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I've had trouble animating characters using 3D applications. It is too slow and difficult. I've programmed my own 3D animator that uses only the keyboard to change key angles. The results are much better, yet it draws some considerable time.

enter image description here

I'm reaching the conclusion animating is hard because nor the keyboard nor the mouse are ideal input sources for that kind of thing. I guess the best would be a physical doll one could manipulate. Is anyone aware of such a product?

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Physically animating is usually done through inverse kinematics. I'm not aware of specific products, but it is a pretty common thing to do. I'd imagine quite a few popular physics engines have such features, though I'm not sure. The idea to set a few keyframes for your animation and solve for forces to interpolate between frames. Jacobian transpose is the badass implementation. – RandyGaul Aug 11 '13 at 1:32
Motion capture via multiple cameras is the more common approach to this problem. – Byte56 Aug 11 '13 at 1:39
@Byte56 Hm but how could I setup this? Also problem is I can't make all poses I'd like my characters to... – Dokkat Aug 11 '13 at 1:48
Oh did you mean like real-life physical? Sorry I thought you meant physically modeled in software :( – RandyGaul Aug 11 '13 at 1:51
@RandyGaul Yes, no probs. – Dokkat Aug 11 '13 at 1:52

There is actually a doll for exactly this purpose:

enter image description here

It appears to be under development by SoftEther Corporation.

However, I imagine such a solution might be overkill.

An alternative would be to use a GI Joe for your modeling. Record video of your GI Joe manipulations from the front, side and top. Using these synced videos, you can go frame by frame switching between a front, side and top view of your 3D model (or you may be able to do it with two cameras). For each frame align your model to match the GI Joe in the recorded video for that frame. This is similar to rotoscoping for 2D, but you're doing it on each axis to expand it to 3D.

Another alternative would be to use a 3D camera like the Kinect. enter image description here Remember that you can always elaborate on the animations when you're creating them. You don't need to do a backflip in front of your Kinect to have your character do one. The accuracy may not be great, but it'll give you a good baseline to work off. (However, if you do attempt the backflip, you'll have some sweet 3D video of it.)

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