Frame estimate for animation

Hi Gurus

I am trying to come up with an estimate for 22 mts animation at 12 fps /sec.

My question is, how to arrive at the number of frames really animated, frames spent on dialogs,holds and camera moves ?

Is there is any time tested rule which could provide a good approximations ?


To determine the number of frames needed to represent an amount of time, you first determine the time you want to represent in seconds and then you multiply that time in seconds by the frame rate of your movie in frames per second the result will be the number of frames.

seconds X frames/second = frames (the formula)

So how do you apply this? You start by taking any action (a character walking, or gesturing, or speaking some dialog, or a camera move) and you determine how long that action should be seen on the screen, the screen time. Then you apply the formula above. The frame rate of a movie is always a constant it never changes (IE. 12FPS or 15 FPS or 24FPS).

The amount of screen time desired to represent an action is an artistic / physical decision. You have to balance your artistic interpretation with a certain amount of attention to what makes sense in the physical world as well as considering the ability of your audience to follow the actions. If you make the actions too fast the audience misses them and too slow you lose the audience’s attention etc. With dialog the amount of time and how it is animated is determined by the dialog recording and how you are presenting the performance (the acting) associated with the delivery of that dialog.

As to the number of changes VS holds that is a matter of artistic and economic considerations and falls under the realm of timing. So I suggest you read these articles which I wrote as they will give you some insights into animation timing.


But beyond using the formula for converting time to frames, there are no magic formulas for determining how your work will breakdown in terms of which frames will be what. That totally depends on what you are trying to communicate and how you want to communicate it shot by shot and scene by scene. Hope this is helpful -JK

Hi JK,

Thanks for taking time to respond to my question. Your explanation clearly my head a little bit. I am creating an animatics (just a rough) which will be used to record the audio track for the final animation which will be a sort of limited animation in style. The plan is to pose the characters, make them deliver dialogs ( this is just extending enough exposures of last frame) and followed by little action like hand gestures, walk cycles etc.

My own estimate( i could be wrong) is as follows at 12 fps * 22 mts = 15840 frames

1. One frame for every phoneme, if the animation is dialog intensive, then this could halve the total number of frames to be animated.

2. 6 frames for every eye blink.

3. Another 1000 to 2000 frames for holds and camera moves.

So, that leaves around 5000 frames doing the real thing :slight_smile: anymore thoughts on this idea are welcome.

Thanks for the link and great articles.

It is not really possible to guesstimate much beyond the total frames it takes to create a desired amount of screen time. More importantly it is very difficult to estimate how a large number of frames will be used. Your best bet is to assume that for limited animation you can work on 3’s or 4’s so that will give you a guideline. At 24 FPS, 60 seconds is 1440 frames and if you are working on 4’s that means that at least 360 of those frames will be unique. But also in limited animation you have layers which change will many layers hold so even the changed frames may only have a single layer that changes not all of the layers. I’m not sure what is your purpose in estimating. But if it has to do with trying to determine the amount of work involved then that is really a function of what you are animating. If it is mostly talking heads (medium close up head shots) then that is far less work then doing heavy physical comedy like a Looney Tune etc. If you are trying to minimize the work then you want to use the camera more. Lots of quick cuts is a standard trick for making very little seem like much more in terms of action etc. I’m glad I was able to be of some help. -JK

Hi JK,

You are right, i am trying to determine the work load mainly. The kind of style I’ve in mind is Family Guy, American Dad and the likes. These sitcoms seems not to follow most of the 12 animation rules. The acting is mostly dialog, simple hand gestures and walk cycles. So, from the script it should be possible to estimate the frames used for dialogs alone, since mouth shapes are attached after the other drawings are done.

May be i am overly simplifying things :slight_smile:


Yes, you are. The shows you mentioned are created by large teams of people and although they may look simple, they are not. Perhaps you should invest in making a one minute short in that style to get a small sense of how much is involved. -JK

I agree with you. I’ve analyzed FG for sometime and it seems to be kind of rotoscoped over video even for its limited movement. With the kind of budget i’ve (read no budget) it is not possible to produce that sort of output. Nevertheless, i am building a 3D program just to produce the animatics which can be rotoscoped over in tbs and other programs. Movements are recorded once and i can produce the animatics at any angle within minutes by stitching together various actions.

Here is a walk cycle
a simple movement
and a combined result

Other animations in my site is produced this way. Usually the time taken is less than 3 hrs in most cases, even though the output is not as smooth as i like it to be but the work flow is promising.

Thanks for the expert advice and fine articles at your site.