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Animation Secret: Animating to Music

Ferdinand Englnder December 26, 2011

Sooner or later every animator will have the fun tas of animating something in sync to music. !o matter if your character is su""osed to deliver a fine dance performance or subtly bobs his head, there are some tricks and rules that really can hel" you to create a catchy and interesting animation#
The beat rules!

$he obvious thing first% The beat of your song defines your characters movements. &s long as the s"eed of your song doesn't change, the beat is a fixed reoccurring interval that has to be re"resented by visual highlights in your animation# n the beat your character goes into a hit position ( a s"ecial rhythmic event )li e cla""ing his hands, ma ing an im"ortant dance ste", *um"ing, shifting his weight u" and down or from one side to another etc#+# ff the beat! your the character "re"ares for the ne,t hit "osition )e#g# builds u" momentum to cla", to *um" etc#- or is in a brea down "osition between two eyframes+#

"n the end the visual hits should be # $ % frames earlier than the actual beat! but never one frame later! .sually you would animate e,actly to the beat and then shift it a few frames when you are done# /t really im"roves it0 $ry what loo s best for every individual animation#

$here are some tra"s you will have to face when you wor with certain beats on certain frame rates# 1ore about that later2 3et's continue with some basic guidelines for your animation first#
ne more time& 'ycles

4ecause the beat is a re"etitive event we can also use re"etitions in our animation# !o one cla"s his hands *ust once# (se loop)able cycles, where the last frame leads to the first frame again ( as long as it's interesting# $his way you have more seconds filled on the screen, but less frames to draw0

/f you really don't want your audience to see any re"etition )in a classic dance for e,am"le+, you could *ust reuse half of your cycle and then go into different one# $his is often done in Disney films# Somehow we only notice the re"etition if it ha""ens two whole times# 5ee" in mind% 'ycles *ith an even number of frames are easier to animate, because you have a frame in the e,act middle for the brea down )or accents if you divide the s"ace between the ey and the brea down+#
(p and +o*n!

6hatever you let your character do, the most im"ortant thing is to wor with the u"s and downs of the whole body# /t is not so much actual dance ste"s that ma e your character get the rhythm ( it's his overall shape expanding and contracting# 7n the beat you can either drop the *eight or make the character push himself up# Set visual contrasts by moving the body and arms u" and down, left and right, streched and bend2

Make it snappy

&n im"ortant thing, es"ecially for broad movements% ,et the character snap into the hit position. 8ou should not ease into it# $he "hase between the beat is often filled with antici"ation, allowing the character to *um" into the beat with a huge amount of energy# &lso ee" in mind that you don't need to "ut the ey between two hit "ositions in the e,act middle# $ry different a""roaches de"ending on what you are animating%

-inding the beat

3et's go bac to the beginning# 4efore you start animating you have to figure out the rhythm of your music# 8ou really need it to be e,act or else, after some seconds, the animation will loo out of sync, even when it a""eared "erfect at first0 "f you dont have any other tool you can find out the beat by trial and error. 9uess the beat, "ut a symbol in a fi,ed interval and see if it flashes in sync to the music# /f it is too fast, increase the interval- if it is too slow, decrease it# /n the internet you can find tools *here you can tap on your keyboard to the rhythm of a song and determine the beat this way# :owever, this might not be very accurate# 8ou should only analy.e the short snippet you are actually using, because the beat might change throughout the song# The big problem is that the beat can be bet*een frames. /t's "retty easy to animate if you have a fi,ed beat, lets say every 12 frames# 8ou *ust "ut your hit "osition there, a nice brea down or antici"ation in between and your dance cycle is ready to go# 4ut this is a very ideal condition# 3et's have a loo at an e,am"le where the beat lies between the frames# :ere we have a metronome click on a fixed speed /0#1 bpm2% /f we "lace our hit "osition every 0# frames! its too early after a while# /f we "lace it every 03 frames! it *ill come to late# /n this e,am"le the beat comes e,actly every 0#!4 frames#

8ou can still animate it though, you 5ust have to alternate the space bet*een the beats% hit after 12 frames, hit after 1; frames, hit after 12 frames, hit after 1; frames and so on# 7f course, this gets a little aw ward to deal with# /n a <uic cycle you would have one frame less for half of the motion ( one frame that could be an im"ortant u", down or brea down "osition#

Avoid problems by preparing the music

6henever you have the o""ortunity to influence the music, you should take care that the beat hits *hole frames# 1usicians, of course, usually don't calculate in frames# $wo worlds meet here% 6e ( the animators ( need to now the beats "er frames, so that we can "ut our hit "ositions on the correct frame# 1usicians, though, wor in beats "er minute )b"m+# /n order to bring these worlds together, / am afraid we need to use2 math% /f you wor with #4 fps, one minute has 0411 frames )60 seconds , the frame rate% 2= f"s+# So to calculate which frames the beat is on, you divide the 4"m of your song by 1=00 ) ee" in mind that you get different values for other f"s rates+# $his shows that a beat with 120 would indeed aw wardly hit every 12,= frames )120>1=00+# 8ou should tell your musician to use 12= b"m instead ( it is almost the same s"eed and the beat hits every 12 frames )12=>1=00+# See%

8ou don't wanna do the math? $hat's fine2 6e have a nice list for you with the 4eats "er Frames for various 4@1 on different frame rates#

$hat's <uite a dry theory, but you need to be e,act here0 Sometimes it might be hel"ful to get a click track from your musician )or ma e one yourself+ where you hear a metronome clic very loudly# 8ou can see these clic s in the waveform diagram that an animation "rogram dis"lays in the timeline# / have to em"hasiAe it again% 6ou need to kno* on *hich frames the beat is on $ other*ise your animation *ill never look right )es"ecially if you have to deal with a tric y beat between frames+# /t would be a shame if you invested hours into creating a cool dance cycle, and it goes out of sync after a few seconds#

&s for the other ti"s and tric s in this article% These are 5ust guidelines! giving you a basic point to start *ith. Feel free to alter them# $ry your own ideas,

e,"eriment with timing and "osing until your animation literally roc s# 7hats allo*ed is *hatever looks good and groovy. !ow, "lease let me now your e,"eriences with animating to music and your feedbac to this article in the comments#

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