Saturday, October 15, 2005

Thoughts on Timing

In the intro to my first VTS video about timing I made the statement that timing is one of those things that is so hard to put down into rules. In fact there's precious little recorded info on how to time things compared to the large collection of writings about drawings/pose, etc. So many of the principles of animation are about the actual drawings/poses themselves. We have the huge collection of Walt Stanchfield notes about drawing for animation. But unfortunately there's no real equivalent Walt Stanchfield of timing. When it comes to timing almost all the old masters just usually said "Well, it takes time to learn that. You just eventually figure it out." Milt Kahl just blurted out "Well, you just know!" Not much to go on for students who want the answers to making better animation today. Heh.

Well by way of backing up my statements here's an exerpt from an interview between Dick Williams and Ken Harris about timing. You should know who both of these gentlemen are, but if you don't, read the links for more info.

Anyhow, here you go...

DICK: How do you learn to time the actions? If you're acting it out in your
mind, how do you time it?

KEN: That takes experience. You just time it by timing it. You get to know how long it takes to do a thing the way you want to do it.

DICK: When you started, did you have stop-watches?

KEN: We had metronomes; You could set a metronome on 6's or 8’s or 10's if you wanted a walk or anything like that. We had Carl Stallings, the musician Disney first brought to Hollywood. Carl used to give us a lot of pointers on music timing. We would ask Carl about what music phrase or number of bars that he wanted to do a thing in. Also, the Director would time it out himself - the way he wanted to do it, and we would also confer with Carl in getting the music timing. Oh, learning timing comes so gradually; It's like Benny Washam's 12-frame yawn.
When you first start out animating something, it takes so long to make those drawings that you think, "Gee, whizz, this will take up a lot of screen time. It's taken me half a day to make 12 drawings, and that must make a long, slow yawn." Well, half a second for a yawn isn't very long, is it? It just takes experience in timing, and doing things, and tapping it out with a pencil - beating it out per foot, 'till you get to know.

DICK : So you get to know the length of time of a second. It’s completely set in your mind; You know exactly what you're going to do?

KEN: Yes, I know pretty much. And I know how many frames I need to
accent something, and I know how many frames I need to slow out of it; A guy says something like, "Get going!", well, "get" would be this picture here, and here, and an in-between, and that's the accent, and when the head is up here you slow out of it. You don't just bang it back down again - you use maybe 6 to 8 drawings to get back to where you started it. But that's all timing that you've gotten by experience which you've had. You know how fast the film goes through. A stop-watch is good to time the length of scenes and such, but the stop-watch doesn't cut it down to a point where you can get a quick accent.
It’s like that guy where you made him shoot himself. You took some frames out of where his head went back when the bullet hits his head. You even could take all the frames out. If his head was here and he pulled the trigger, and his head went clear over to here without any in-between, it would work. It works well the way it is - but if you want it to bang harder, and if it was a bigger bore gun, and you wanted a real blast you could just leave out the in-betweens.
Lots of times, we will take a little fish, or a humming bird going from one rose to another…this humming bird will flutter here and then, bang! - he's over there with maybe just one elongated blur on ones, and then a 'cushion'. You can do almost anything by just starting something here and cushioning it way over here. You don't need any in-betweens.

So there you have it. You learn it by doing it.


Lars van Schagen said...

What Ken Harris says is like that moment in karate kid that the teacher (Geat animator) go's; 'All you need to know now is; wash on, wash off' And the kid (student animator) is looking at him like; 'Is this it?! really, is this all i'm gonna do?', 'yes!' the teacher goes 'That's all you ever need to know.' ... really you know your learning from a master but still it feels kinda weird that that is all that's to it.


Anonymous said...

There's a great little chart in "The Illusion of Life" that has some hints on timing. Taking a drawing of someone with their head leaning to the left and one to the right. Then add inbetweens. Obviously the more inbetweens you add the slower the head moves, but it also gives a different feeling. One or two inbetweens makes a dodge or a nervous tic. Adding more makes the character say, "c'mere", or stretch a sore muscle. Every drawing added creates a different meaning. Basically, Frank & Ollie were saying that timing is crucial to the character's thought process.
"What is the character thinking and how does he feel?"
- Tim

Drew said...

one of our teachers asked, "how long does it take to make a ball bounce?" after some unsure guesses of "12 frames?" and "is it on ones or twos?" the answer came. "however long you want it to take." the most important thing is not neccessarily how long you want it to take, but however long is right for that given action. and that does depend on your eye for it.

Ryan Hagen said...

Couldn't you also just say timing is situational? Style has a deciding factor in timing as well. Anyways...great VTS this month Keith!!!

J said...

Yeah I think its something that comes with practise and experience. The more you do something, the more familiar you get with it. I think, like anything else, people have their own timing styles, outside of pre established animation conventions, which makes things really interesting, and unique.

Anonymous said...

Hey if you can ever find it posted, Eric Goldberg has a great set of notes on timing. He did a great lecture on how to effectively mix drawings on ones and twos to make your animation snappier. Unfortunately, these principles don't apply the same in CG, but it would be good for younger animator animators to read. He shows how all action isn't necessarily smooth and what goes on between the frames is just as important as what happens in the frames.
I have a xerox copy somewhere in a closet. But does anybody know if these notes are posted anywhere for the rest of you?
I'm not real web savvy to post them on my own.
- T

Keith Lango said...

I've heard of Eric's notes, but I've never sen them posted anywhere. If you want you can send a copy of them to me and I can scan and post them. :)


Ryan Hagen said...

Mixing 1's and 2's causes jerky animation doesn't it? I would think it would...pops where you're switch and things like that. I may be wrong but if I remember correctly its a pretty painful process to get it right. I would definately like to see Eric's note on that.

Anonymous said...

Actually, mixing 1's & 2's is very common. You just can't do it indescriminately. In "Lion King", Tony Fucile even threw in a few 3's when animating the shot when Mufasa was giving noogies to Young Simba (I did clean-up of Simba on that shot). I wouldn't doubt that he mixed timing on many of his other scenes, too. In 2D, the rules is: Do what works.
- T
P.S. Keith, I'll try and dig up those notes for ya.