Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am working on an app that will transform a figure such as this:

{fig 1}

Into this:

{fig 2}

In short, the grey "canvas" is deformed so that the inner black quadrangle is as close to a rectangle as possible, while attempting to conserve the rectangles area if possible. Please assume that in the second image the black figure is much, much closer to a rectangle.

iOS already offers a method for deforming the canvas by stretching the corners to four new points. I just need to apply a generic solution for calculating the new points.

I am at a loss as to a consistent method; simply pulling a corner in a single direction is not consistent.

Do I need to rotate the corner through an arc? Do I need to move the new corner points diametrically away from the center of the grey figure?

All suggestions appreciated.


share|improve this question
The thing you need is called a homography. Do you know about homogeneous coordinates? –  Mårten W May 3 '13 at 23:58
Mårten, I do not, but I just peeked at Wikipedia and I am VERY intrigued; affine transformation matrices are readily available in iOS. Would I use the ratio of the gray:black figures as the value of the transform? –  Thompson May 4 '13 at 3:16
One can always find a homography which transforms any non-degenerate quadrilateral into any other given non-degenerate quadrilateral. The area does not uniquely determine the target rectangle. Do you have any requirements on the target rectangle? –  Mårten W May 4 '13 at 20:44
Mårten, if I may take a step back for a moment, the black rectangle in this project will be text that the user has photographed and that I will then attempt OCR on. Prior to that, I need to de-skew the target for reliable results. With that in mind, would it be reasonable to assert that the length of the smallest side not change after transformation? –  Thompson May 4 '13 at 22:52
As I understand it, you need to perform the following two steps: 1) guess the proportions of the sides of the text rectangle, and 2) rectify the image so that the text becomes a rectangle with the guessed proportions. Step 1) is very problematic, since there is no way of guessing that always yields sensible results. The problem can, unfortunately, not be well posed. However, if you can assume that the perspective effects are moderate, it should be possible to get a reasonable guess of the proportions. –  Mårten W May 4 '13 at 23:46

1 Answer 1

up vote 0 down vote accepted

After the discussion in the comments, I assume that the proportions of the desired rectangle are known to be $a:b$.

Though the method I describe below is good for understanding, it is not suitable for direct implementation. The resulting equation system is typically ill-conditioned. (It is also possible to get rid of the $\lambda_i$ by using cross products to express collinearity, and thus get a slightly smaller system to solve. This is described in detail in Multiple View Geometry by Hartley and Zisserman.)

Let $\boldsymbol{p}_i = (x_i, y_i, 1)$ be the homogeneous coordinates of the four corners in the input image. Let their desired destinations be $$ \left\{ \begin{aligned} \boldsymbol{q}_1 = (0, 0, 1) \\ \boldsymbol{q}_2 = (a, 0, 1) \\ \boldsymbol{q}_3 = (a, b, 1) \\ \boldsymbol{q}_4 = (0, b, 1) \end{aligned} \right.. $$ The corners are related through a planar homography, represented by a $3\times 3$-matrix $\boldsymbol{H}$, and the relations are $\lambda_i\boldsymbol{q}_i=\boldsymbol{H}\boldsymbol{p}_i$ for some scalars $\lambda_i$.

How does one determine $\boldsymbol{H}$? Let $\boldsymbol{h}_1^T$, $\boldsymbol{h}_2^T$ and $\boldsymbol{h}_3^T$ be the rows of $\boldsymbol{H}$. Then $$ \left\{ \begin{aligned} \lambda_i q_{i1} = \boldsymbol{h}_1^T\boldsymbol{p}_i \\ \lambda_i q_{i2} = \boldsymbol{h}_2^T\boldsymbol{p}_i \\ \lambda_i q_{i3} = \boldsymbol{h}_3^T\boldsymbol{p}_i \end{aligned} \right. \Longleftrightarrow \left\{ \begin{aligned} \boldsymbol{p}_i^T\boldsymbol{h}_1 - \lambda_i q_{i1} = 0 \\ \boldsymbol{p}_i^T\boldsymbol{h}_2 - \lambda_i q_{i2} = 0 \\ \boldsymbol{p}_i^T\boldsymbol{h}_3 - \lambda_i q_{i3} = 0 \end{aligned} \right.. $$ Write this system of equations in matrix form, $$\begin{bmatrix} \boldsymbol{p}_1^T & \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{0} & q_{11} & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{p}_1^T & \boldsymbol{0} & q_{12} & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{p}_1^T & q_{13} & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ \boldsymbol{p}_2^T & \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{0} & 0 & q_{21} & 0 & 0 \\ \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{p}_2^T & \boldsymbol{0} & 0 & q_{22} & 0 & 0 \\ \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{p}_2^T & 0 & q_{23} & 0 & 0 \\ \boldsymbol{p}_3^T & \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{0} & 0 & 0 & q_{31} & 0 \\ \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{p}_3^T & \boldsymbol{0} & 0 & 0 & q_{32} & 0 \\ \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{p}_3^T & 0 & 0 & q_{33} & 0 \\ \boldsymbol{p}_4^T & \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{0} & 0 & 0 & 0 & q_{41} \\ \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{p}_4^T & \boldsymbol{0} & 0 & 0 & 0 & q_{42} \\ \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{0} & \boldsymbol{p}_4^T & 0 & 0 & 0 & q_{43} \\ \end{bmatrix} \begin{bmatrix} \boldsymbol{h}_1 \\ \boldsymbol{h}_2 \\ \boldsymbol{h}_3 \\ \lambda_1 \\ \lambda_2 \\ \lambda_3 \\ \lambda_4 \end{bmatrix} = \boldsymbol{0}, $$ and solve. Now, any point $\boldsymbol{p}$ in the input image is mapped to the point $\lambda\boldsymbol{q}=\boldsymbol{H}\boldsymbol{p}$. In particular, the corners are mapped to the corners of a rectangle.

share|improve this answer
Thank you, Mårten. –  Thompson May 7 '13 at 16:10
@Thompson: Glad to help. If you still feel that something is unclear, don't hesitate to ask. I would also like to recommend OpenCV. It has a function for determining homographies, along with lots of other useful tools for computer vision. –  Mårten W May 7 '13 at 18:59
See also this post of mine for an approach to find $H$ which only involves $3\times3$ systems of equations, instead of the underdefined $12\times13$ here. –  MvG May 29 '13 at 19:33

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.