## Abstract

Conventional techniques for the computation of optical flow from image gradients are used to formulate the problem as a nonlinear optimization that comprises a gradient constraint term and a field smoothness factor. The results of these techniques are often erroneous, highly sensitive to noise and numerical precision, determined sparsely, and computationally expensive. We regularize the gradient constraint equation by modeling optical flow as a linear combination of a set of overlapped basis functions. We develop a theory for estimating model parameters robustly and reliably. We prove that the extended-least-squares solution proposed here is unbiased and robust to small perturbations in the gradient estimates and to mild deviations from the gradient constraint. Our solution is obtained with a numerically stable sparse matrix inversion, which gives a reliable flow-field estimate over the entire frame. To validate our claims, we perform a series of experiments on standard benchmark data sets at a range of noise levels. Overall, our algorithm outperforms by a wide margin the others considered in the comparison. We demonstrate the applicability of our algorithm to image mosaicking and to motion superresolution through experiments on noisy compressed sequences. We conclude that our flow-field model offers greater accuracy and robustness than conventional optical flow techniques in a variety of situations and permits real-time operation.

© 1999 Optical Society of America

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