Timing and Spacing in Animation
In my opinion, timing and spacing are the two most important aspects in animation. Both go hand in hand, but are completely different concepts. These two principles help your animated actions show weight (or lack thereof); speed or slowness of movement; help emphasis arcs and paths of action; show slow in or slow outs versus even spacing; hard or soft accents. AND probably much more that I’m not listing, (I’m sure of it). Quite honestly, I mixed up and misunderstood these concepts for the longest time. So don’t make the same mistakes I did. Here are some quick definitions:
Timing – The number of frames an action takes to complete.
Basically how long or how short an action is. 8 frames or 12 frames? You have to make a decision that best suits the action your character is going to perform. (Generally speaking, a punch versus a jump; two completely different actions that will need different timing to animate correctly.)
Spacing – This is the gap or amount of “space” between one drawing and the next.
How big or small the gap dictates the speed of the action. If the gap is big, you have a fast movement, if it is small, you’ll have slow movement. The drawings may also overlap each other (which probably indicates a slow movement or a held drawing if the drawings are identical.)
Here is an animation I threw together using a set of three bouncing balls to show off these two things. The timing of the three balls are identical at 14 frames. The spacing of the three is what gives the the feel of three different balls.
Here is a another video that I animated in maya demonstrating the same thing. Just click this sentence to view. In this video all of the balls start and stop at the exact same time, the spacing is what varies the movement.