The Fundamentals of Timing Animation and Spacing Animation


Timing animation refers to how long an action takes from beginning to end. The functions of timing are to create movement that obeys the laws of physics, and to add interest to your animations. Timing can be implemented by applying weight, scaling properties, and emotion.

Spacing animation refers to the spaces between frames that show an object’s location. The functions of spacing are the same as the functions of timing, to create realistic and interesting movement. Depending on where you place spaces, you can demonstrate constant speed, acceleration, deceleration, or a stop. This is implemented through linear spacing, ease out spacing, ease in spacing, or easy ease spacing.

No matter what 3D application you use, you’ll be able to implement timing animation and spacing animation when you know how to set keyframes and open up the Graph Editor or Curve Editor in your 3D program of choice.

Timing Animation

Timing refers to how long an action takes. If the timing is too fast, too slow, too linear, or too long, your animation won’t look realistic. Since film is run at 24 frames per second (FPS), you use this as the building block for your timing. So, if you have an object moving from point A to point B in 24FPS, it takes the object one second to get there. 

The functions of timing are to:

  1. Create movement that obeys the laws of physics.

  2. Add interest and appeal to your animations.


To understand timing more thoroughly, look for real world examples. How long does it take your hand to reach for your phone? One second? Half a second? How long does it take to touch an app on your phone? A quarter of a second? If somebody zips through the keys on the screen, you know they are familiar with the process and have done it many times before. Whereas, if a person takes a full second to press a single key on their screen, you can probably guess they aren’t very familiar with the action. This example shows how important timing is because every action, whether big or small, is described by speed and interprets someone's current state of mind.

As you understand timing more and more, you’ll find yourself examining every person’s movements and running through the timing scenarios in your head. However, having a basic knowledge of how the timing principle works doesn’t always relate to implementing it properly into an animation.

How to Implement Timing Into an Animation

There are three implementations applied to timing an action:

  1. Weight: Two objects can appear to be different weights by manipulating their timing.

  2. Scaling Properties: Larger or heavier objects move slower while lighter or smaller objects move faster.

  3. Emotion: The varying speed of a character’s movements indicate lethargy or excitement and nervousness or relaxation. 


Since the speed of an action gives meaning to movement, getting the timing right is crucial. This can be demonstrated by throwing a bowling ball or a balloon. A bowling ball requires a lot of force to throw, goes further, and needs a strong force to stop its motion. However, a balloon requires a lot less force to throw, doesn’t go very far, and won’t need much force to stop it. These physics need to be accounted for in the timing of an animation.

Spacing Animation

Spacing is basically the space between frames, and spacing in animation refers to where an object is at in each frame of an animation through frames 2-23. Depending on where you position the object within each of those 23 frames, you can give the illusion of constant speed, acceleration, deceleration, and stopping.

As an example, it may take a ball 12 frames (or half a second) to get to point B. By simply adjusting the spacing, it makes the ball appear to move faster and slower.

Just like with timing, spacing serves the functions of:

  1. Creating movement that obeys the laws of physics.

  2. Adding interest and appeal to your animations.


As Norman McLaren, the pioneer in hand-drawn animation said, “What happens between each frame is more important than what exists in each frame.”

How to Implement Spacing Into an Animation

Since objects in real life don't usually move in a linear motion, the spacing in animation needs to be manipulated in order for it to look more accurate.

There are four basic styles of spacing you can implement in your animation:

  1. Linear Spacing: Frames are spaced an equal distance apart. This shows a constant velocity.

  2. Ease Out Spacing: Frames are spaced close together at the beginning and further apart at the end. This shows acceleration.

  3. Ease In Spacing: Frames are spaced far apart at the beginning and closer together at the end. This shows deceleration or a stop.

  4. Easy Ease Spacing: Frames are placed closer together at the beginning and end, but are spaced further apart in the middle. This shows both acceleration and deceleration.


By using these four styles, or by customizing your own style, you’ll have endless opportunities to create correct and realistic spacing for your animations.


To really grasp the concepts of timing animation and spacing animation, Pluralsight suggests you take the time to create your own ball bounces. This will get you comfortable with mimicking a real-life ball bounce. 

Then, review the 12 Principles of Animation to ensure you have a solid knowledge that will serve you well in your work.