What Is MMD?

If you happen to search for “MMD” in either Youtube or Japan’s Niconico, you’ll find over a hundred thousand videos of CG girls – many of them starring Miku Hatsune – dancing and singing to J-pop music.  These short videos, however, are not created by professionals but made by amateurs.

MMD is an acronym for MikuMikuDance, a free animation software originally created by Yu Higuchi with the Vocaloid character Miku Hatsune in mind.

What is Vocaloid and who is Miku Hatsune, you might ask?  In a nutshell, Vocaloid is a singing voice synthesizer which allows the user to synthesize singing by typing in lyrics and a melody.  Miku Hatsune was created as the software’s mascot, and has since risen to Japanese Idol stardom.

So while the Vocaloid software allows you to create the music, MMD lets you create the CG videos.  3-D models like Miku Hatsune can either be downloaded freely, or created by the more experienced designers.  The character’s facial expressions and movements are rather simple to create, compared with more complex programs such as Maya or Poser, and MMD even allows users to create motion capture with Microsoft’s Kinect.

Here in Japan, the 10th MMD Cup was recently held; a fan-run online contest of MMD videos with over 500 amateur contenders.  Even the advertising has jumped on the MikuMikuDance-wagon, such as the Lawson convenience store chain with its original Vocaloid character promoting its oden.

What’s the future for MMD?  Its popularity only seems to be on the rise, and while the software supports both Japanese and English, its growing fandom in the global market for 3-D anime hobbyists has encouraged accessibility in other languages to be in the works.  While Japan is well known for its high quality animation, their 3-D film studio struggles to compete with such big-budges films by Pixar and Dreamworks.  Perhaps MikuMikuDance is a way for Japan to sneak in through the back door to the competition arena.


by Damon Finos