CoreImage and UIKit coordinates

Recently I found a very nice CoreImage tutorial for iOS: Easy face detection with core animation in iOS5 and after downloading the source I found that this quite popular tutorial was teaching something wrong, coordinates system conversions!.

I can't remember how many bugs/problems I had because of not converting the coordinates well or using the incorrect coordinate system when I was at the uni. So I decided to write this little post so my great audience (approx. 6 viewers per day) can benefit from it :)

CoreImage Coordinate system

(0,0) x-axis y-axis

In CoreImage, each image has its own coordinate space its origin in at the left bottom corner of the image. Each images's coordinate systems is device independent.

UIKit Coordinate System

(From View Programming Guide for iOS)

The origin of an UIViews frame is at the top left corner and its coordinates are in their superview coordinate space. They are not independent.

This means that in CoreImage each image has its origin as {0.0} while in UIKit views are not necessarily like so

Converting coordinates

We should convert CoreImage coordinates to UIKit coordinates system, not the other way around, because chances are that most of your code will be in UIKit coordinates and because other iOS developers will expect {0,0} to be at the top left corner, be nice and don't change everything just because of CoreImage. :)

This is easily done with an affine transform:
Where ui and ci subindexes mean UIKit and CoreImage coordinates respectively and h is the height of the image in regard.

We could do this manually but happily there are a bunch of functions for this task like: CGAffineTransformMakeScale, CGAffineTransformTranslate, CGPointApplyAffineTransform and even CGRectApplyAffineTransform!. Thanks to Apple for making our life easier.

The code

// Create the image and detector
CIImage* image = [CIImage imageWithCGImage:imageView.image.CGImage];
CIDetector* detector = [CIDetector detectorOfType:CIDetectorTypeFace 
                                          context:... options:...];

// CoreImage coordinate system origin is at the bottom left corner
// and UIKit is at the top left corner. So we need to translate
// features positions before drawing them to screen. In order to do
// so we make an affine transform
CGAffineTransform transform = CGAffineTransformMakeScale(1, -1);
transform = CGAffineTransformTranslate(transform,
                                    0, -imageView.bounds.size.height);

// Get features from the image
NSArray* features = [detector featuresInImage:image];
for(CIFaceFeature* faceFeature in features) {

  // Get the face rect: Convert CoreImage to UIKit coordinates
  const CGRect faceRect = CGRectApplyAffineTransform(faceFeature.bounds, transform);

  // create a UIView using the bounds of the face
  UIView* faceView = [[UIView alloc] initWithFrame:faceRect];


  if(faceFeature.hasLeftEyePosition) {
    // Get the left eye position: Convert CoreImage to UIKit coordinates
    const CGPoint leftEyePos = CGPointApplyAffineTransform(faceFeature.leftEyePosition, transform);



You can download the sample from here and see the result is pretty much the same as the original tutorial. Only this time we didn't scramble with the coordinate system :)

In case, you didn't notice, the original example changes the whole window coordinate system causing its origin to be at the bottom left (like Cocoa in the Mac) hence the imageView appears at the bottom.


Pravin Uttarwar said...

Is there any way to compare the Eye between different images? I want to compare whether Eye is open or closed? Similarly for Smile detection? Whether it is mouth open or now?

Jorge Marcos Fernández said...

What about when you have a greater image and your ImageView content mode is set to UIViewContentModeScaleAspectFit?
I am not able to transform coordinates.
Any suggestion?

Arturo Falck said...

You have a 7th follower in me!

Thanks... I was so confused by the coordinate mismatch and you clarified it for me nicely.