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Music beat and animation

Posted on June 29, 2007  6 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.

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