Animation Timing Explained: Why It’s Important and How to Use It

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Animation is all about timing. It’s the key to controlling movement and speed, and making the animation look natural and believable.

In this article, I’ll explain what timing is, how to use it in animation, and how to master it.

What is timing in animation

Mastering the Art of Timing in Animation

In the world of animation, timing is everything. It’s the secret sauce that brings your creations to life and makes them feel real. Without proper timing, your animations will feel unnatural and robotic. To truly master the art of animation, you must learn to control the speed and movement of your objects, ensuring that they obey the laws of physics and create a sense of believability.

Breaking Down the Basics: Frames and Spacing

To get started with timing in animation, you need to understand the fundamental building blocks: frames and spacing. Frames are the individual images that make up an animation, while spacing refers to the distance between these frames.

  • Frames: In animation, each frame represents a single moment in time. The more frames you have, the smoother and more detailed your animation will be.
  • Spacing: The spacing between frames determines the speed and movement of your objects. By adjusting the spacing, you can create the illusion of objects moving faster or slower, or even coming to a complete stop.

Creating Movement with Timing and Spacing

When it comes to animating objects, timing and spacing go hand in hand. By manipulating these two elements, you can create a wide range of movements and speeds. For example, let’s say you’re animating a ball bouncing across the screen. To make the ball appear to move quickly, you would use fewer frames and larger spacing. Conversely, if you wanted the ball to move slowly, you would use more frames and smaller spacing.


Adding Ease to Your Animations

One of the key principles of animation is the concept of “ease.” Ease refers to the gradual acceleration or deceleration of an object’s movement, which helps create a more natural and believable motion. To implement ease in your animations, you can adjust the spacing between frames to create a sense of acceleration or deceleration.

  • Ease In: To create the illusion of an object gradually speeding up, start with smaller spacing between frames and gradually increase the spacing as the object moves.
  • Ease Out: To create the illusion of an object gradually slowing down, start with larger spacing between frames and gradually decrease the spacing as the object comes to a stop.

Timing in Film and Animation

In film and animation, timing plays a crucial role in creating a sense of realism and believability. By carefully controlling the speed and movement of your objects, you can create animations that feel natural and engaging. Whether you’re animating a character running, a ball bouncing, or a car speeding down the highway, mastering the art of timing will help you bring your creations to life and leave your audience captivated.

Mastering the Art of Timing in Animation

As an animator, I’ve learned that timing is everything. It’s the secret sauce that can make or break an animation. Implementing timing into an animation starts with understanding spacing and frames. Think of frames as the individual snapshots that make up the movement, and spacing as the distance between those snapshots.

  • Frames: Each frame represents a distinct moment in time. The more frames you have, the smoother and more detailed your animation will be.
  • Spacing: This refers to the distance between the frames, which affects the speed and fluidity of the movement.

By adjusting the spacing between frames, you can create a sense of weight and scale, as well as convey emotion and anticipation.

Obeying the Laws of Physics

When I first started animating, I quickly realized that the laws of physics are essential to creating believable movement. For example, an object thrown into the air will gradually slow down as it reaches its peak, and then accelerate as it falls back to the ground. By understanding these principles, you can implement timing that feels natural and true to life.

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  • Anticipation: Build up tension before a major action, like a character winding up before throwing a punch.
  • Scaling: Use timing to convey the size and weight of an object. Larger objects will generally move slower, while smaller objects can move more quickly.

Conveying Emotion Through Timing

As an animator, one of my favorite challenges is using timing to convey emotion. The pace of an animation can greatly impact the emotional response of the viewer. For example, a slow, drawn-out movement can create a sense of sadness or longing, while a quick, snappy action can evoke excitement or surprise.

  • Emotional pacing: Adjust the timing of your animation to match the emotional tone of the scene. This can be done by speeding up or slowing down the movement, as well as adding pauses or holds for emphasis.
  • Exaggeration: Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of timing to create a more dramatic effect. This can help emphasize the emotion and make the animation more engaging.

Putting It All Together: Implementing Timing in Your Animation

Now that you understand the importance of timing, spacing, and frames, it’s time to put it all into practice. Here are some steps to help you implement timing into your animation:

1. Plan your animation: Sketch out your key poses and determine the timing of each action. This will give you a roadmap to follow as you create your animation.
2. Block out your keyframes: Start by setting up the key poses in your animation software. This will give you a rough idea of the timing and spacing of your animation.
3. Refine your timing: Adjust the spacing between keyframes to create the desired movement and emotion. This may involve adding or removing frames, as well as tweaking the timing of individual actions.
4. Polish your animation: Once you’re happy with the overall timing, go back and fine-tune the details. This may include adding secondary actions, overlapping movements, or smoothing out any rough transitions.

By following these steps and keeping the principles of timing in mind, you’ll be well on your way to creating captivating animations that truly come to life.

The Enduring Importance of Animation Timing Charts

Remember the good ol’ days when we used to hand-draw every single frame of an animation? Yeah, me neither. But I’ve heard stories from the animation veterans, and let me tell you, it was no walk in the park. Nowadays, we’ve got all these fancy computer programs to help us out, but there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: the importance of timing.

You see, animation is all about making things move in a believable way, and that’s where timing comes into play. It’s the secret sauce that makes our animated characters feel alive and not like some robotic, lifeless puppet. And that’s why animation timing charts still play a vital role today.

Techniques That Stand the Test of Time

Sure, technology has come a long way, but some techniques are just too essential to be replaced. In-betweening, for example, is a tried-and-true method that helps us create smooth, fluid motion. And guess what? Animation timing charts are the backbone of this technique.

Here’s a quick rundown of why animation timing charts are still indispensable:

  • They help us plan the speed of a movement, making it look more natural and believable.
  • They allow us to visualize the spacing between keyframes, ensuring that our animations don’t feel too jerky or uneven.
  • They provide a clear roadmap for in-betweening, making the process more efficient and accurate.

Adapting to the Digital Age

Now, you might be thinking, “But we’ve got all these fancy digital tools now, so why do we still need timing charts?” Well, my friend, it’s because these charts are just as useful in the digital realm as they were in the days of hand-drawn animation.

In fact, many of the top animation software programs still incorporate timing charts in some form or another. They might look a little different, but the principles remain the same. And that’s because, at the end of the day, animation is still an art form that relies on the skill and intuition of the animator.

So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out in the world of animation, don’t forget the importance of timing charts. They might seem old-school, but they’re still playing a vital role in making our animated worlds come to life.

Timing vs Spacing: The Dynamic Duo in Animation

As an animator, I’ve come to appreciate the subtle nuances that make a great animation. Two essential principles that often go hand-in-hand are timing and spacing. Timing refers to the number of frames it takes for an action to occur, while spacing involves the placement of keyframes to create smooth, dynamic motion. To put it simply:

  • Timing is about the duration of an action
  • Spacing is about the distribution of frames within that action

Why Both Timing and Spacing Matter

In my experience, it’s crucial to strike a balance between timing and spacing to produce a powerful and engaging animation. Here’s why:

  • Timing sets the pace and rhythm of an animation, helping to convey emotion and character
  • Spacing allows for the creation of more fluid and lifelike motion, making the animation feel more natural and less linear

Examples of Timing and Spacing at Work

To better illustrate the importance of timing and spacing, let’s look at some examples from my own animation journey:

Character running:
When animating a character running, timing is essential to make the action appear realistic. If the character’s legs move too quickly or too slowly, the animation will feel off. Spacing, on the other hand, helps create the illusion of force and weight as the character’s feet hit the ground.

Object hitting another:
In this scenario, timing is crucial to make the impact feel powerful and believable. If the action happens too fast or too slow, it loses its impact. Spacing comes into play by adding tension and anticipation, making the hit feel more dynamic.

Implementing Timing and Spacing in Your Animation Workflow

As an animator, it’s important to understand and apply both timing and spacing principles to your work. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:

Start with timing:
Determine how long an action should take and set the keyframes accordingly. This will serve as a foundation for your animation.

Adjust spacing:
Once you have the timing in place, fine-tune the spacing between keyframes to create smooth, fluid motion. This may involve adding or removing frames, depending on the desired effect.

Experiment with different styles:
Don’t be afraid to play around with timing and spacing to create unique animation styles. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to animation.

Stay consistent:
Consistency is key when it comes to timing and spacing. Make sure your animation adheres to the same principles throughout to maintain a cohesive look and feel.

Use reference materials:
When in doubt, turn to real-life examples or other animations for guidance on timing and spacing. This can help you better understand how these principles should be applied in your own work.


So, timing is the secret to making your animation look and feel realistic. It’s all about controlling the speed of your objects and making them obey the laws of physics. You can do this by understanding the basics of frames, spacing, and timing, and using them together to control your animation.

Hi, I'm Kim, a mom and a stop-motion enthusiast with a background in media creation and web development. I've got a huge passion for drawing and animation, and now I'm diving headfirst into the stop-motion world. With my blog, I'm sharing my learnings with you guys.