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Video synopsis provides a means for fast browsing of activities in video. Principal background selection (PBS) is an important step in video synopsis. Existing methods make PBS in an offline way and at a high memory cost. In this paper we propose a novel background selection method, ``online principal background selection'' (OPBS). The OPBS selects n principal backgrounds from N backgrounds in an online fashion with a low memory cost, making it possible to build an efficient online video synopsis system. Another advantage is that, with OPBS, the selected backgrounds are related to not only background changes over time but also video activities. Experimental results demonstrate the advantages of the proposed OPBS.