A Faster Montage

Update May 2015: Somehow the original script was lost while changing hosts four years ago. I’ve replaced the script with a smaller, better, standalone C program. Note: it has a different interface, so read the header first!

I had written a previous post called Movie DNA where I described a simple way of distilling an entire movie down to a single frame. It involved the use of two tools, with no intermediate code or software in the middle to glue things together.

The first tool, mplayer was used to dump all of the frames we needed. This took about the running length of the movie to do, which wasn’t so bad. There may be a way to speed this up by giving mplayer some extra hints. I have not yet figured this part out.

The real time cost was in ImageMagick’s montage tool, which made the final montage out of the images. This took between 6 and 10 hours to do this, depending on the length of the movie. The process seemed to be non-linear for some reason, with long movies taking unproportionally longer to process (One could always dig around the montage source to find out why). I knew there had to be a way that this could be improved!

Well, I wrote a Perl script last night, dubbed gdmontage to speed up the montage process. It was even faster than I thought it would be, taking only 12 seconds on the same machine as before. It uses the GD Graphics Library via Perl’s GD module, which you would need to install to use this. It also uses the Term::ProgressBar, if it’s available, to provide a progress bar and ETA.

Like the original montage program, the script recognizes file globs, so you can provide the files through a glob in order to avoid the limits on command line arguments.

$ ./gdmontage.pl "frames/*"

It is a bit unfair to call my code a “faster montage” because it only covers a tiny subset of the original montage. It makes some big assumptions in order to be faster; specifically, it assumes that every image is the same size. The original montage must look at every image before it even starts in order to determine the dimensions and placement of the final image.

It is also geared towards the Cinema Redux thing, doing only 60 images per row. This can be changed internally (no command line arguments for this) by adjusting the parameters at the top of the script. The script could probably be easily expanded to include most of the features of ImageMagick’s montage, but I am sure this Perl script would be much faster when it comes to creating large montage’s. (Why is montage so slow?)

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Chris Wellons