How to figure out timing and pacing

Recently, TheRaider brought up the subject of timing and pacing for animation. I’d really like to know more about this subject so that I can improve my productions. I did a search on Google and came up with various tips and comments but would like to learn more–like a step by step approach–or anything that others on the forum have found helpful.

My current approach is to simply animate to the voice track and move the character from pose to pose in a way that “feels” right. I don’t time out specific actions in real time–I should–to get the timing right. I also don’t know how to figure out the pacing to keep the animation moving forward and not be too fast or too slow or become boring.

I have the book Timing for Animation but it is more about how to plan timing for individual movements, not the overall pacing and timing. I see animators, like Richard Williams, saying that the director takes a stack of x-sheets and a stop watch and works out the timing for an entire animation before it goes into production–wow! John Lasseter, on a YT clip, says that they do animatics of scenes over and over again until they get each shot right before going into production.

So any tips anyone has on this subject would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

The 6th of may there will be a new tutorials on toon boom about timing. So You will have to wait 24 hours.

Hi Zeb

I’ve recorded a metronome and imported it as a sound track. This gives a visual indication of when the “beat” occurs. For example, assuming I’m recording at 24 fps I make a metronome track with the metronome set at, for example, 120 bpm (beats per minute) that’s two beats a second or looking at it another way a beat every 12 frames. Using this I can make sure that if I do a walk a foot always comes down on the beat.

Since I’m also recording the music and sound effects I record with the metronome at the same bpm as the one used to set up the action so characters should always walk or dance to the music.

If you can stand watching “Sausage and Egg” that’s got a song recorded at 120 bpm. I played the song while videoing myself doing the initial walks making sure that I walked to the beat. I then imported the movie of me and used it to create the leg and arm movements of the characters checking their movements against the “visual” metronome.

I use the visual metronome as a reference for all action but at the moment I keep painting myself into corners and can’t always “catch” the beat.

I use Richard Williams book a lot and I got the idea for the metronome thing from “The Illusion of Life”- The old school Disney animators used real metronomes to plan actions.

Good luck using a stop watch, I’ve tried it and found that I can’t physically start and stop the watch fast enough to get the information I need.

I should point out that when I watch your stuff I’m always impressed by the precision of your timing.


Hey, I hadn’t noticed that was the next video tutorial, Delah! I’ll have to check it out–thanks!

Roberto, I’ll have to try out the metronome idea. I saw on John K’s blog that when he animates in Harmony he creates a layer called 8x_beat. It has two empty frames that cycles every 8 frames. See example below.

One of the things I wonder about is that in Animate you do one scene per file and each scene gets rendered and put together in a video editing program. Sometimes I shorten a scene so that perhaps scene 1 ended on the beat and scene 2 started a new beat but then if I cut the first 5 frames off the beginning of the scene when editing the beats are now irregular. I wonder if that matters? Ha!

I often just record myself doing the movement and import it. Then rotoscope it with stickmen. I have a whole ton of them now. Not only do i feel it is good practice, but i have a whole library full of them to help me out.

The one thing about working to beats is you need to be careful you aren’t robotic.

Oh yeah and storyboard, even if very quickly.

I think I have mentioned these sites before, but in case you missed them here they are.

There are a couple of free ones in there that are very helpful. He talks allot about Timing and Spacing and he uses Stick Figures to figure out the performance.

He uses FlipBook, but of course we would be using Animate ;D

Hi Zeb

1) If you do import a metronome, you will have to set up a layer with “marker cells” on the beat, as John K does. This will allow you to move the layer up and down so that you can see it near the layers you’re animating which is not possible to do with a metronome sound track alone.
2) I found it very interesting analysing old Warner Brother shorts, Goofy or Bugs Bunny are fun to do. My understanding is that they worked by adding the score after the animating. I observed that they are working with a number of different bpm depending on the action. I’ve also observed that even with dances, the movements are not always precisely to the beat. Since I’m working with movies that have been converted to PAL, The movements away from the beat may be caused by the conversion process.


I wanted to revisit this post to comment that I have found one of the best books on this subject. It is Timing for Animation by Harold Whitaker and John Halas. Not only does it talk about how to time and move your characters but it explains how to time and pace your overall animation using bar sheets and x-sheets. It is quite an essential handbook for all animators.