CvMemStorage =cvCreateMemStorage(0)
    val contours = new MatVector()
    val hierarchy = new Mat()
    findContours(new Mat(image.image.clone()), contours,contourType, CHAIN_APPROX_SIMPLE, new Point(0, 0))
    val colorDst = new Mat(srcMat.size(), CV_8UC3, new Scalar(0))
    drawContours(colorDst, contours, -1  , new Scalar(255,0,0,0))
    (image,new Image(new IplImage(colorDst),,image.itype),contours.size())

Bounding Boxes and Min Area Rectangles

In this tutorial, bounding boxes and minimum area rectangles are obtained through JavaCV specific functions.

The bounding box is an upright Rect. Rect is a JavaCV variant of the cvRect. The bottom left coordinate, width, height, and position are stored in the box. The center is calculable as x + width/2, y + height /2.

val idx : Int  = 0

The minimum bounding rectangle is a Rotated Rect which stores points relative to the actual bounding rectangle. This object has angle and point attributes in addition to relative x and y values and width and height.

val idx : Int = 0

To get a bounding circle, use the circle function ported from OpenCV.

Putting it all Together

The following code obtains contours and a list of bounding boxes.

    * Contour and return the bounding boxes and the slope of the found box. Boxes that overlap
    * will be combined to make a much bigger box.
    * @param image            The image to use in detection.
    * @param contourType      The type of contour to use by default grab only the external RETR_CCOMP returns and organizes inner and outer contours & RETR_LIST gives everything
    * @return           A tuple of the image and a list of tuples with bounding boxes and their bottom line slopes
  def contour(image : Image, contourType : Int =  CV_RETR_LIST):(Image,List[BoundingBox])={
    var minRects : List[BoundingBox] = List[BoundingBox]()
    val total : Int = 0
    val storage : CvMemStorage =cvCreateMemStorage(0)
    val contours = new MatVector()
    val hierarchy = new Mat()
    val contImage : IplImage = image.image.clone()
    findContours(new Mat(image.image.clone()), contours,contourType, CHAIN_APPROX_SIMPLE, new Point(0, 0))

    for(idx <- 0 until contours.size().toInt) {
      val clMat = new Mat()
      new Mat(image.image).copyTo(clMat)
      val clImage : IplImage = new IplImage(clMat)
      val boundRect = minAreaRect(contours.get(idx))
      val bbx = boundRect.boundingRect()
      val cropped : IplImage = cvCreateImage(cvGetSize(clImage),clImage.depth(),clImage.nChannels())
      val angle : Double = if(boundRect.angle() < -45.0) boundRect.angle + 90 else boundRect.angle()
      minRects = minRects :+ new BoundingBox(boundRect.boundingRect().x,boundRect.boundingRect().y,boundRect.boundingRect().width,boundRect.boundingRect().height,angle,new Image(cropped,s"${}_${idx}",image.itype))

    //setup bounding boxes


Here, we looked at contouring in JavaCV. JavaCV functions were used to find contours, draw them, and obtain bounding boxes.


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