Instrumentation & Techniques

Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 485-490

First online:

Monitoring animals’ movements using digitized video images

  • Richard F. OlivoAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Smith College
  • , Margaret C. ThompsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Smith College


An animal’s movements can be monitored continuously using video digitization techniques. We outline the differences between video frame-grabbers and column-scan digitizers, and describe two applications using column-scanners: detecting episodes of spontaneous locomotion and tracking the position of a moving appendage. Strategies are discussed for increasing the speed of software and for compressing the information in the video images into an analog motion signal to be displayed and stored for later analysis. Finally, the advantages and limitations of frame-grabbers and column-scan digitizers are assessed.