Data Export: C3D

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Tracking data can be exported into the C3D file format. C3D (Coordinate 3D) is a binary file format that is widely used especially in biomechanics and motion study applications. Recorded data from external devices, such as force plates and NI-DAQ devices, will be recorded within exported C3D files. Note that common biomechanics applications use a Z-up right-hand coordinate system, whereas Motive uses a Y-up right-hand coordinate system. More details on coordinate systems are described in the later section. Find more about C3D files from

C3D Export Options
Options Descriptions
Units Sets which unit is used in exported data.

(Exported unit maybe rescaled to a standard unit when imported into another software.)

Exported Unlabeled Marker Includes unlabeled marker data in the exported C3D file. When set to False, the file will contain data for only labeled markers.
Exported Frame Indices Start at Zero C3D specification defines first frame as index 1. Some applications import C3D files with first frame starting at index 0. Setting this option to true will add a start frame parameter with value zero in the data header.
Axis Can be set either in custom setting or in MotionBuilder Compatible axes convention. Read below for more information.
X Axis Allows customization of the axis convention in the exported file by determining which positional data to be included in the corresponding data set.
Y Axis
Z Axis
Rename Unlabeled As _000X Unlabeled markers will have incrementing labels with numbers _000#.
Use Timecode Includes timecode.
Marker Name Separator. Choose ":" or "_" for marker name separator. The name separator will be used to separate the asset name and the corresponding marker name in the exported data (e.g. AssetName:MarkerLabel or AssetName_MarkerLabel).

C3D Axes

Common Biomechanics Convention

C3D export setting for applications using z-up right-handed coordinate systems.

Since Motive uses a different coordinate system than the system used in common biomechanics applications, it is necessary to modify the coordinate axis to a compatible convention in the C3D exporter settings. For biomechanics applications using z-up right-handed convention (e.g. Visual3D, MotionMonitor), the following changes must be made under the custom axis.

  • X axis in Motive should be configured to positive X
  • Y axis in Motive should be configured to negative Z
  • Z axis in Motive should be configured to positive Y.

This will convert the coordinate axis of the exported data so that the x-axis represents the anteroposterior axis (left/right), the y-axis represents the mediolateral axis (front/back), and the z-axis represents the longitudinal axis (up/down).


Note: For Motive 1.10, Y axis must be converted to positive Z instead, this issue has been fixed on Motive 1.10.1 and above.

MotionBuilder Compatible Axis Convention

C3D export MotionBuilder compatible axis setting

This is a convenient option for setting the axes for use in Autodesk MotionBuilder. Even though Motive and MotionBuilder both use the same coordinate system, MotionBuilder assumes biomechanics standards when importing C3D files (negative X axis to positive X axis; positive Z to positive Y; positive Z to positive Y). Accordingly, when exporting C3D files for MotionBuilder use, set the Axis setting to MotionBuilder Compatible, and the axes will be exported using the following convention:

  • Motive: X axis → Set to negative X → Mobu: X axis
  • Motive: Y axis → Set to positive Z → Mobu: Y axis
  • Motive: Z axis → Set to positive Y → Mobu: Z axis