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Animating characters in a 3D computer game

The problem

Animating characters in a 3D game

Anyone who has tried to create animation for a game knows that it is not easy to give characters realistic movement. 

Human movement, animal movement, and even monster movement is very difficult to create and the results of all the hard work that goes into it often look "faked".


Traditional technique

Use synthetic animation

Traditionally a person (animator) supplies key frames for the movement by moving each segment for each frame of the motion. This is a time-consuming and tedious job and it needs skilled animators to produce acceptable results.

Although the resulting animation looks acceptable in many cases, it is often obvious that the movement is synthetic ("fake"). This is caused by the fact that human (or even animal or any other) movement contains many subtleties that are difficult to reproduce with a high level of realism.

These key-frame techniques are basically no different than the ones used in the original King-Kong and Godzilla movies from many decades ago. 

Below are some examples of synthetic movement with varying degrees of success. They're all AVI-files with MPEG4 compression:

[ Raptor Runcycle (110 kB) | Robot Runcycle (545 kB)]


Our suggestion


Use a motion capture system.  

A motion capture system will allow you to capture all the subtleties of human movement. Or animal movement if you need it. Or any other movement for that matter, like falling, flying or crashing objects.

Captured motion could be used as is. Or different captured motions (body motion, finger motion, and even face motion) could easily be combined into one character.

This will translate into very realistic game characters. Even low-polygon models will look stunningly realistic if their movement is correct. Just check the examples below. And capturing motion is a fun thing to do yourself. Just remember, if something moves, its motion can be captured.

Here are some examples of motion captured movement. They're all AVI-files with MPEG4 compression:

[ Running (342 kB) | Sneaky (1,123 kB) | ADI Demo (9.61 MB)]

You may also try this Java demo

Note, this demo requires having the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), and Java 3D (J3D) installed. Click here for more info.


Introducing APAS

Ariel Performance Analysis System

We're now introducing the Ariel Performance Analysis System (APAS) to the game market. We've developed and used this system with great success in human performance analysis since the early 70s. We know motion capture very well.

APAS is a video-based system, which has many advantages:

bulletIt is simply the best and the cheapest motion analysis system. Check here for a direct comparison with our competitors.
bulletNo markers or wires are needed. These are cumbersome for the subject whose motion is being captured. In many cases they would restrict or influence movement if they were used.
bullet2D Motion can be captured with one camera only
bullet3D Motion can be captured with two cameras only. More camera's may improve accuracy but are really not necessary.
bulletMarkers can be used if desired and may speed up the motion capture process. However, it will not necessarily increase motion capture accuracy in every case. Note: to see each marker with at least two camera's, you may need up to five or six cameras.

It's only fair to mention a disadvantage here too: APAS is not a real-time system. Although setup and data collection is usually very quick, you will need time to process collected data. Our competitors sell real-time systems if you need them: they are difficult to set up, they can only be used in a laboratory, they must use markers and use 6 or more specialized camera's, they produce less accurate results, and all this will cost you $250,000 and up.

For more information about our system, proceed directly to our APAS Section.


What do you need?

Buy our software

Use your  hardware

Buy the APAS software from us

You can buy the software directly from us. Please contact us at for purchasing options. You can download and evaluate it for free (see below).

You'll need to supply your own hardware, such as:

bulletPC - a mid-level PC will do just fine. 
bulletVideo camera's (2 or more) - we really like the price / performance ratio of DV camera's.
bulletIEEE1394 capture card - (if using DV) street price is usually < $100

Just let us know if you need any help. What hardware to use? How to do the math? How to get results? How to use these results?




APAS Ariel Performance Analysis System

$5,000 (software only)

All our software can be downloaded and evaluated for 30 days without any obligation. Please proceed directly to the download section

Remember, if you feel a certain very specific feature you absolutely need is missing, just let us know, and we'll see what we can do.


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This page was last modified on 12/07/2008 at 22:47 PST. Copyright � 1994 - 2002, all rights reserved, Ariel Dynamics Inc. Please send your comments or feedback to or proceed to our feedback form. This page has been accessed many times since Dec 12, 2002. Our privacy policy is here.