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MotionBuilder 2014

Rebecca-Louise Leybourne finds that a new approach of working with motion capture has rejuvenated this venerable animation tool.

PRICE: $4,195



  • Full-body IK-based character animation
  • Real-time 3D engine
  • Motion capture editing and clean-up
  • Stereoscopic toolsets

DEVELOPER: Autodesk (opens in new tab)

MotionBuilder is one of Autodesk’s most powerful programs. Primarily used as a 3D character animation software for virtual production or a real-time 3D engine for motion capture, it enables you to more efficiently capture, edit, and play back complex character animations in interactive environments.

Autodesk has described its goal with MotionBuilder 2014 as enabling you to build “a virtual environment where a director can shoot CG scenes, as if they were working with live action”: perfect for the growing use of the integration of CGI in films. At the same time, it is still a great program for aspiring animators and VFX artists to get their technical and creative claws into.

MotionBuilder is well known for its place in the motion capture pipeline, and is used to produce high-quality, real-time visualisations on stage and for editing in post-production. The new flexible mocap system feature in 2014 revamps and streamlines the usual motion-capture marker data input pipeline. Ideal for artists new to the process, flexible mocap allows you to assign markers directly and use an improved inverse kinematics solver to drive a character’s joints. This should enable you to create a higher-quality animation in a smaller time frame.

The set-up is a simple process of dragging markers onto the joints that you want them to influence and assigning a relationship. Markers can drive multiple joints live, and the entire process is completely customisable via Python scripting to create an automated set-up. The data drives goals within MotionBuilder, then MotionBuilder’s HumanIK system takes over to solve the character’s skeleton from those goals.

HumanIK itself has been updated to support squash-and-stretch on the spine for better solves. The results can be tweaked and modified using character controls or story, MotionBuilder’s non-linear editor or manual offsets to adjust the final animation.


Other new features bring more subtle but effective changes to the overall experience of using MotionBuilder 2014. The new Ruler tool, which enables you to measure the distance between any two points in a scene, is a particular highlight. Equally, the Look Through Selected option significantly improves the positioning of lights in a 3D scene by efficiently turning them into cameras and adjusting their position and orientation through the camera view.

If you do use MotionBuilder for your animation, virtual production or motion capture work, it’s likely you’ll end up using Maya, 3ds Max or Softimage alongside it. Autodesk allows these programs to work together pretty seamlessly with Send To options, to connect scenes and update changes and edit-able interaction navigation modes throughout the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite.

Overall, MotionBuilder 2014 has enabled enhanced real-time, virtual cameras and instant playback with story integration that will bring your actor’s performances to 3D life immediately and increase the efficiency of any post-production work.

For beginners, Autodesk has a variety of tutorials available and even free example rigs included with the software to improve your animation and motion-capture skill set. MotionBuilder 2014 is definitely Autodesk’s best version of the software to date. The new features speed up and simplify tasks that MotionBuilder already does, and provides new ways to customise the interface and workflow, supporting both C++ and Python. If you’re planning on getting to know this technically creative program, now is the time to do it.


  • Improved and increased stability
  • Clever and useful tools to improve usability
  • Excellent Autodesk integration


  • Slow saving and loading times
  • Occasional crashes
  • Parts of the interface are difficult to read

A vast improvement on previous versions. If real-time features in your work, this upgrade will improve your workflow


Rebecca-Louise Leybourne is a Motion Capture tracker at The Imaginarium. On stage she runs real-time and head-mounted cameras

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