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I need a way to scan through hours and hours of recorded video (mp4, mov, avi, doesn't matter, I can fix that) to search for motion. The videos consist of many, many hours of dull nature scenes like bird nests or a feeding site where very little happens for long stretches punctuated by short bursts of action like parents switching, feeding, etc.

I can't us a cctv monitoring program because those monitor a live stream and only record when there's action. These videos are recorded way off the grid where any form of internet connection is a distant dream.

I've looked at Zoneminder and Motion, but these don't allow me to switch the input from a live feed to a file. Ideally, I'd like it to scan a whole lot faster than real-time.

Any ideas?

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VLC has a motion detection filter that you can try by accessing: Tools -> Effects and Filters -> Video Effects -> Advanced -> Motion Detect.

You might have more tweaks available running it from the command line with the --video-filter=motiondetect flag; check out this example.

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