|How to time animation?|
This is a good question, very commonly asked by junior animators - and a tough one to answer. The short answer is that it takes time, and patience, as a thorough knowledge of timing and spacing takes a while to acquire.
However, one simple approach is time out an action with a stopwatch, or the timer on your phone, to get an idea of how long an action will take. Some animators will count out "one one thousand, two one thousand"... to figure out how many seconds an action might take.
But the best system of all for newbies is to use live-action reference.
Using live action reference takes a lot of the pain out of timing animation. I used it myself on countless movies, from The Thief and The Cobbler, The Road to El Dorado, Sinbad, Robots, and many others. Old-school animators called it "Rotoscoping".
Other animators have their own special approaches. Animation Apprentice graduate Joris Van Laar has his own approach to timing which he calls "the Sound Effects Approach". Using this technique, Joris makes sounds to illustrate the timing of the shot. When he acts out a shot he says the "bam!" and "kapow!" out loud, and that way finds his timing. Sounds eccentric? Well, everyone has their own method.
Nowadays the best tech in this area is called performance capture. For keyframe animators in Maya, the simplest technique is to film yourself acting out an action, and then import the footage you capture into Maya. You can then use this footage to time the animation, matching the live action frame-for-frame.
To see how to do this in detail, read this post.
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