Free 3D training | Disney’s 12 principles of animation: timing
Master Disney’s 12 classic principles of animation in 3D with Steve Lambert’s regular series of articles on the fundamentals of CG. This week: timing
Weta Digital’s animation director Steve Lambert continues his series on Disney’s 12 classic principles of animation, as he reveals how the pacing of your animation affects how it is perceived.
FOR: Any software | TIME TAKEN: 3 hours | TOPICS COVERED: Timing | ALSO REQUIRED: Maya (to view scene files)
Download the project and animation files for this training:
Timing really is everything.
You can have the perfect amount of squash and stretch, the most beautiful staging and the curviest arcs – but if your timing is off, it can make everything fall flat.
Timing is the glue that holds all the elements of animation together and sells the whole package.
In 3D we have a huge advantage in that timing is easy to massage into just the right place, unlike traditional 2D and stop-motion animation, where your timing needs to be perfect from the start.
There are two main areas of timing: physical and theatrical.
Physical timing is exactly what it sounds like: how objects should behave in the physical world due to gravity, weight, and mass. This isn’t to say that your actions must be pinpoint accurate, but they should at least be contextually believable and not jarring. You could say that physical timing relates to action that the viewer expects to happen, subconsciously or otherwise.
Theatrical timing relates to acting and performance: how long an action takes, or how long you hold a pose. For example, a character walking slowly might be doing so because they’re old, injured, unhappy or just plain huge… Changes in spacing can make drastic differences to the mood or interpretation of the performance by the viewer.
In the video examples, I’ve tried to illustrate both these aspects of timing purely by changing the spacing and nothing else. In the first clip (mov1), our hero is marauding his way through a city causing havoc. The speed of his movements and the physics of the props imply the scale of the scene – in other words, toy cars and cardboard buildings.
However, what I’m after is a more dramatic scale, with a giant boy in a life-sized city. To achieve this, you need to alter his mass. If he’s that much bigger, he will need more energy to overcome gravity, and he will slow down somewhat in doing so. This isn’t just a case of scaling out all the keys and slow-moing the piece. It’s about reinterpreting the speed of his movements to suit the weight being shifted and the greater distance being travelled.
You could have the most wonderful squash and stretch and beautiful arcs, but if your timing is off the animation will fall flat
These changes are mostly related to the physical timing of the piece (although there are often crossovers), but there are a couple of moments of purely theatrical timing that need tweaking as well. The holds around frames 75 and 120 (mov01) are too short to convey the mental processing that’s going on in our character. I want these to read more clearly, so I add some frames to pad out their length. Finally, mov03 has had some camera shake added, just to help sell the sense of scale.
Timing gives meaning to movement. Small changes in the spacing or your keys can make a world of difference to the understanding and impact of your scene – even without modifying a single pose. Observation of movement around you and even analysing filmed footage frame by frame is essential to developing your understanding and interpretation of timing.
To see the examples of these animation principles in action download the fundamentals_timing.zip
Coming up online:
- Solid design
This tutorial uses the ‘Andy’ rig created by John Doublestein for the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Want to learn more about animation?
(This article was first published in issue 125 of 3D World)
About the author
Steve Lambert has been working in the CG industry since 2001. Currently director of animation at Weta Workshop in New Zealand, his recent feature film work includes Prince Caspian and Avatar
on Friday, July 6th, 2012 at 5:00 pm under Guides, Tutorials.
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Tags: 3D basics, 3D training, animation tips, CG principles, cushioning, Disney’s 12 classic principles of animation, free, Free 3D training, Steve Lambert, timing, Weta Digital