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This paper addresses the three-dimensional (3D) tracking of pose and animation of the human face in monocular image sequences using active appearance models. The major problem of the classical appearance-based adaptation is the high computational time resulting from the inclusion of a synthesis step in the iterative optimization. Whenever the dimension of the face space is large, a real-time performance cannot be achieved. In this paper, we aim at designing a fast and stable active appearance model search for 3D face tracking. The main contribution is a search algorithm whose CPU-time is not dependent on the dimension of the face space. Using this algorithm, we show that both the CPU-time and the likelihood of a nonaccurate tracking are reduced. Experiments evaluating the effectiveness of the proposed algorithm are reported, as well as method comparison and tracking synthetic and real image sequences.