Abstract : Analyzing the crowd dynamics from video sequences is an open challenge in computer vision. Under a high crowd density assumption, we characterize the dynamics of the crowd flow by two related information: velocity and a disturbance potential which accounts for several elements likely to disturb the flow (the density of pedestrians, their interactions with the flow and the environment). The aim of this paper to simultaneously estimate from a sequence of crowded images those two quantities. While the velocity of the flow can be observed directly from the images with traditional techniques, this disturbance potential is far more trickier to estimate. We propose here to couple, through optimal control theory, a dynamical crowd evolution model with observations from the image sequence in order to estimate at the same time those two quantities from a video sequence. For this purpose, we derive a new and original continuum formulation of the crowd dynamics which appears to be well adapted to dense crowd video sequences. We demonstrate the efficiency of our approach on both synthetic and real crowd videos.