OpenCV 3.1 has been developed as the newest version of the OpenCV library, and it’s been widely used so far. Anaconda has a pretty lovely easy-to-use environment in which almost all the necessary Python packages are installed, and it is rapidly growing. Although OpenCV installation for anaconda has been compiled, it has different issues when it comes to integrating it with Ubuntu especially if one needs to have its complete features and especially the video support. For having all features of OpenCV, it needs to be installed from the source.

There are few anaconda installations guide for OpenCV 3.1, but still, it seems to be a tricky problem especially when using virtual environments is desired. There might be a misunderstanding about the naming convention of OpenCV3 which is its relevance to Python3 which is wrong. OpenCV3(version 3.1 as an example) works with both Python generations like Python 2.7 and Python 3.5 in the same way. However, in this tutorial, the Python3 is considered as a more recent choice by the programmers. Unless otherwise mentioned, the assumption is that all the commands will be executed in the Root directory. From any other directories, by using the cd ~ command, we go to the root directory.

Virtual Environment

In this section, the method for creating the virtual environment in Anaconda will be described. One may ask how to create Python virtual environments rather than the Anaconda virtual environments. There is excellent documentation about Python Virtual Environments in the hyperlink; however, it is related to the Python environment itself. Creating a virtual environment in Anaconda is much easier though.

Advantages of Working on Virtual Environments

The main advantage of using virtualenvs is to separate different projects environments in which using different Python versions or packages are desired. For illustration let’s assume some packages have conflict and also both are required for different separated projects. In this manner, different projects can be developed in different environments and here are the virtual environments that come to our rescue. Moreover creating virtual environments enrich the user with creating a new environment so as not to corrupt any of the root packages. There is another strong point. Installing packages and managing the conflicts in virtual environments is much more comfortable than the general environment because from the beginning the procedure of installing dependencies is at hand.

Creating Virtual Environments

Although creating virtual environments in anaconda is very easy, however there exits some considerations and a procedure for sure!

Step#1: Check Installation

First of all, Anaconda has to be in the PATH. Type the following in the terminal to do so:

Add Anaconda to the PATH

  • export PATH=”PATH=/home/username/anaconda/bin:PATH''</li></ul> <!-- /wp:list --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> The element of ``username'' is specific to the system. Now you can check if the Anaconda is in the path or not with checking the full PATH by using following command: <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> PATH Check <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:list --> <ul><li>echoPATH

More over the installed Conda version can be checked to make sure the Anaconda is already installed and is updated.

Check Installation

  • conda update conda
  • conda info

After verifying the installation, the next step is to create the virtual environment with the desired command.

Step#2: Creating Virtual Environment

For Installing Python 3.5 in the Anaconda virtualenv, the following command should be executed in the command line.

Virtualenv Creation

  • conda create -n Virtualenv_Name python=3.5 anaconda

The Virtualenv_Name is the associated name for the virtual environment. Different Python versions can be installed by just changing the version number assigned in the command. The virtual environment is chosen to be py3k for our distribution.

Step#3: Activate Environment

The next step is to activate environment. After activation, all packages will be installed within the virtual environment and the workflow will be executed there too. The command to activate the virtual environment named py3k is as follows:

Virtualenv Creation

  • source activate py3k

After the activation, the sign of the environment should appear in the command line. The screen will be something similar to the below image:

Figure 1: The virtual environment indicator is active.

There is a caveat for working in virtual environments. Although the workspace is the virtual environment, if the user apply Sudo command for any installation, the process will target the system root and not the virtual environment. This point is crucial because it is common mistake and cannot be easily recognized.

Step#4: Deactivation

For deactivating the virtual environment the following command can simply be employed:

Deactivation of Virtual Environment

  • source deactivate

Installing dependencies

Loosely speaking, installing the dependencies is the central part of OpenCV installation. The reason is OpenCV requires a lot of packages to be installed. So the system architecture must provide every single dependency that it needs. Moreover if installing extra OpenCV modules is desired, it certainly adds to the number of requirements. This section is aimed to describe what are these requirements.

I — System Update

First of all, the system packages should be updated to their latest version. Sudo apt-get update downloads the package lists from the repositories and “updates” them to get information on the newest versions of packages and their dependencies. Sudo apt-get upgrade will fetch new versions of packages existing on the machine if APT knows about these new versions by way of apt-get update[ Reference ].

Sysytem Update

  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get upgrade

Building tools must be installed first. The build-essentials is a reference for any Debian package requirements. It generally includes the gcc/g++ compilers as libraries and is necessary if any C/C++ compiler is included in the specifications. If any packages are desired to be compiled from its source, then pkg-config is required which is our case in OpenCV installation. cmake manages and executes the build process of OpenCV. cmake-curses-gui installs the ccmake which is the handy GUI for the cmake configuration process!

Build Essentials

  • sudo apt-get install build-essential pkg-config cmake cmake-curses-gui

II — Installing Python libraries

Of course, python is required for installing OpenCV. Moreover installing some great packages as Numpy and Scipy is of great importance for any computer vision library. python-dev mainly contains the header files which are necessary to build Python extensions.

Python Libraries

  • sudo apt-get install python-dev python-numpy
  • sudo apt-get install python-scipy

III — Installing GUI libraries

OpenCV employs the HighGUI library(“high-level graphical user interface”) to open windows, display, read and write images and videos, etc. This library(HighGUI) needs a backend to operate. There are two available backends for HighGUI. One is the Qt library which can be installed as follows:

Qt Backend for HighGUI

  • sudo apt-get install qt5-default
  • sudo apt-get install libqt5opengl5-dev

Moreover the GTK library can be used as the backend too. The installation command is as follows:

Qt Backend for HighGUI

  • sudo apt-get install libgtk-3-dev
  • sudo apt-get install libgtkglext1 libgtkglext1-dev

III — Installing image processing libraries

OpenCV is at first an image processing and manipulation library. The first ability for that is to load/save images. Moreover, it should be able to recognize and decode different file formats like PNG, JPG, TIFF, etc. The essential packages regarding image processing can be installed as below:

Image Processing Libraries

  • sudo apt-get install libpng3 pngtools libpng12-dev libpng12–0 libpng++-dev
  • sudo apt-get install libtiff5-dev libtiff5 libtiff-tools
  • sudo apt-get install libjpeg8-dev libjpeg8 libjpeg8-dbg
  • sudo apt-get install libjasper-dev libjasper-runtime
  • sudo apt-get install libjasper-dev libjasper-runtime

Some numbers are shown for package indications. For example, libtiff5-dev has number five. This available version must change regarding the root system which might be different in different Ubuntu versions and various updates.

IV — Installing video processing libraries

Same as images, for read/write and process videos the relevant dependencies must be installed as follows:

Video Processing Libraries

  • sudo apt-get install libavformat-dev libavutil-dev
  • sudo apt-get install libxine2-dev libxine2
  • sudo apt-get install libdc1394–22 libdc1394–22-dev libdc1394-utils

The corresponding codecs have to be installed too:

  • sudo apt-get install libavcodec-dev libavformat-dev libswscale-dev libv4l-dev
  • sudo apt-get install libfaac-dev libmp3lame-dev
  • sudo apt-get install libopencore-amrnb-dev libopencore-amrwb-dev
  • sudo apt-get install libtheora-dev libvorbis-dev libxvidcore-dev
  • sudo apt-get install ffmpeg x264 libx264-dev
  • sudo apt-get install libv4l-0 v4l-utils

V — Installing multi-processing library

TBB is a library for leveraging multi-core processing. OpenCV supports that so it is beneficial to install it.

Multi-Processing Library

  • sudo apt-get install libtbb-dev

Download OpenCV from source

To download OpenCV from source there are two ways to do it. The first one is to download the zip package and then unzip it with the following commands:

Download OpenCV as a zip file from the source

Noted that is the name that the unzip command will save the download zip with that name. The direct way to download the OpenCV from the source is as follows:

OpenCV direct download from the source

There is a small difference between the first and second method. The former one target a specific version of OpenCV which is 3.1.0 but the later one download the latest version. For convenience, we use the previous method because it is more customized. At the moment it is necessary to download opencv_contrib too:

Downloading opencv_contrib

At this moment the OpenCV is downloaded from the source and it ready to be compiled.

Compiling OpenCV

From now on we have to be in the virtual environment and it should be activated by the command source activate py3k. Make sure that the environment is active and the sign is as mention in Fig. 1.

Now it the time to go to opencv directory and create a dir name build directory to build and compile the necessary elements for OpenCV installation. The command is as below:

Build a directory for compiling OpenCV

  • cd ~/opencv-3.1.0/
  • mkdir build/
  • cd build/

For comiling OpenCV both cmake and ccmake can be used. The preference in this tutorial is to use the later one due to better graphical illustrations.

(I) Using cmake command

The first one can be use for initialization of important options. We start by using the ccmakecommand:

Build a directory for compiling OpenCV

    -D CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/usr/local \ 
    -D OPENCV_EXTRA_MODULES_PATH=~/opencv_contrib-3.1.0/modules \

The implementation of cmake command can be something similar to above, however the preference is to use the GUI as mentioned before and will be demonstrated in the subsequent section.

(II) Using cmake GUI: ccmake ..

The executed commands could be run by ccmake .. command in a much easier way. Let’s run it in the terminal”:

ccmake as graphical interface

  • ccmake ..

When the interface showed up, the configuration with button c has to be done to run the make interface. The a screen as below will come up:

Figure 2: The GUI for cmake command in order to compile OpenCV.

Some options here have to found and changed. Some options have to checked to be correct if not changed. The options are shown as below:

compile options

As it is evident in the above options, the PYTHON3 related options are targeted, and it is because we are working on a python3 environment. The options PYTHON3_EXECUTABLE, PYTHON3_INCLUDE_DIR, and PYTHON3_NUMPY_INCLUDE_DIRS must refer to the corresponding virtual environment path although the PYTHON3_LIBRARY must apply to the corresponding root path and otherwise is not acceptable by the cmake command. The WITH_CUDA and BUILD_opencv_hdf options turned to off due to some likely incompatibilities, but OpenCV can be compiled using CUDA too.

Anytime that you change couple of options in the GUI, configure the structure by pressing c button. BUILD_LIBPROTOBUF_FROM_SOURCES = ON is one of the options that was recommended by the cmake GUI after running the configure button. After running the configuration, the generation option will appear as below:

Figure 3: Generation Option Appearance.

After generation of the make file, it is time to make and basically compile the OpenCV using the following comman:

Compiling OpenCV

  • make -j8

The option -jX depends on system architecture and it employs parallel computing for faster processing. The screen shot of compiling process is as below:

opencv installation process

Figure 4: Compiling Process.

Installing OpenCV

The last step is to install OpenCV using the following commands:

Installing OpenCV

  • sudo make install
  • sudo ldconfig

The command sudo ldconfig is necessary to maintain the shared library cashe.

OpenCV Package Binding

OpenCV3 — Python binding should be located in the folder /usr/local/lib/python3.5/site-packages/. It can be verified by:

Installing OpenCV

  • ls /usr/local/lib/python3.5/site-packages/

As it is obvious, the name of the library file is which needs to be changed to as prompt by the python environment. This task can be done by make a copy of the file in the same folder and with another name:

Installing OpenCV

  • cd /usr/local/lib/python3.5/site-packages//
  • sudo cp

After this phase, the has to be moved to the right directory which is corresponding to the relevant Anaconda virtual environment. In out specific case, it can be done by the following procedure:

Installing OpenCV

  • cd ~/anaconda/envs/py3k/lib/python3.5/site-packages
  • ln -s /usr/local/lib/python3.5/site-packages/

The first command take us to the desired environment library and the second one makes symbolic link between the two files. In order to grasp a better idea of what is ln -s and how it works please refer to this official ubuntu documentation.

Testing OpenCV Installation

In order to test OpenCV, we have to activate the virtual environment first. The output must include the environment indicator as we discussed before.

Activating Anaconda Virtual Environment

  • source activate py3k

Then the version can be checked by the following:

Check OpenCV and its Installed Version

  • python
  • import cv2
  • cv2.__version__


Now the OpenCV3 is installed in Anaconda virtual environment. This virtual environment installation helps to avoid possible conflicts between packages between different projects and moreover enrich the user with the user-friendly environment of conda.


Sina Torfi

Currently, as a CS Ph.D. student, I'm a research assistant at Virginia Tech. My research is mainly about Machine Learning & Deep Learning and their applications in Computer Vision and NLP. I'm interested in developing software packages and open-source projects.

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