Motion: Your Eye in the Sky for Computer Room Surveillance

Your door might be nice, but do you really need 23 hours of video of it standing closed? Use this software to process your security videos to include only the key events, so you can catch entries and exits.
Future Improvements

One non-software tweak I have considered but not yet implemented is a motion sensor for the light in my server room. This neatly solves the problem of making sure there is enough light in the room when Motion records an event. Something moves in the room, the lights come on and Motion records. Motion-sensitive light switches can be found at hardware stores for around $15 and require only basic wiring skills.

For now, I simply let my storage area /var/log/vcr fill with movies and delete them manually on occasion. It probably makes sense to set up an automated mechanism to handle this. My current thinking is that movies should be deleted after 30 days. Obviously, this depends on your particular needs.

Several experimental mjpeg support patches have appeared on the mailing list recently. As I mentioned earlier, mjpeg means that Motion pulls a continuous stream of images off the camera instead of requesting them one by one. This should provide much smoother resulting videos, although current Motion videos from netcams do have an enjoyable Keystone Kops feel to them.

Active development continues on Motion. The mailing list (see Resources) is an excellent place to ask questions and find out about current development. Most of what I've learned about Motion has come from reading the mailing-list archives.


Motion provides a solution for one of the most vexing problems we face in the computer industry, too much data. What good is information such as video imagery if there's more of it than you ever could watch? With a little bit of image analysis, Motion quickly eliminates the boring, unchanging video you don't care about. The results are more effective server room monitoring and more time for you to work on other projects.

Resources for this article:

Phil Hollenback is a Linux system administrator at Telemetry Investments in New York City. He spends his time skateboarding the streets of Manhattan when he's not writing Perl scripts. Visit him at his Web site,



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


Keith Daniels's picture

The usage of GNU to refer to Motion has been remove per the authors request.


All the new OSs and windowing systems are oriented towards content consumption instead of content production.

--Steve Daniels 2013


Anonymous's picture

having implemented a motion-based video surveillance system in my company some time ago, i was pleased to see that this excellent piece of software is getting exposure on your pages.

however, i was surprised to see it referred to as "GNU Motion", when in fact the program is not made by the FSF and is only referred to as "motion" everywhere else. what's the dilly-o, yo?

Read the manual man: Motio

Anonymous's picture

Read the manual man:

Motion is an open source type of project. It does not cost anything. Motion is published under the GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE (GPL) version 2 or later.

First: "It does not cost anyt

Anonymous's picture

First: "It does not cost anything"!=GPL
Second: Gpl!= GNU package. []

Motion is a very good project.
I think that is necessary an adaptative background subtraction.

Indeed, if you can, please

Anonymous's picture

Indeed, if you can, please fix the title as the article is still read by many people who for example happen to google for motion.conf