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Music beat and animation

Posted on June 29, 2007  7 Comments
Filed under Animation, Education

As a follow up to my last post, here is an attempt at understanding timing by comparing animation timing to musical timing.

From the age of 7 to 15, I received an intense classical music training which allowed me to tell if a score was being played at 60, 120 or 180 bpm without much difficulty.

I am much older now but I realised that if I were able to do the same thing again, I would have a serious advantage compared to other animators. I am not one to keep stuff for myself so let me share with you a little secret. This might be a bit tedious to read but bear with me, this should be an invaluable little trick.

When you start learning music, the very first thing you have to get used to is to hit, one beat, two beats, three beats and four beats per second. “Sounds great but how can this help me Mister Fancy pants?”

Well the first thing you need to do is to train yourself to count one second. One easy way would be to look at at a clock and say “one thousand” everytime the big hand hits a second. After a while this will become a second nature.

Now, to divide that second in smaller chunks I have an other trick. You use a hand gesture going, up and down for 2 beats, down, right and up/left for 3 beats, and down, left, right, up/left for 4 beats.

In bpm (Beats per minutes) this translates to 60 bpm for 1 beat per second, 120 bpm for 2 beats per second, 180 for 3 beats per seconds and 240 for 4 beats per seconds. How can we relate this to animation?

Simple. At 24 fps:

– one beat per second is one beat every 24 frames

– two beats per second is one beat every 12 frames (divide 24 by 2)

– three beats per second is one beat every 8 frames (divide 24 by 3)

– four beats per second is one beat every 6 frames (divide 24 by 4)

Here is a summary that you might want to print next to your computer screen.


With a bit of practice, just like Richard Williams, you will be able to go to the nearest park and see motion in animation beats. Go out, get some fresh air and experiement.

Have fun, hopefully this will help you too.


7 Responses to “Music beat and animation”

  1. Richard on July 10th, 2007 09:21

    Dude.. I gotta get used to the whole pre-timing thing yet! Somehow I know when stuff feels right, but I’m still finding myself just sort of guessing what timing something needs instead of allready knowing it. I hope this comes with experience, and that i’m not lost forever.. :)

    Anyway, this stuff does make a lot of sense.. definitely helpful! Thanks for sharing and your kind words on my blog!

  2. Yuriy on July 15th, 2007 17:33

    Awesome! I was looking for a chart like that.

  3. Daniel on July 25th, 2007 01:55

    hey oliver,
    how are things, funny bumping to you in the underground.i´ve followed your steps at am.

  4. dutruc on July 25th, 2007 16:29

    hey guys, sorry for being out of the blog scene for a while. I thought I would be able to get some time off to do my own stuff since I left AM but I am just as busy as before and maybe more! Crazy!

    Daniel how is the job search? I will check your blog now.

  5. Daniel on July 26th, 2007 00:00

    hey ol.
    it´s difficult this subtle faces,,,it´s very good practise,,,,but the independent controls are the best…cheers for the inspirations, i gonna do same poes al well,,,,hihi i did An Ment as well…hihihihih

  6. Timothy McCourt on July 26th, 2007 08:08

    hey man this is some interesting stuff. i need to have a proper read of it.
    yeah we should meet up for a drink soon. just let me know whens good for you and i’l mail a couple of the guys to come out

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