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Three-dimensional detection and shape recovery of a nonrigid surface from video sequences require deformation models to effectively take advantage of potentially noisy image data. Here, we introduce an approach to creating such models for deformable 3D surfaces. We exploit the fact that the shape of an inextensible triangulated mesh can be parameterized in terms of a small subset of the angles between its facets. We use this set of angles to create a representative set of potential shapes, which we feed to a simple dimensionality reduction technique to produce low-dimensional 3D deformation models. We show that these models can be used to accurately model a wide range of deforming 3D surfaces from video sequences acquired under realistic conditions.