The biomechanist’s motion capture purchasing checklist

What is a motion capture system?

A motion capture system is a technology that records the movement and positioning of objects or individuals in three-dimensional space. It is widely used in fields such as biomechanics, movement science, and animation to accurately analyze and study human or object motion.

How can a motion capture system enhance the work of a biomechanist?

Motion capture systems provide biomechanists and movement scientists with valuable data and insights that can enhance research, clinical assessments, and the development of interventions. By capturing precise, three-dimensional movement data, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of factors such as joint kinematics, muscle activation patterns, and overall movement efficiency.

What does a motion capture system consist of?

A typical motion capture system includes the following key components:

Important considerations when purchasing a motion capture system

When evaluating and purchasing a motion capture system, consider the following factors:


Selecting the right motion capture system is crucial for biomechanists and movement scientists to effectively conduct research, assess clinical interventions, and gain valuable insights. By considering the key factors outlined in this checklist, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your specific needs and enhances the quality and impact of your work.

Mocap in action: In conversation with Adam Cyr, Biomechanist at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital

A long-standing client, Mary Bridge Children’s Research and Movement Laboratory (RML) is a multidisciplinary facility that houses a team of engineers and clinicians who conduct research and use the latest technologies to identify, diagnose, and treat individuals with movement challenges.

We caught up with Adam Cyr, a biomechanist at the facility, who has a keen interest in applying engineering principles and techniques to understand how the human body performs. His goal is to improve injury prevention and treatment.

Here, we share what he had to say about his work and how he is using mocap as part of the biomechanics research he does on a daily basis.

Could you give us a quick overview of your background as it relates to the world of biomechanics and biomechanics research?

After completing my studies, I briefly worked at a company doing forensic biomechanics before I found myself at the Research and Movement Lab at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. At the RML, we see patients with a wide variety of concerns, including neurological, muscular, and orthopedic disorders. We also see people who are looking to enhance their performance or who suffer from sports-related injuries.

How do you use motion capture technology in the work you do every day?

The more data we can collect, the better. We want to look at kids doing functional tasks. If we see a patient today and collect data on how they move in their preferred way and then they have some sort of intervention, we have data we can use to assess if there’s been an improvement because they will be moving better than before. Our goal is to inform the clinical providers, whether they’re surgeons or physical therapists, and provide them with objective data so they can make better decisions. 

On a typical day, we’ll spend a few hours with a patient either in the morning or the afternoon. We’ll prep the room to make sure that the motion capture system is ready and that the markers are ready to go. We’ll do a subjective history and a physical exam. And then we’ll put the markers on and get the patient to do basic movements. If there’s any particular activity that is causing a problem, we will have them do that activity specifically. After they leave, I compile the data, process it and turn it into graphs and meaningful insights for our therapists to review. It’s great to work this closely with clinicians to see the data and graphs transform into information that means something.  

Can you walk us through your experience using Motion Analysis and share some of the features you find most useful?

The motion capture system I inherited in my current position was an older one. We were very fortunate to be able to upgrade to some newer Motion Analysis cameras recently. The new tech is very impressive. From a size perspective, everything is getting smaller, the optics are better, the speed is better and these cameras can track much smaller markers. 

The cameras are also more advanced, which makes it easier to do things right the first time and not waste time cleaning up the data. This speeds up patient processing times. We want to get a report back to our patients within a couple weeks and if I’m spending a day cleaning up data, that isn’t possible. 

When I do have to clean up data, there are some great features on the backend that make it easier to do so. For example, if a marker dropped off and you didn’t notice, you can use virtual markers to fill in the data gap. I’ve also started to go down the road of playing with what they call the Sky Interface. This allows me to build my own scripts using a batch process. I’ve been working closely with the Motion Analysis team on this and they’ve been hugely helpful. When we collect EMG data, there’s a delay in time so we need to shift the data over for it to line up correctly. With the Sky Interface, I can code something so that I just have to hit one button and it goes through all of my captures and automatically shifts the data over.

We’re also starting to get into real-time feedback using Cortex software. In a clinical setting, we’d use this to better understand upper body motion. For example, we’d put markers on the elbow, the arm and the torso and ask children to reach around so we can see how far they can reach. With real-time feedback, it’s possible to have them reach for virtual markers on a screen, a bit like they are playing a video game. It would all be done in real time using the Motion Analysis workflows I’ve learned. In the work I do, it’s been enormously helpful for me to be able to pick up a phone and connect with the Motion Analysis customer support team or their engineering and technical teams because they are so willing to help out when I have a problem that I need to figure out right away.

If you, like Adam, want to leverage motion capture innovation to better understand movement-related conditions or improve how you monitor the tendencies and patterns of biomechanical movements, we can help. Learn more about how our team can support your mocap needs by scheduling a demo today.

Take a look at our favorite motion capture projects

It has been a wonderful 40 years for Motion Analysis – how time has flown!

To celebrate our milestone birthday, we’re sharing some of our favorite motion capture projects and customer stories from the past four decades – from film and animation to industrial applications, biomechanics, broadcasting and more – while we look forward to what lies next for mocap.

Animating Gollum and receiving an Academy Award

We loved Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Did you know that his final Mount Doom scene was brought to life using the Eagle Digital System – the award-winning motion capture process developed by four of our engineers, including Ned Phipps

Ned has pioneered mocap technology in film and animation for more than two decades. He and the Motion Analysis’ engineering team proudly won an Academy Award for their esteemed mocap work on Peter Jackson’s films. 

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Assassin’s Creed, Dr Strange, and lots of other studio work with Centroid Motion Capture

We have been working with Centroid Motion Capture since 1996, on high-profile projects like Assassin’s Creed, Dr Strange, and seasons 6 and 7 of Game of Thrones. 

Using the Raptor camera system, Centroid captures high volumes of performance data in all sorts of locations. They also use it to track animal movements. Centroid uses Cortex, our motion capture and editing software, for everything  from previsualization to skeleton solving to retargeting.

Image source: Courtesy of Centroid Motion Capture

Helping scientists use drones to detect gas leaks

Our software is also instrumental to boost mocap for industrial applications. PhD student, Chiara Ercolani at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland used our drone capabilities for 3D motion tracking in a wind tunnel facility.

Drones and active marker tracking can be used for 3D gas source localization, which ultimately detects gas leaks without putting human lives at risk, in a number of challenging environmental conditions. 

Helping CSI Calgary to improve sports team training and performance 

A luge coach at Canadian Sport Institute Calgary, Pro Stergiou of Sport Product Testing and University of Calgary graduate, Luciano Tomaghelli utilized our technology as a “gold standard” for mocap for biomechanics; collecting large volumes of data to research the effect of starting technique on luge performance.

Comparing accelerometer data to that captured by our cameras and markers, and collecting kinematic data to assess a luge athlete’s pull and paddle technique, these pioneers in this field helped validate how starting technique and analysis could help improve a luge athlete’s training and performance.  

Image source: Courtesy of Sport Product Testing

Improving the development of police equipment and more with the University of Lincoln

Biomechanics was also at the heart of our research work alongside Dr Franky Mulloy at the University of Lincoln’s MoCap Hub, working on trampoline development and load carriage systems for the police and the military. Designed for any business to quantify movement, here Dr Molloy used our software to track kinematics and integrate with multiple third-party tools. 

Our Cortex software assisted in gaining precise kinematic movement data to help identify issues leading to injury, as well as offering solutions to redesign ergonomic products for highly dynamic activities. 

Image source: Courtesy of the University of Lincoln

Taking gaming to the space-age for Respawn and their game, Titanfall

To craft vivid imaginary worlds, video game production relies on mocap for animation to track bodily and facial movements of actors (in ‘bodysuits’) and enhance them with CGI imagery. In this demonstration, you can see how Respawn Entertainment used MAC cameras and tracking sensors on the actors’ suits to animate alien machinery for their game, Titanfall.

Testing and improving ice hockey skills and equipment with CCM Hockey

Ice hockey equipment brand CCM Hockey uses MAC’s Cortex software for its own biomechanics performance lab. As you can see in this video, their system can be set up on the ice to test equipment, and analyze player performance in slow motion using markers on their hockey sticks. 

Working with Ford to reduce risk and improve training in manufacturing plants

While Ford is a forerunner in industrial history, we have helped the brand continually innovate. Using mocap for biomechanics, manufacturing plants can be designed – this video details how our mocap bodysuit helps make risk assessment decisions according to movements used in assembly lines, and subsequent virtual reality headsets train factory workers to handle heavy machinery safely.

Bringing science into the world of advertising with Under Armour

Steph Curry is one of the most jaw-dropping basketball players in the world. The capabilities of his endorsed Under Armour shoe were tried, tested, and improved using mocap for biomechanics, which you can see in this video: Steph gets fitted with mocap markers and analyzed on an interface via Cortex software. 

Broadcast tracking for the BBC’s coverage of the UK general election 2019

We love to see our technology used for broadcast purposes too. During the UK’s general election in 2019, the shots of Jeremy Vine in front of Downing Street were achieved through greenscreen and our system tracking the in-studio cameras.

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Here’s a behind the scenes virtual reality tour from Vine himself!

Here’s to another 40 years!

We can’t wait to see what the future holds in this industry! Already, we’re working hard to develop lighter, more accessible systems that we hope will add a new level of application to this list of amazing motion capture projects.