Airway cilia depend on precise changes in shape to transport the mucus gel overlying mucosal surfaces. The ciliary motion can be recorded in several planes using video microscopy. However, cilia are densely packed, and automated computerized systems are not available to convert these ciliary shape changes into forms that are useful for testing theoretical models of ciliary function. We developed a system for converting planar ciliary motions recorded by video microscopy into an empirical quantitative model, which is easy to use in validating mathematical models, or in examining ciliary function, e.g., in primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD). The system we developed allows the manipulation of a model cilium superimposed over a video of beating cilia. Data were analyzed to determine shear angles and velocity vectors of points along the cilium. Extracted waveforms were used to construct a composite waveform, which could be used as a standard. Variability was measured as the mean difference in position of points on individual waveforms and the standard. The shapes analyzed were the end-recovery, end-effective, and fastest moving effective and recovery with mean (± SE) differences of 0.31(0.04), 0.25(0.06), 0.50(0.12), 0.50(0.10), μm, respectively. In contrast, the same measures for three different PCD waveforms had values far outside this range.