1 Introduction
Object detection is a key task in computer vision and, as such, the community has dedicated to this problem a tremendous amount of effort. In the past several years, a predominant line of work in this area has been the use of sliding window classifiers computed on top of HOG
[5] or similar features. The original HOG classifier of Dalal & Triggs has since been extended in several ways. The most representative of such extensions is the Deformable Part Model (DPM) of Felzenszwalb et al. [9] that constitutes today the defacto standard solution for a generic object detector. The DPM improves on the basic HOGbased detector in two key ways: by the introduction of deformable parts, allowing templates to deform, and by the introduction of multiple aspects, allowing to capture very different object appearances.A property of HOGbased models including the DPM, that may explain their popularity nearly as much as their excellent performance, is the fact that the learned models are often easily interpretable. Already [5, 9] used the structure of the HOG features to generate model visualizations that convincingly and intuitively capture welldefined object parts. More recently, techniques such as HOGgles [19] have been proposed to take these visualizations to the next level, revealing many interesting features of these models and of their failure modalities.
HOGlike features are not the only popular image representations in computer vision. Before the introduction of HOG, imagebased modeling was flourishing using orderless statistics, starting with the BagofVisualWords (BoVW) representation [4, 16]. Similar models are still a popular choice for image classification and retrieval tasks. In fact, at the same time as DPM became the most popular model for object detection, orderless statistics were found to work as well or even better than the DPMs [18] in international benchmarks such as the PASCAL VOC challenge [6]. Similar to HOG and DPM, orderless models have ever since been significantly improved; the best current representative methods include VLAD [10] and, in particular, the Fisher Vector (FV) [14] which, compared to BoVW, capture significantly richer statistics of the visual word occurrences. Recently, [2, 3] achieved stateoftheart object detection performance by using FVs.
An open challenge in orderless models is understanding the nature of the visual information that they capture. Part of this challenge is that, differently from HOG, models such as BoVW, VLAD, and FV are difficult to visualize, so that it is unclear what aspects of an image or object class they model and how. The reason is that, while HOG pools local information at welldefined spatial locations in an image, orderless models scramble this information into a bag, making it difficult to reconstruct the object being recognized. Furthermore, while in DPM it is easy to define and visualize a notion of a semantic part, the statistical analogous in the case of BoVW, VLAD, or FV is much less clear. The goal of this paper is to shed light on these issues by understanding, interpreting and visualizing these orderless models. Our focus is the FV representation in the context of detection, but our conclusions should extend to related models such as BoVW and VLAD.
Our contributions are threefold. First, we show that the FV detector can be formulated as a partbased model where what we define as parts have a similar role to the one of parts in DPMs. Second, based on this new formulation of the FV detector, we discuss the similarities and the differences between the FV detector and the DPM, and explain how orderless models manage to capture varying object appearances using a small visual codebook. In particular, while DPM uses unimodal, movable, and well localized parts, the FV detector uses a fixed set of parts, but is capable of capturing complex multimodal appearances of each part. Finally we demonstrate the sparsity of FV detectors, another property shared with DPMs.
The rest of this article is organized as follows. Section 2 presents our FV detection pipeline. Section 3 shows evidences that this model contains parts with a multimodal appearance. Section 4 gives insights on the mechanism that allows orderless statistics to capture this multimodality into a single model. Section 5 evaluates the level of sparsity contained in the model. Finally, Section 6 summarizes our findings.
2 FisherVector detection
For the purpose of our analysis, we reimplemented the FV object detector described in [3]. To focus on the FV representation and avoid confounding factors, we did not employ the color descriptors, the contextual rescoring, or the local feature weighting using masks. Instead, we reproduced, and even slightly improved, the “baseline” version of their detector. We first describe this FV detection pipeline and then validate it empirically.
2.1 Detection pipeline
The Fisher Vector (FV), as used in computer vision applications [14], is obtained by aggregating the first and second order statistics of local descriptors, here SIFT [12]
, describing corresponding image patches. Given a Gaussian mixture model (GMM) with parameters
(means), (diagonal covariance matrices), and (priors), each dimensional SIFT descriptor is first assigned to a mixture component (following [3] we use hard assignments), and then the following first and secondorder statistics are computed:(1) 
Every patch is represented by the concatenation of the component statistics which we refer to as pointwise FV [2]. Its dimensionality is equal to , where is the dimension of and is the number of Gaussian components. Given an image region (e.g.a bounding box) from which we extract patches, the final FV is the average of pointwise FVs: .
Weak geometry. To incorporate weak geometry in the representation we follow [3] and use a spatial pyramid [11]: each candidate image region is subdivided into and spatial subdivisions and the corresponding FVs are extracted and stacked.
Normalization. As shown in [14], the performance of the FV can be substantially improved by signedsquarerooting (SSR) each dimension followed by normalization. The SSR is used in [3]. Here we have found that slightly better performance can be obtained by switching to intranormalization [1, 15], i.e.by applying normalization to each individual component statistics after aggregation:
(2) 
Note that the factor guarantees that when at least one patch is assigned to each Gaussian.
FV detection. So far, we have described the FV as a method to compute a descriptor for a particular image region. To use this to detect and localize object occurrences, we could apply it in a sliding window manner over the image. For efficiency reasons, however, we follow [3] and, instead of trying all image subwindows, we limit the search to the ones enclosing the object region proposals obtained using the algorithm of [17].
2.2 Experimental setup
We evaluate our FV pipeline on the PASCAL VOC 2007 challenge dataset (VOC07) [7], a standard testbed that contains 20 categories of animals, vehicles and indoor objects. Following [3] we use a small subset of images from the VOC07 training set – referred to as VOC07SMALL – involving only 4 classes to validate the parameters of our pipeline. This small set is also considered later for the most computationallydemanding experiments.
We extract patches with a step size of three pixels at fifteen scales separated by a factor . SIFT [13] descriptors are extracted for each patch. We project and decorrelate these descriptors to dimensions using PCA. The visual codebook consists of Gaussian components and we use and nonoverlapping spatial subdivisions with in the spatial pyramid. This results in the concatenation of 17 intranormalized FVs, yielding a dimensional descriptor, which is then normalized again. We extract around 1500 candidate windows per image using selective search [17]. At train time, we apply 3 rounds of hardnegative mining extracting each time the top two false positive detections for each training image. At test time, non maximum suppression is applied in order to discard redundant detections that overlap more than 30% using the intersectionoverunion overlap measure.
This pipeline obtains a mean average precision (or mAP) over the 20 classes of 33.9% with SSR, which is comparable to the 34.0% reported by [3], and a mAP of 34.6% with the intranormalization scheme, thus confirming the positive effects of this normalization.
3 The Fisher Vector detector as a partbased model
A fundamental problem in visual recognition, and especially in object detection, is accounting for intraclass variability. This includes variations in appearance between two views of the same object instance (e.g.difference in view point), but also variations in appearance between two different instances of the same class (e.g.the class dog contains instances of Poodles and German Shepards). Consequently, images of the same object class form a highdimensional multimodal distribution which is challenging to model.
As mentioned earlier, the DPM [8] improves on the basic DalalTriggs [5] HOGdetector in two key ways: by the introduction of multiple aspects and by the introduction of deformable parts. The use of multiple aspects addresses the multimodal issue: it allows the model to capture very different object appearances as caused for example by a large outofplane 3D rotation of the object. The introduction of parts addresses the highdimensional issue: the object is brokendown into smaller “pieces” which are easier to model because they typically lie in a lower dimensional space. The fact that the parts are deformable allows the template to warp geometrically and therefore adapt to imagebased deformations of the object. This is important to ensure that the unimodal assumption of each aspect and lowdimensional assumption of each part are reasonable. To summarize, the DPM is a mixture of aspects or components, and each aspect is a collection of parts.
The DPM should be contrasted with the FV detector. The latter models the object appearance by extracting FVs, one for each spatial subdivision in the pyramid. Each FV captures the appearance of a corresponding spatial bin by pooling local SIFT patches. If we define a part as one of these spatial bins, the model can be seen as a collection of parts where each part is modeled as a mixture of Gaussians. One could argue that individual SIFT patches could also be considered as parts, but Section 4 shows that these are significantly lower level, closer to part fragments.
In the following, we show that interpreting the FV detector as a partbased model explains how the FV can represent the highdimensional multimodal appearance of object categories. We start by comparing parts in DPM and FV. Both models have a similar structure: one root part that captures information at the level of the whole object (the ‘root filter’ in DPM, and the spatial bin of the pyramid corresponding to the whole object in FV) and several local parts (the ‘part filters’ in DPM, and the bins of the spatial subdivisions in FV). Yet, their geometry is different. While parts in DPMs move in order to match the deforming structure of the underlying object, parts in the FV detector have a rigid predefined layout. A second key difference is that, because of the rigidity of the geometry and the lack of multiple components in the model, each part in the FV detector is required to capture a highlyvariable and multimodal appearance.
The following experiment compares parts in the DPM and the FV detectors, illustrating the variability of the part appearances captured by the two models. Parts in the FV detector are visualized as follows: given a class – motorbike in our example – and the VOC07SMALL test set, the 200 top scoring object detections returned by the FV detector are selected. The images of these 200 detections as well as the subimages corresponding to the individual parts are extracted and, for each part individually, the corresponding FV descriptors are clustered in six groups using Kmeans. The average image of each group is shown in Figure
2. For comparison, a similar procedure is used to show the parts captured by a DPM model. The 200 top scoring detections are selected and split into six distinct sets according to the DPM component that was used for each detection. The images belonging to each group are then averaged and shown in Figure 2 for the whole object and for each part.Given Figure 2 and Figure 2, we note that both models are capable of detecting with high confidence very dissimilar objects and object parts. However, in the FV detector multimodality is captured at the level of the individual parts, as shown by the highlyvariable appearance of the clusters in Figure 2 (we also tested averaging images without clustering, but this, as expected, blurs any detail). For the DPM, multimodality is captured instead at the level of the components of the mixture, which correspond to meaningful modes in the appearance space.
Whole window (1x1)  4x4 spatial subdivisions 

Root filters
Part filters
A direct conclusion of the this observation is that the FV detector captures the object variability by means of a collection of multimodal parts rather than by using a mixture model as the DPM. Indeed, if we assume that each part has modes^{1}^{1}1For the simplicity of the analysis, we assume that we have the same number of modes for each part. and if we have parts, then the FV detector can model different appearances of the same object. In other words, it is possible to model an exponential number of appearances because the multimodality is factorized per part. On the contrary, the DPM can have at most as many modes as components, because it is built as a mixture model by construction.
Another difference between the DPM and FV detectors lies in training. The DPM learns a different partbased model for each component, where components are roughly divided according to viewpoints. In practice, components are initialized based on aspectratio or another heuristic, and eventually assembled in a mixture model using latent variables. In contrast, the FV detector learns in one shot a single linear classifier capturing the whole space of object appearances; nevertheless, the factorization property of the FV allows this procedure to capture efficiently an exponential number of different appearances.
4 Modeling multimodal parts with the Fisher Vector
In the previous section we have interpreted the FV detector as a partbased model, and we have given evidence that these parts are highly multimodal, a necessary property for dealing with the highly variable appearance of object categories. In this section we investigate the mechanism that allows FV to capture such rich multimodal appearances. In BoVW models, multimodality is easily explained as the representation quantizes the feature spaces in thousands of different visual words. However, the quantization granularity is much smaller for FV, typically in the order of a few dozens Gaussian components. This section clarifies why such a small number of visual words is sufficient to represent rich appearance variations.
The first answer to this question lies in the statistics encoded by the FV. While both BoVW and FV quantize local patch descriptors using a visual codebook, BoVW captures only order statistics (counts) of the features, while FV captures first order and second order statistics as well (see Eq. (1)). In particular, the pointwise FV is a mixture of quadratic functions of the descriptor , where different functions are activated based on the descriptor quantization. Hence, a linear classifier learnt on the FV representation can be seen as a mixture of quadratic experts in the space of local patch descriptors.
Our next experiment demonstrates the expressive power of the FV representation by showing that a linear classifier learned on top of FV can induce complex decision boundaries in descriptor space. To this end, we consider a patch and encode it using the pointwise FV . We then associate this patch to a score where denotes the weight vector learned by the FV detector for class and spatial bin . For the purpose of this visualization, we score a single patch at a time although the weights are trained on the full FV model that pools information from all the patches covering an object. While in this manner we cannot visualize the aggregated effect of all the patches, Sect. 5 shows that only a small number of those is actually important for classification making this a good proxy.
Our goal is to illustrate the richness of the scoring functions that the FV representation associates to local descriptors even when a single Gaussian mode is considered. To this end, we restrict the function domain to the patches that are assigned to a certain Gaussian . We then plot the function for different categories and spatial bins . Since the input of this function are 128 dimensional SIFT descriptors (), we first parametrize the descriptor space with a 2D space where is a PCA projection learnt from a set of descriptors sampled from . Figure 3 shows for a Gaussian , two classes (bus and motorbike), and spatial bins. These results are representative of other classes and Gaussian components.
There are two points to take from the visualizations in Figure 3. First, scores are well clustered in a small number of modes, due to the smooth form of the scoring function and of the encoding function . Second, the modes are nevertheless very varied, both for different classes and for different spatial bins, showing that the same Gaussian cluster has significantly different meaning depending on the class as well as on the spatial location. The ability of “reusing” the same visual words to express varied decision functions explains how the FV is able to capture complex multimodal object appearances while using visual vocabularies significantly smaller than BoVW.
While Figure 3 shows that the FV is capable of assigning complex scoring functions to local patches, it does not clarify whether the learned scores are “semantic”, in the sense of identifying interpretable image fragments. Our next goal is to investigate this question. To do so we consider the set of all image patches extracted from the VOC07SMALL dataset and assigned to the Gaussian component of the model. Within this set, we select the 36 patches that maximize the score for a given category and spatial bin . We visualize these patches in Figure 4 for different objects and spatial bins. Despite the fact that all the patches in Figure 4 happen to belong to true positive detection windows, it is very hard to recognize which object parts they belong to. Hence, we conclude that the local patches pooled by the IFV are akin to part fragments rather than semantic parts; on the other hand, Figure 2 suggests that, by aggregating many of these fragments together, the spatial bins in the FV can recognize meaningful parts.
We conclude that the FV captures multimodal part appearances by (1) decomposing parts into distributions of lowerlevel image fragments and (2) by learning complex scoring functions for these fragments despite the use of a small visual vocabulary.
(a)  (b)  (c)  (d) 
5 Sparsity properties of the Fisher Vector detector
A desirable property of the DPM – at least on a visualization standpoint, but to some extent also on a computational point of view – is that it is sparse, in the sense that it captures the appearance of objects using a small set of part templates that fire in correspondence of selected image regions that are aligned to the parts (a consequence of the use of maxpooling). On a first glance, the FV detector does not seem to exhibit any sparsity property: patches are quantized using a GMM with a number of components that, while much smaller than visual words in BoVW, is still larger than the number of parts in a DPM; furthermore, thousands of image patches are encoded and averaged due to the use of sumpooling instead of maxpooling. We revisit this assumption and study the sparsity properties of the FV detector at two different levels, the patch level and the Gaussian level.
Sparsity of the patches. Sect. 4 and Figure 3 looked at the scores associated by pointwise Fisher Vectors to individual topranked image patches. However, the FV detector pools information from hundreds of patches in the detection window and it is unclear whether the final decision depends on these relatively rare highlyscoring patches or, instead, the majority of other patches that receive intermediate scores. In other words, we do not know whether information is concentrated as it happens in the DPM case or instead distributed uniformly in the detection window. The next experiment answers this question.
We start from the hypothesis that topranked patches (i.e.those at the centers of the positive and negative modes in Figure 3) contain most of the information necessary for detection. In order to validate this hypothesis, we drop from each detection window a certain portion of patches, starting from the ones with smallest absolute individual score, while keeping track of the achieved APs. Intuitively, if these lowscoring patches have a small effect on the final classifier score, the detection APs should be stable. However, once the important patches start to be removed APs should decrease rapidly.
The experiment was carried on the development set VOC07SMALL. The left panel in Figure 5 shows the results. It is apparent that even after removing about 80% of the patches with low absolute values of their scores the detector performance remains largely unchanged, thus confirming our intuition that only a small subset of patches is actually important for the classifier. We call this property patchlevel sparsity.
Sparsity of the Gaussians components. We have shown earlier that the FV is capable of capturing complex decision boundaries despite making use of a small visual codebook. Here we investigate whether any of these visual words are in fact not informative and can be discarded during detection yielding, among other things, a computational saving. To do so we take advantage of the block structure of the FV. As explained in Section 2, each FV contains nonoverlapping blocks of size corresponding to individual Gaussian components. The idea is then to induce sparsity at the block level when training the model, thereby encouraging the classifier to discard some of these Gaussian statistics.
In order to induce block sparsity, we learn the FV model vector using an SVM but replacing the standard regularizer with the group lasso one [21]. More precisely , where is the set of weights corresponding to Gaussian in the FV statistics. Increasing the regularization strength favors models for which many Gaussians have , effectively removing more Gaussians from the representation. The SVM objective function is optimized using the dual averaging method of [20]. A naive application of this method, however, results in a substantial performance drop as the sparsity of increases. A possible reason for this loss of performance is that group lasso is capable of selecting useful component, but that the regularization is just not competitive with vanilla . In order to validate this hypothesis, we employ a finetuning step in which first group lasso is used to select a subset of useful Gaussians, and then a standard SVM classifier with norm regularization is used to learn the final detection model. Perhaps surprisingly, retraining recovers most of the lost performance, and is therefore essential to obtain a good sparse model. For example, from the results of experiments on the development set (VOC07SMALL) we observed that when using the model which discards 50% of the Gaussians, there is a decrease of 8.3 mAP (i.e.the mean AP computed over all four classes from the development set) if the finetuning step is omitted. We think that these observations may transfer to several other applications of group lasso.
Overall Figure 5 shows that we can remove up to 50% of the Gaussians and still obtain comparable results to the full model. Note that here Gaussians are counted on a perspatialbin basis, as they are reused in different ones. As such, the 100% mark on axis of Figure 5 corresponds to active Gaussians. Nevertheless, eliminating Gaussian components allows us to avoid accumulating corresponding pointwise FVs during the detection phase yielding a proportional acceleration in detection (note that patches can be quantized once for all detection windows in an image, but accumulation occurs for each candidate window separately).
6 Summary
In this paper, we have shown that the FV detector contains parts in the same manner as a DPM. In both cases, a fixed number of parts is used to capture the diversity of appearance of an object category. However, this diversity is represented differently: the DPM uses a mixture of components where each component corresponds to an aspect, and the FV factors the appearance in a product of multimodal distributions, one for each object part, encoding implicitly an exponential number of combinations. Both DPM and FV are sparse, although in somewhat different senses. DPM is sparse at the level of the parts, which are few and maxpooled, while FV exhibits sparsity at the level of part fragments and at the level of the visual vocabulary. For example, while FV has typically more parts than DPM, 80% of the pooled patches and 50% of the visual words can be removed with minimal impact on performance. The latter fact can be used in order to accelerate detection proportionally.
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