In biomechanical research, we often collecting motion capture (marker trajectories) and force (analog data) data to calculate joint kinematics (joint angles and joint angular velocities) and joint kinetics (joint moments and joint power). Usually, this experimental data is collected with motion capturing software such as Qualysis Track Manager or Vicon Nexus, to name only a few. Regardless of the uses software to capture the biomechanical data the C3D file extension has been established as a standard for further data processing. Although C3D-files can be opened by the Motion Capturing Software, resource-saving and open source tools are available to visualize and manipulate C3D files.

C3D Visualization

Mokka is free to use and cross-platform software to easily analyze biomechanical data. Mokka can be downloaded from the website and requires no installation.

After downloading and unpacking the Mokka version for your operating system the folder should be looked like this:

Figure 1: Example Mokka for Windows

After opening Mokka.exe the graphical user interface (GUI) look like this:

Figure 2: Grafical User Interface Mokka

1. Load the Running_Example.c3d file 

Load a file by choosing File -> Open. After loading the Running_Example.c3d file the GUI should look like this:

Figure 3: Mokka Graphical User Interface with loaded Experimental Data

Within the GUI you can explore the captured 3-dimensional experimental data.

Each gray Point represents a spherical marker attached to the human body. By clicking on a specific marker, the name (often referred to as the marker label) is highlighted on the right-hand side list box.

2. Inspect the data

With the play button at the left lower corner of the GUI, you can see how the participant is running. Alternatively, you can use the time bar to inspect every frame (point in time) of your experimental data.

The chart window can provide further information about the single components of your data. Note if the chart window is not shown go to Window ->Layout -> 3D and Charts. Now you can drag and drop labeled markers from the List box to the chart window, to see its X, Y, and Z coordinates over each instant in time.

Within the list box, you can also scroll down to the force platform data (if exist). For the provided example Force Platform #2 was used. You can expand the force platform #2 field and can visualize the force components (Forces and Moments) in the same way as the marker trajectories by drag and drop the component to the chart view.

However, when having many markers attached to your participant, visual inspection of your marker trajectories can become cumbersome. Therefore loading a model fitting to your data can be helpful.

3. Load a model

For this tutorial, we have already generated a model for our marker setup. To load the model go to Edit -> Options. Check the box Use default configuration and click on Choose. Select the file we have provided named full_body_Model.mvc. After the operation has been completed the 3D view should contain different colored markers and connected segments.

Figure 4: Experimental data with predefined segments and different colored markers.

Please note that the model has been adjusted to the used marker set. When using your experimental data with different marker names you need to define new segments according to your marker names. New Segments can be generated under Tools -> Model -> New Segment.

4. Crop your data

For further data processing, it is sometimes useful to crop your C3D files. Mokka provides the ability to crop (or cut) your C3D files very easily. Within the time bar, you can use the sliders to the left and the right end of the time bar to crop the C3D file. The frames which are removed from the C3D file are marked in blue. When right-click anywhere in the time bar  you can select Crop Frame of Interest. Finally, you need to store the cropped file (File -> Save As or Save to overwrite the existing file).

Figure 5: Cropping a C3D file within the Mokka Graphical User Interface

Although, Mokka is useful for visualization purpose it does not allow to calculate joint kinematics and kinetics. It becomes also extraordinary time consuming when much experiential data needs to be batch processed. Within the next step, we would like to show you how to read in C3D files into MatLab.

C3D File Loading with Matlab

For loading C3D files into your MatLab workspace you first need to download some additional, open-source functions. The biomechanical toolkit (b-tk) is a frequently used cross-platform toolkit for reading, writing, and manipulating C3D files.

First, you need to download, b-tk from the website ( Please ensure to download the correct version for your operating system. For us, the version works best.  After downloading the toolkit you need to unpack the archive by using a standard archive converter.

Now you need to tell MatLab where all the b-tk functions are located. Open MatLab and go to Home Set Path Add with Subfolders… and selected the folder (in our example btk-0.3.0_Win7_MatlabR2009b_64bit, note use the unpacked data folder and not the compressed archive).

You can check if the Path is set correctly when typing v = btkGetVersion into your MatLab command window.

If MatLab outputs a version number (for example ‘0.3.0’) the path is set correctly.

Figure 6: Add the b-tk functions to the MatLab path.

Working with BTK

You can now read, manipulate, and write C3D files with MatLab. For the full list of the b-tk function please refer to the following webpage

Here is just a simple Code the get started with b-tk and MatLab.

The code will show how to read and add Virtual Markers to a C3D file (static trail).

Furthermore, the code will show how to calculate stance time based on Force data and add touchdown and toe-off events to a C3D (rung trail). An additional Matlab script is provided (btkandmatlabexample.m):

%% some basic start commands 
clc %clear the command window 
clear all %clear the workspace
close all %close all open figures
v = btkGetVersion % get the current BTK version 
%% Add the Joint Center of the right Knee to the Static Reference Trail as a virtual marker
%add a marker to the static reference trail
filename= ('Static_Example.c3d'); %the filename of the Static reference
acqstatic = btkReadAcquisition(filename); % read the static c3d file
[markersStatic, markersInfoStatic, markersResidualStatic] = btkGetMarkers(acqstatic) % get marker information from the static c3d file
%the output for example markersStatic is a maatlab structure with all
%labeled markers and its X Y and Z componets
%The knee joint center is often calculated as the midpoint between the
%medial and the lateral epicondylus marker
            x1=markersStatic.epi_med_right(:,1); % x componets medial epicondylus marker
            x2=markersStatic.epi_lat_right(:,1); % x componets lateral epicondylus marker
            y1=markersStatic.epi_med_right(:,2); % y componets medial epicondylus marker
            y2=markersStatic.epi_lat_right(:,2); % y componets lateral epicondylus marker
            z1=markersStatic.epi_med_right(:,3); % z componets medial epicondylus marker
            z2 =markersStatic.epi_lat_right(:,3);% z componets lateral epicondylus marker
            M_p = [(x1+x2)/2, (y1+y2)/2, (z1+z2)/2]; %calculate the midpoint half the way /2 of the two marker distance
[points, pointsInfo] = btkAppendPoint(acqstatic, 'marker' , 'V_Knee_Joint_Center_right',M_p, markersResidualStatic.epi_lat_right);
%append a point to the Acquisition with the name
%'V_Knee_Joint_Center_right' and the coordinates from the Matrix M_p,
%markersResidualStatic.epi_lat_right are the residuals of the new virtual marker and
%can simply be used from an existing marker
btkWriteAcquisition(acqstatic, 'Static_Example_with_Knee_Joint_Center_right.c3d') %write a new C3D file with the Virtual marker appended
%close the previously opened C3D file
%% Load a example file for Running and calculate Stance Time of the right leg based on the Force data
%% add Toutchdown and Toe off events to the C3D
%load a example file
filename= ('Running_Example.c3d'); %the filename of the running c3d
acqrunning = btkReadAcquisition(filename);  % read the running c3d file
%% get the marker data
[markers, markersInfo, markersResidual] = btkGetMarkers(acqrunning)
%markers contains all marker with its X Y and Z coordinates 
%% plot a marker trajectory
plot(markers.C_7) % plot the marker coordinates of the C_7 marker
legend ('X', 'Y', 'Z')
legend boxoff
box off
ylabel ('Coordinates in mm')
xlabel ('Frame Number Marker Data')
%% get the raw force data
[forceplates, forceplatesInfo] = btkGetForcePlatforms(acqrunning)
% get the Ground Reaction Forces
grw = btkGetGroundReactionWrenches(acqrunning)
%% plot the vertical Ground Reaction Force
plot(grw(2).F(:,end)) % in this example the participant hits the force plate 2 with the right leg
box off
xlabel ('Frame Number Force Data')
ylabel ('Vertical Ground Reaction Force')
%% calculate stance time based on ground reaction force
vGRF = grw(2).F(:,end);
%use a force threshold to determine the stance time
thresholdforce = 20% N when 20 N of the vGRF
[stance_frames_Analog_based]=find (vGRF>= thresholdforce) %stance_frames containg all Frames of the vGRF which are above 20N
stance_number_of_frames_Analog_based = length (stance_frames_Analog_based) %the total number of frames where the stance phase has be determined
analog_frequency = btkGetAnalogFrequency(acqrunning) % get the analof frequency in Hz of the Analogchannels
stance_time_Analog_based = stance_number_of_frames_Analog_based/analog_frequency % stance time in seconds
%% add Touchdown and Toe off as events into your C3d Files
%this must be based on the point frequency (the frequency of the markers)
btkClearEvents(acqrunning) %clear events if exist
%fet the first frame of the aqquistion
first_frame= btkGetFirstFrame(acqrunning)
af = btkGetAnalogFrequency(acqrunning); %analog frequency
pf = btkGetPointFrequency(acqrunning);  %marker frequency
fkratio = af/pf;
Down_sampled_Force = downsample(grw(2).F(:,end),fkratio); %The analoag data downsampled to the frequency of the markers
[stance_frames]=find (Down_sampled_Force >= thresholdforce) %stance_frames containg all Frames of the vGRF which are above 20N
stance_number_of_frames = length (stance_frames) %the total number of frames where the stance phase has be determined
analog_frequency = btkGetAnalogFrequency(acqrunning) % get the analof frequency in Hz of the Analogchannels
stance_time = stance_number_of_frames/pf % stance time in seconds
TD = stance_frames(1,1)-2;
TO = stance_frames(end,1);
dt = 1 / pf;
ff = btkGetFirstFrame(acqrunning);
td = ((ff+TD)*dt);%in c3d time format
to = ((ff+TO)*dt);%in c3d time format
btkAppendEvent(acqrunning, 'TD', td, 'Right');
btkAppendEvent(acqrunning, 'TO', to, 'Right');
btkWriteAcquisition(acqrunning, 'Running_Example_with_Events.c3d') % Please check the new written C3D file in´the folder showing events in the timebar
%% close the previously opened C3D file
%% have fun :)
S(1) = load('gong');

Example Data

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  1. Hi,

    The information regarding the BTK tutorial is very helpful. However, I tried to use my MacOS (M1) chip to access the btk (, but the mex file is invalid. I am wondering if you know the btk can be operated in the Mac M1 system or not?
    Really appreciate it.


    1. Dear Tracy,
      I have heard more often among students that there are problems with BTK and Mac. Unfortunately, none of us are Mac users and know of a really nice solution to your problem. One solution was to use a Windows emulator…. As I said, not a great one, but seems to work.

      Hope that helps!

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