This paper describes a robust method for extracting visual speech information from the shape of lips to be used for an automatic speechreading (lipreading) systems. Lip deformation is modelled by a statistically based deformable contour model which learns typical lip deformation from a training set. The main difficulty in locating and tracking lips consists of finding dominant image features for representing the lip contours. We describe the use of a statistical profile model which learns dominant image features from a training set. The model captures global intensity variation due to different illumination and different skin reflectance as well as intensity changes at the inner lip contour due to mouth opening and visibility of teeth and tongue. The method is validated for locating and tracking lip movements on a database of a broad variety of speakers.