Breathing (the movement of chest and face features): I'd like to ask if it is hard to model and whether it is computationaly expensive. I recently noticed the great effect it has in Madagascar 3 movie, but (please, correct me if I am wrong) don't remember seeing it in any games (except maybe steam cloud in cold/winter setting) and very few animated movies does that to noticable degree (e.g. when it is necessary by the plot or situation).

I'd greatly appreciate answers from both movie graphics and game graphics perspective.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Trinity Universe and some other JRPGs include this for their large 2D sprites. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rangoric
    Dec 18, 2012 at 21:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ArcaneEngineer Yes, it did help. I was hoping for some other perspectives, but clearly I've been too optimistic ;-) Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – dtldarek
    May 16, 2017 at 18:21

1 Answer 1


There's nothing computationally expensive about it. The Total War series of games run thousands of discrete animations at once. This is just another animation: a bog-standard application of matrix mathematics, which is equally doable on CPU or GPU.

Probably the only reason you don't often see it is simply because most people's breathing is not that noticeable at the distances you tend to see characters from in games, i.e. several metres. In other words, it hasn't been added to many games quite simply because it doesn't add a whole lot. Chest displacement of a centimetre or two is not that noticeable, and slow breathing (which happens most of the time) is even less noticeable.

Movies are high-fidelity, especially the stuff seen in Pixar movies, so it's quite probable that they'd give us much attention to fine detail as possible. Production processes in games tend to have other goals, and keep visual detail as reasonably simple as possible to reduce the cost of rework wherever necessary, while still looking pretty good. Merging different animations / transforms can cause issues, so it's better to keep things simple, by and large. (But I doubt this applies much, here.)


Quit worrying about small factors and just write the code. If most of us were to sit around worrying about tiny issues like this, we'd never get anything done. It's a merged animation, and not a particularly complex one as these things go. It's not a big deal and has been done many, many times before. If it fits your style, great, do it. Just because others haven't included it in their games, doesn't mean there is any overarching technical limitation involved.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The merging process (which can have a huge number of special cases) is the reason why I asked about computation cost. I agree, that it is hard to notice breathing, esspecially when the character moves, however, many times when some dialogue happens both the PCs and the NPCs are usually dead logs. With increasing popularity of role-playing games, that kind of features my change the tide from boring interview to enjoyable scene. Anyway, thank you for your insight. \$\endgroup\$
    – dtldarek
    Dec 18, 2012 at 10:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Slightly offtopic. One of the things I loved in Deus Ex were breathing NPCs. That shows attention to details. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kromster
    Dec 18, 2012 at 12:21

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