I'm new here so please bear with me... I've gone through search results but i couldn't find quite what i was looking for. for easier understanding, i shall explain my goal and hopefully you shall understand what exactly I'm trying to achieve.

I want to create an animated video of an exercise, e.g someone doing crunches and another doing reverse crunches. The goal is to realistically illustrate the exercise itself... and i think have 3 options so far.

note: I don't know how to do any of these things (yet) ;D

  1. record a short clip of a real person exercising and convert it into an animation
  2. create the animation of a full person from scratch
  3. create the animation of the outline of a person doing the exercise

can anyone recommend a better method and point me in the right direction? which software should i look for and use?

note: I'm not looking to create an extremely detailed video, just one that shows exactly how the exercise should be performed even though it's simply an outline of a person doing an exercise.

any suggestions are welcome

  • Motion Capture would be the ideal solution. Also he most expensive.
    – DA01
    Jul 23, 2013 at 18:08

2 Answers 2


For a repetitive exercise, you are in luck: you can optimize the heck out of it.

A "crunch" starts in position A, moves to position B, and then back to position A; repeat. For a simplified animation, you can refine this to A>B, REVERSE the animation B>A, and then repeat. For a crunch, A>B takes about 1 second. For interlaced video, you only need 30 frames, for progressive video, you need 60. (approximately)

You might try setting up a tripod with a 1080p camera. For a backdrop, use pure white and light the scene so the actor cast very little shadow. Clothe the actor in very solid colors and clothes which do not wrinkle or fold too much. Film some repetitions. Note that for this type of thing you can get away with fifteen frames per second or even using "sports rapid shutter mode" if your camera can support it. You will wind up with choppier animations but this may be acceptable depending on the style.

Extract the best sequence of frames that you can use to play forwards and back in the A>B<A manner. Take a few sample frames and experiment by converting to greyscale and adjusting using "threshold" filters to get a uniform look across frames and which is highly simplified with respect to the rendering of the forms in the original video. Write down your preferred setting(s).

Import each sample frame modified above into illustrator and experiment with the best live trace settings. Write them down.

If you like what you have, record the settings changes you wrote down above as actions and then batch process the whole frameset; repeat for illustrator.

You should now have a frameset of A > B < A vector images which you can then compile into e.g. flash animations. You can skip the vector step if you need to.

The uniform post-processing and simplified backdrop for the initial video capture makes it easier for you to stay "on brand" when you go to add more content later.

A quick way to see your animation is to put all the frames in a containing folder in the format 000_frame.jpg, set your OS file browser to a preview or thumbnail mode and then rapidly cycle through.


Rotoscoping comes to my mind first, but it can be extremely time consuming. You can export the clip as frames and use them as guides to draw over them (maybe every 3rd or 4th frame, depending on how smooth you want it to be). It's beautiful in the end, but you'll work for it. Otherwise, if you can run the clip through filter that will make it 'look' like an animation you'll save a ton of time, but loose most of the control that manual process offers. But, if you start with a really high quality clip, you might get away with it. I've done one of these the hard way and liked it, but it's tedious. Little googling turns up [enter link description here]http://www.silhouettefx.com/store/Silhouette/2 and Adobe Aftereffects, so some options will be determined by your budget.

  • thanx 4 the answer. I'd read about rotoscoping earlier on and you're right, it sounds like quite some work... but ur second suggestion "if you can run the clip through filter that will make it 'look' like an animation you'll save a ton of time..." is actually what i think i should figure out how to do... the quality is not really an issue for me... i simply want to demonstrate how to do the actual exercise in the easiest way possible
    – AllanM
    Jul 23, 2013 at 18:49
  • that might be your best option then, unfortunately I've not played with that, so can't help past that point :-)
    – vector
    Jul 23, 2013 at 19:05
  • No problem, I'll keep doing some research and hope for another answer... at the least, you provided a viable suggestion, cheers!
    – AllanM
    Jul 23, 2013 at 21:03

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