Spatial video and GIS

Paul Lewis, Stewart Fotheringham, Adam Winstanley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


GIS elemental unit representations of spatial data are often defined in terms of points, lines and areas. However, another type of spatial data that is becoming frequently captured, but as yet is largely ignored in GIS, is that of video. While digital video recording is a commonly encountered medium in modern society and encompasses many forms, from simple personal camcorders through to sophisticated survey and surveillance systems, its geographical representation in a GIS has not been fully examined or realised. In the majority of cases the video footage is usually captured while the device and/or the objects being viewed are in motion. What is of particular interest is when video streams can be, or have been, associated with spatial data such as location and orientation to create geographically referenced videographic data, which, for simplicity, will be defined as spatial video. Fundamentally, the nature of video is to record space, so when spatial properties can be accurately acquired and associated with this footage, an important geographical element can be considered for integration and analysis within a GIS. Existing spatial video systems, both commercial and research, are predominantly used in survey or LBS roles and are usually bespoke and application specific. These systems do not model spatial video to any recognised standards that is generalised to be both data and platform independent. They do not support GIS integration and/or analysis from a purely spatial content perspective. A video-image/remote-sensing centric approach prevails where usage options range from simple visualisation interfaces to interactive computer vision systems. What has been largely overlooked is a spatial approach where the inherent geographical extent recorded in each video frame can be modelled and used in a geo-spatial analysis context. While this modelling approach has not been fully realised, it does exist in a GIS form based on Open Geospatial Consortium standards, where the spatial context of video is defined in a structure called a ViewCone. However, a ViewCone only defines a 2D model of the geographical extent of each frame and is restricted to a three-or-five sided polygon representation. Thus, this article examines the potential of modelling spatial video through the use of elemental data types within GIS; gives some examples of using this approach; describes some problems in using spatial video within GIS; and then demonstrates how these problems are being solved. This is done in three stages: Firstly, a detailed overview of spatial video in its current GIS role is provided - this is achieved through a complete introduction to the distinct elements of spatial video followed by a review of its use in both commercial and academic application areas. Secondly, a brief theoretical overview of an alternative GIS-constrained ViewCone data structure is given that defines a more flexible spatial video model for both 2D and 3D GIS analysis and visualisation. Thirdly, a selective sample of results is presented based on an implementation of this approach being applied to a constrained spatial video data source in a specific study area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-716
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • GIS
  • Spatial
  • Video
  • Viewshed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Library and Information Sciences


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