5 best motion capture software for spectacular animations

Vlad Turiceanu
by Vlad Turiceanu
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  • Mo-cap records natural movement and transfers it to digital objects to create hyperrealistic animations.
  • Are you keen on making your characters really come to life? Then a motion capture software is exactly what you need.
  • Check out our Animation Guides to really get animated and unleash your full creative potential.
  • Keep an eye on the Video Hub as well to make sure you stay in touch with the latest releases in the industry.
Best motion capture software
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Motion capture also known as motion tracking or mo-cap refers to the process of digitally recording natural movements in order to transfer them to character models later on.

You can use it to trace the movement of any element in your footage. Then, simply set other layers in your composition to follow your tracked object(s).

Hugely popular in the entertainment field and game development, motion tracking serves as the starting point for the stunning animations and breath-taking visual effects we all know and love.

Let’s make this simpler. Remember Neytiri from Avatar? Good.

Now, how exactly did she effortlessly jump from ridiculously high trees straight on to the back of a dragon? That’s the mo-cap magic in action. And that is exactly what motion capture tools do best.

Go through our top picks and choose the software that can make your next project truly astonishing.

How do you do a motion capture at home?

Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects

If we’re talking about visual effects, there aren’t many software that can match Adobe After Effects’ powerful capacities.

While motion capture is not a standalone effect, it helps to create the most hyperrealistic of animations.

After Effects tracks motion by matching previously selected image data from succeeding frames.

Thanks to the integrated 3D camera tracker, you can also track camera motion or insert 3D objects in 2D footage effortlessly and these are just some of its remarkable tools, perfectly adapted to capture motion.

Let’s quickly go through its key features:

  • 3D Camera tracker
  • Warp Stabilizer (to transform shaky footage into smooth shots or to hold a moving object still in the frame)
  • Combining elements filmed separately
  • Animate still images to match the motion of action footage
  • Animate effects to follow a moving element
Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects

Get your characters to move naturally with the best motion graphics and visual effects software.
$20.99/mo Visit website

3DS Max by Autodesk

3DS Max is a 3D animation modeling and rendering software offering a rich and flexible motion capture toolset that truly brings characters to life.

Full artistic control and intuitive options blend into this motion capture software to help you work faster and meet deadlines.

Let’s quickly go through its key features:

  • Motion Paths (preview and adjust animation paths directly in the viewport)
  • Animation and VFX (powerful scene modeling, stunning characters, and dynamic visual content)
  • Rich special effects (replicate gravity and collisions effects)
  • Rigging tools (CAT, biped, and crowd animation tools)

Check out Autodesk 3DS Max now

MotionBuilder by Autodesk

Autodesk MotionBuilder

MotionBuilder is a 3D character animation software that enables users to manipulate and refine data efficiently.

Both responsive and interactive, this tool has an optimized display and powerful features that allow you to capture motion, edit, and playback complex character animation.

Let’s quickly go through its key features:

  • Real-time 3D engine (create realistic movements for your characters with the fastest animation tools)
  • Efficient workflows (unified, nonlinear editing environment)
  • Motion capture editing (advanced tools to manipulate motion capture data)
  • Smooth interoperability (includes a software development kit for interoperability with other 3D apps)

Check out Autodesk MotionBuilder now

Corel VideoStudio

Corel VideoStudio

VideoStudio is an award-winning video editing software powered by Corel.

Its motion tracking feature allows you to track different objects in your clips in order to impregnate movement to pictures, titles, and other elements. You can even use it to blur faces.

Handling this powerful capacity is amazingly straightforward – after all, beauty lies in simplicity more often than not. All you have to do is drag your clip on the timeline and click on the Track Motion icon from the toolbar.

Then, you can make use of the trackers to pinpoint the position or area you want to track. You can even set a multi-point tracker to censor objects.

Of course, you can also remove the trackers, save the created paths, match an image or video with tracked motion and finally, add transitions to the matched object to create a softer, more gradual effect.

Check out Corel VideoStudio

Cyberlink PowerDirector

The PowerDirector 365 is a professional video editing suite that delivers best-in-class editing tools wrapped in a streamlined interface that does not intimidate the average user.

The motion tracking feature is particularly intuitive and easy to work with allowing you to achieve spectacular results.

You can easily track both people and objects in your footages using motion trackers to obtain super-realistic effects that emulate natural movement to perfection.

Check out Cyberlink PowerDirector 365

 Read more about PowerDirector 365 from our in-depth review

While motion tracking in itself is not a visual effect, it is quintessential for the creation of visual effects.

By recording natural movement and playing it back on a digitally created model, motion capture software have proved indispensable for the gaming, animation, film-making, and overall entertainment industry.

If you’re aiming to really bring your characters to life and make them move it, move it, have a go at one of the finest software for the job.

Let us know how what worked for you in the comments section below.

FAQ: Learn more about motion capture

  • What is motion capture software?

Motion capture software are used for recording natural movement and transferring it to digital models in order to achieve high-end hyperrealistic visual effects.

  • Does motion capture replace animation?

It does not. Even though it is a standalone segment, motion capture integrates with animation effects by helping to reproduce and impregnate movement paths to characters and digital objects.

  • What are the 3 types of motion that all films use?

Motion picture films are divided into 3 main categories: camera, print films, and intermediate and laboratory, and all are available as black-and-white or color films.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been since revamped and updated in October 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in April 2020 and was revamped and updated in January 2021 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.