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How Artificial Intelligence is Solving the Limitations of Keyframe Animation

Animators are all too familiar with the method of keyframe animation to simulate real-life movement. Keyframe animation is the simplest form of 3D animation and has been used for years by animators and 3D modelers as a go-to method to make 3D character models come to life.

The concept of keyframe animation is to define certain points of movement for a 3D character model, known as a keyframe, and then utilize a spline system to calculate the figure’s motion inside the keyframes. The animator refines the details once the program interpolates the essential frames linking the important ones.

Disadvantages of Keyframe Animation

Although keyframe animation has been a significant player in the world of 3D animation, there are some flaws with the method that its users have been forced to deal with. Because of the many moving parts of it, keyframe animation requires several specialists to achieve its goal. First, a concept artist must storyboard the concept of the character animation and all possible movements that it will have.

Next, a 3D modeler creates a 3D character based on the art provided by the concept artist. With a laundry list of tasks that must be done before the 3D animation even begins, it’s no surprise that this is a very time-consuming method for creating animation.


Once the 3D character has been created, a 3D animator designs the rig for it and then uses keyframe animation to create movement. It’s important to mention that the task of the 3D animator is not a quick and straightforward job. Each instance of the character’s movement must be defined, which involves the animator adjusting the movements of each keyframe. The intricacies of creating every movement within each keyframe lead to an excessive amount of time involved. In fact, most programming software demands 3 hours of work for every 1 second of animation on average.


The difficulty of using both paid and free animation programs is another notable issue with this animation method. Trying to capture natural motion and recreate weights and physics for a 3D character is never a simple task, but the programs are complex and often have a learning curve that requires the user to research how to perform small operations.


Finally, once the 3D animation is complete, each frame of the animation is processed separately. Depending on the specifications of the computer and the length and the quality of the animation, this could be a task that takes several hours to complete.  

With all of that being said, it’s understandable that keyframe animation is not a simple or quick operation for creating 3D animation. A perfect example of this is the movie, Toy Story. According to Wired, although many specialized and dedicated animators were involved in Toy Story, the movie required four years and 880,000 minutes of machine-hours to produce the 77-minute-long movie.

AI Motion Capture as a Solution

As a solution to the disadvantages of keyframe animation, AI motion capture is a revolutionary technology that allows animators to simulate life-like movement using just video content. In addition, this method is significantly quicker and simpler than adjusting every keyframe of the 3D model to create only a few seconds of output.


AI motion capture enables animators and 3D modelers to create 3D animations in just a few seconds using a video source. Once the video is uploaded, AI MoCap (AI Motion Capture) registers the subjects’ keyframes and transposes those keyframes to a targeted 3D character rig. This technology allows animators to convert long lengths of animation to their 3D models quickly.

Many AI MoCap platforms have several other advantages alongside animation abilities. PixCap has several features such as a web-based editor that allows animators to work from anywhere without downloading software. It also includes cloud storage where all characters and 3D assets can be saved in one place, real-time animation features that allow for team collaboration, and community-powered animations where projects can be uploaded or cloned from an ever-expanding library.


Disadvantages of AI Motion Capture

Unfortunately, AI motion capture is not as efficient as using a motion capture suit to imitate realistic and life-like movements. A motion capture suit is a wearable device that captures real-life movements, which is then applied to a 3D model. While this method of quickly capturing movement creates realistic animations, it can be quite expensive. 

Motion capture suits typically require special cameras, equipment, and software along with the suit to produce animations. The suits alone can cost anywhere between $500 to $10,000, and the cameras can start at $2,000, making the project’s total price very costly. AI MoCap is an excellent option for those who don’t have access to the equipment required for a motion capture suit and want to stay within a budget.

Another known disadvantage of using AI MoCap is sliding feet and clunky movements. These unrealistic movements can ruin the immersion of an animation. However, some AI MoCap platforms have strategically tackled these issues. For example, PixCap uses automatic foot detection to prevent sliding feet. PixCap also uses Inverse Kinematics (IK) to create smoother movements and animations. With IK, the targeted area is treated more like a human skeleton, giving the animator more natural control over the output of the animation.


The Future of AI Motion Capture

As technology and AI research continue to improve, 3D animators will likely continue to see several obstacles they face be overcome through AI. The current benefits of using AI Motion Capture are just a tiny insight into what is to come. In just a short period of time, AI MoCap has eradicated the issue of time that keyframe animators deal with and looks to simplify things further.


AI Motion Capture is not perfect, but advancements such as automatic feet detection and Inverse Kinematics have quickly solved some of the main problems. As a result, it provides a solution to both new and experienced animators who want the benefits of a reasonably priced animation platform without having to deal with the extensive time it takes to create traditional keyframe animations.

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