What is Forensic Animation?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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Forensic animation is a tool which is used in the investigation of criminal and civil incidents, and it may also be employed in a court of law to help one side press a case. Forensic animation has been in use in courtrooms since the 1990s, and the use of this technique is growing more and more common among investigators and in the legal community. Many fans of procedural shows like CSI and Bones are familiar with forensic animation and some of its potential applications.

In forensic animation, a scene or incident is brought to life through computer animation. The animation incorporates known information about the scene, and allows investigators to run through the incident, often employing multiple perspectives. For example, after a car accident, the use of a forensic animation to put the evidence together might show that a driver could not see an oncoming car due to an obstruction, thereby explaining how the accident occurred.

Investigators can use forensic animation to recreate crime scenes and explore different scenarios which might have occurred, and to incorporate all of the evidence to try and explain what happened, how, and when. Forensic animations can be valuable tools for criminal investigators, especially when they are working on complex cases, as the animation can provide new insight and a fresh perspective which may highlight details or draw the attention of an investigator towards an area of interest.


In court, forensic animations can be used to show a jury how an incident occurred. The visual demonstration can help some jurors get a better understanding of the case, and in some cases, forensic animations have been credited with making or breaking a case, demonstrating the power of visual information.

Substantive forensic animations focus on just the known facts, with the reconstruction informed by the expertise of forensic professionals and programs specifically designed for forensic animation. A computer program might, for example, be able to calculate things like friction on the basis of known conditions, weight of an object, and so forth. Demonstrative forensic animation is designed to set up a visual example of a scenario to show how things may have happened, or how things could have happened. In a product liability suit, for instance, the lawyer might use a forensic animation to show how the failure of a product could or could not cause injuries, depending on what side of the case the lawyer is arguing.


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What education do forensic animators usually have?

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