Maths - Conversion Matrix to Euler


Definition of terms:


heading = atan2(-m20,m00)
attitude = asin(m10)
bank = atan2(-m12,m11)

except when M10=1 (north pole)
which gives:
heading = atan2(M02,M22)
bank = 0
and when M10=-1 (south pole)
which gives:
heading = atan2(M02,M22)
bank = 0


This conversion is better avoided, since it is non-linier and has singularities at attitude + & - 90 degrees, so if already working in terms of matricies its better to continue using matrices if possible.

Note this only applies to a martix which represents a pure rotation. The equations for heading and bank should be independent of uniform scaling as it will cancel out in the division. It would be better to find an expression for attitude which is also independent of scaling.

If you have a different result from that shown on this page it may be that you are using different standards, I have tried to keep the standards consistant accross this site and I have tried to define the standards that I am using here. One of these standards is that the order that the euler rotations are applied is 'NASA standard aeroplane' it uses a slightly different coordinate definition from VRML (z and y axis swapped). Also when working with aeroplanes we often work in terms of the position of external objects relative to the aircraft (i.e. the inverse of its position transform as explained here). therefore to get the expression normally used with NASA aeroplane we invert all inputs (change sign of every term with odd number of sine terms) invert output (conjugate quaternion) swap z and y for inputs (swap z and y columns) swap z and y for outputs (swap z and y rows). In the case of aircraft it can make sense to work in terms of the local frame of reference of the aircraft looking out, I have a version of this page that does that here, but be careful as this will no longer be compatible with the rest of this site.

However if you have checked these things and you still have a discrepency then I have probably made an error so please let me know here.


/** this conversion uses conventions as described on page:
*   Coordinate System: right hand
*   Positive angle: right hand
*   Order of euler angles: heading first, then attitude, then bank
*   matrix row column ordering:
*   [m00 m01 m02]
*   [m10 m11 m12]
*   [m20 m21 m22]*/
public final void rotate(matrix  m) {
// Assuming the angles are in radians. if (m.m10 > 0.998) { // singularity at north pole heading = Math.atan2(m.m02,m.m22);
attitude = Math.PI/2; bank = 0; return; }
if (m.m10 < -0.998) { // singularity at south pole heading = Math.atan2(m.m02,m.m22);
attitude = -Math.PI/2; bank = 0; return; }
heading = Math.atan2(-m.m20,m.m00); bank = Math.atan2(-m.m12,m.m11); attitude = Math.asin(m.m10); }

Derivation of Equations

This depends on what conventions are used for the Euler Angles. See this page for an explanation of the conventions and standards used on this site.

So it we look at the Euler to Matrix conversion we can see that:

[R] =
ch*ca -ch*sa*cb + sh*sb ch*sa*sb + sh*cb
sa ca*cb -ca*sb
-sh*ca sh*sa*cb + ch*sb -sh*sa*sb + ch*cb

m20/m00 = -sh / ch = -tan(heading)
m12/m11 = -sb / cb =- tan(bank)
m10 = sa = sin(attitude)

so this gives:

heading = atan2(-m20,m00)
bank = atan2(-m12,m11)
attitude = asin(m10)

I have changed atan(y/x) to atan2(y,x) as described here. Since there are several ways to produce the same rotation using heading, bank and attitude then the solution is not unique. tan(0) is 0, tan(90 degrees) is infinity, tan(-90 degrees) is -infinity. So the results will depend on whether arctan processes a result between -90 and 90 or 0 and 180.
atan2(0.0,0.0)=0.0 (although Math.atan2 returns 0 this is abitary and if both    x and y is zero we need to find some other way to get to value)

This works at all points except the singularities at attitude = +90 and -90 degrees, at these points we will get atan2(0,0) for heading and bank which will return 0 although this is not a vailid result. We therfore need another way to work out heading and bank at the singularities.

Singularity at attitude = +90 degrees = straight up = north pole

ca = 0
sa = 1

which gives

[R] =
0 -ch*cb + sh*sb ch*sb + sh*cb
1 0 0
0 sh*cb + ch*sb -sh*sb + ch*cb

apply trig addition formula:

sin(A+B) = sin A cos B + cos A sin B
cos(A+B) = cos A cos B - sin A sin B

[R] =
0 -c(h+b) s(h+b)
1 0 0
0 s(h+b) c(h+b)

The value we want is has a range of 360 degrees, therefore we need it expressed in atan2 rather than asin or acos, therefore use:

M02/M22 = tan(h+b)


h + b = atan2(M02,M22)

in other words, when the aeroplane is flying straight up, it can be rotated by both heading and bank and the rotation is the sum of both. In this case I will choose to use heading and set bank to zero, so,

heading = atan2(M02,M22)
bank = 0

at attitude = -90 degrees

ca = 0
sa = -1

which gives

[R] =
0 ch*cb + sh*sb -ch*sb + sh*cb
-1 0 0
0 -sh*cb + ch*sb sh*sb + ch*cb

as before applying trig addition formula:

sin(A-B) = sin A cos B - cos A sin B
cos(A-B) = cos A cos B + sin A sin B

[R] =
0 c(h-b) s(h-b)
-1 0 0
0 -s(h-b) c(h-b)

M02/M22 = tan(h-b)


h - b = atan2(M02,M22)

in other words, when the aeroplane is flying straight down, it can be rotated by both heading and bank and the rotation is the difference. In this case I will choose to use heading and set bank to zero, so,

heading = atan2(M02,M22)
bank = 0

In order to try to get an intuative understanding of the singularities involved in converting other representations of 3D rotations to Euler angles it may help to look at the way we project the surface of a sphere onto a 2 dimensional map. This is a different case and it only involves two angles, latitude and longitude, but this simpler example may show the principles. This analogy is explained in more detail on this page.

At the north and south poles longitude does not matter so if we are converting some other description of north pole to latitude, longitude it might give any value for longitude, for example, infinity. So we have to be very careful at these points.

earth projection

Similarly we can map Euler angles to quaternions (4 dimensional hypersphere). This maps a one dimensional space (rotations around 0,1,0 axis) to a two dimensional plane in Euler terms. This is where attitude = 90° and heading, bank vary:

north pole

On this plane lines of common orientation are diagonal lines, that is rotation around 0,1,0 axis are given by angle = heading+bank.

Similarly for the south pole.


we take the 90 degree rotation from this: to this:

As shown here the matrix for this rotation is:

[R] =
1 0 0
0 0 -1
0 1 0

So using the above result:

heading = atan2(-m20,m00) = atan2(0,1) = 0
bank = atan2(-m12,m11) = atan2(1,0) = 90 degrees
attitude = asin(m10) = asin(0) = 0

As you can see here, this gives the result that we are looking for.

We have to be very careful about the following issues:

Angle Calculator and Further examples

I have put a java applet here which allows the values to be entered and the converted values shown along with a graphical representation of the orientation.

Also further examples in 90 degree steps here

metadata block
see also:


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