The C3D (Coordinate 3D) file format was created for the AMASS photogrammetry software in the Biomechanics Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda Maryland. The AMASS suite, which generated the first C3D files, was developed by ADTECH under the direction of Steven Stanhope at the NIH, with an aim to develop a software format to replace the relatively inefficient biomechanics photogrammetry software systems in the early days of computerized motion capture. AMASS was the first software application to automate the identification of 3D motion capture trajectories – a task previously considered impossible by motion capture system vendors whose manual marker tracking applications could take users almost an hour to complete tasks that the AMASS software performed in a minute.
The C3D format defined an efficient and reliable method of storing synchronized 3D Point data and analog data, together with parameters describing the data, in a single file so that data collected in one motion capture lab could be transferred and analyzed in another lab by transferring a single file. As a result the C3D file format has been in widespread use since 1987.