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Proceedings Paper

Geometric calibration of thermal cameras
Author(s): Philip Engström; Håkan Larsson; Joakim Rydell
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Paper Abstract

There exist several tools and methods for camera resectioning, i.e. geometric calibration for the purpose of estimating intrinsic and extrinsic parameters. The intrinsic parameters represent the internal properties of the camera such as focal length, principal point and distortion coefficients. The extrinsic parameters relate the cameras position to the world, i.e. how is the camera positioned and oriented in the world. With both sets of parameters known it is possible to relate a pixel in one camera to the world or to another camera. This is important in many applications, for example in stereo vision. The existing methods work well for standard visual cameras in most situations. Intrinsic parameters are usually estimated by imaging a well-defined pattern from different angles and distances. Checkerboard patterns are very often used for calibration since it is a well-defined pattern with easily detectable features. The intersections between the black and white squares form high contrast points which can be estimated with sub pixel accuracy. Knowing the precise dimension and structure of the pattern makes enables calculation of the intrinsic parameters. Extrinsic calibration can be performed in a similar manner if the exact position and orientation of the pattern is known. A common method is to distribute markers in the scene and to measure their exact locations. The key to good calibration is well-defined points and accurate measurements. Thermal cameras are a subset of infrared cameras that work with long wavelengths, usually between 9 and 14 microns. At these wavelengths all objects above absolute zero temperature emit radiation making it ideal for passive imaging in complete darkness and widely used in military applications. The issue that arises when trying to perform a geometric calibration of a thermal camera is that the checkerboard emits more or less the same amount of radiation in the black squares as in the white. In other words, the calibration board that is optimal for calibration of visual cameras might be completely useless for thermal cameras. A calibration board for thermal cameras should ideally be a checkerboard with high contrast in thermal wavelengths. (It is of course possible to use other sorts of objects or patterns but since most tools and software expect a checkerboard pattern this is by far the most straightforward solution.) Depending on the application it should also be more or less portable and work booth in indoor and outdoor scenarios. In this paper we present several years of experience with calibration of thermal cameras in various scenarios. Checkerboards with high contrast both for indoor and outdoor scenarios are presented as well as different markers suitable for extrinsic calibration.

Paper Details

Date Published: 15 October 2013
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 8897, Electro-Optical Remote Sensing, Photonic Technologies, and Applications VII; and Military Applications in Hyperspectral Imaging and High Spatial Resolution Sensing, 88970C (15 October 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2030952
Show Author Affiliations
Philip Engström, Swedish Defence Research Agency (Sweden)
Håkan Larsson, Swedish Defence Research Agency (Sweden)
Joakim Rydell, Swedish Defence Research Agency (Sweden)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8897:
Electro-Optical Remote Sensing, Photonic Technologies, and Applications VII; and Military Applications in Hyperspectral Imaging and High Spatial Resolution Sensing
Gary W. Kamerman; Ove K. Steinvall; Gary J. Bishop; John D. Gonglewski, Editor(s)

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