What is Motion Magnification?

By Chad Pasho

Motion Magnification is a term used to explain the process of magnifying subtle, microscopic amounts of motion in a video sequence to the point where the eye can detect the motion. This has become an important technique for actually seeing vibrating motion on things like machinery and associated static components like piping, foundations, etc., providing the diagnostician a comprehensive visual understanding of the components’ motion.

The term first emerged onto the scene with a 2005 paper by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who were using pixel-level analysis to smoothly magnify motion that a user couldn’t naturally see, so that this microscopic motion could subsequently be seen, and more importantly, understood. Their examples included determining a person’s pulse, babies breathing (cute kid), and the like.

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Source: http://people.csail.mit.edu/celiu/motionmag/motionmag.html

The concept gradually worked its way into the machinery realm, where vibration was an important diagnostic tool, particularly using the method of Operating Deflection Shape (ODS). ODS uses vibration data correlated to a visual model, and then exaggerates the motion to understand how the object is vibrating. Motion Magnification uses a similar premise, but treats each pixel as a sensor, providing a rich data canvas to survey and display the magnified vibrating motion.

Is magnification different than amplification? Arguably, it’s a question of semantics, but we here at MSI believe that “magnification” better describes the visual element of the technology, similar to how a magnifying glass (as opposed to an “amplifier”) helps you see things you normally could not see. You may also see the term "video vibration amplification", which is also used to describe the underlying technology. Whatever you choose to call it, it is a revolutionary technique that is here to stay, and our sincere thanks to the folks at MIT for doing the amazing things that they do.

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