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Active appearance model (AAM) has been widely used in face tracking and recognition. However, accuracy and efficiency are always two main challenges with the AAM search. The paper therefore proposed a fast appearance-model based 3D face tracking algorithm to track a face appearance with significant translation, rotation, and scaling activities by using stochastic meta-descent (SMD) optimization scheme to accelerate the appearance model search and to improve the tracking efficiency and accuracy. The proposed algorithm constructs an active face appearance model by using several semantic landmark points extracted from each frame and then processes the appearance model search to approximate the model translating, rotating, and scaling by using the SMD filter to minimize the appearance difference between the current model and the new observation. We compared the results with both a conventional AAM and a Camshift filter and found that our algorithm outperforms both two in terms of efficiency and accuracy in tracking a fast moving, rotating, and scaling face object in a video sequence.