Synching animation to a music track

I’m working on an animation for a song which requires that I synch some of the actions to the beat of the music. I found it very difficult to figure out the beat of the music and then how to show that in Harmony so I could visually see where each beat fell.

I found that the freeware program Audacity has a built in feature for creating a Click Track. I opened the song in Audacity and then added a new audio track. I then went to Generate/Click Track. The first thing I did was to determine the tempo, the number of beats per minute. I got a rough estimate just by playing the track and counting. My song was 117 beats per minute.

This resulted in a lot of clicks–the default is one click per beat–so I limited it to one beat per measure. Once I had the click track created and synched to the song, I exported the whole song with the click track as a WAV. I also exported individual segments for each scene of my animation. Now it was easy to synch the action as I could not only hear the beat but also see the waveform in the sound layer.


Well, I pretty much explained it all in my first post. The only thing I might add is that to determine the tempo, or beats per minute, playback a section of the music like 15 seconds. As you listen, nod your head with the beat. Count the number of nods and multiply by 4. That should give you a rough estimate of beats per minute. Try making a click track with that tempo and see how it fits. If not, adjust it to more or less beats. Once you’ve got it, that’s it!

Good luck with your songs!

It’s a pretty good tip. Another way you can do it is to add a layer with a “marker” cell in time with the beat. For example, if your music is at 120 bpm you can put a marker cell every 12 frames. The advantage of this is that the “marker” layer can be moved up and down to be close to the layers that you are working on while the sound layer always stays on top.

When you’re trying to “guess” a beat, in order to home in on the exact value, you can try 80 bpm for slow stuff, 120 for medium and 180 for fast.

Be interesting to see where you put the action relative to the beat. You’ve now got the options of putting it on the beat, slightly before the beat or slightly after the beat.

Thanks for the good tips, Bob! Yeah, I’m not sure if the action goes before, on, or after the beat.

As for making a marker cell, with my 117 beats per minute at 24 fps, the beat doesn’t always fall on a frame. Also, I’m halfway through the song and so far have 13 separate scene files. I find it difficult to determine the beat on each scene so I can put markers. So, just having it already worked out on the soundtrack makes it simple. Once it’s done, it’s done.

My next potential project will be music which will be in strict tempo, that is, the music will follow a click track all the way through (this is not true of all music). I’ve created 192 frames of a simple character moving to the click and produced 3 possibilities for my own education.

1) Action on the beat
2) Action two frames after the beat
4) Action two frames before the beat

If anyone is interested, I can put all three samples as private posts on Youtube.


I’m interested in seeing them, Bob! Thanks for offering!

Hi Zeb and anyone else who’s interested…

Here are links to 3 very short clips. The clips contain a roughly drawn character moving in time with a 3 / 4 time beat, that is waltz time or as we call it here at the Stampini School for Advanced Musical Studies: Boom Cha Cha. One character moves on the beat, one two frames before the beat and the other two frames after the beat. The clips is at 24 fps.

I did this because I have a prospective project which will be based on this rhythm and I thought I shouldn’t assume that movement “on the beat” looks best.

This is not a quiz but you’ll find only labels in the top left of the clips. That’s the way I’d have liked it presented to me. I’ll say which is which if asked.

Hope this is of some use.

Very interesting test! Hmmmmm, I’d say…

H - Before beat
G - On beat
E - After beat

Did I get it right? As to which I like best… I’d say H.

In the Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams, he has this to say. “The action to a musical beat, there are 2 rules of thumb. 1. Have the visual accent position occur 2 frames ahead of the actual sound. 2. Many live action editors often put the visual hit ahead by 1/3 the length of the overall beat (with a 12 frame beat that’s 4 frames ahead of the sound.)”

Hey Zeb

1) Spot on! You win tonight’s star prize.
2) I agree, H looks the best, which surprised me because I was thinking that because light moves faster than sound, the sound should come first.
3) I thought that buying the Richard Williams book would be enough, now it looks like I’m going to have to read it!

Thanks for your comments, very instructive.


Acting before the beat gives the action a more rushed feel, while playing after the beat gives it a more lazy feel.

It works betters with music rather than a metronome, but it something I have found generally holds true (even if you are playing music on guitar for example).


James’s point about the metronome jogged my memory about something that may not be obvious to everyone. Musicians don’t always play on the beat, they often use the beat as a reference point playing ahead of it or after it depending on the effect they want. The difference between the beat and the musical emphasis can be quite small but I believe that animating to ther musical emphasis would give a slightly different result from animating to the metronome.

At some point, I’ll be repeating the animation tests with the music I’ll be using.