I am new to animation teaching. One of the interesting challenges is trying to teach animation principles to the animators I work with. Today I have taken on the challenge of trying to describe two, quite complex, closely interwoven animation principles, timing and spacing, as separate entities (things).
We will be messing with time and space in this post so just check that no astropsychological worm holes appear near your computer screen and suck your brain out.
I have tried to achieve describing these principles in terms of linking them to the physical areas in a studio, in which an animator works, to help show the difference between them.
Working from a 2D traditional animation understanding, it may be easier to understand this attempt at a basic description of timing and spacing:
Spacing happens at the lightbox and animation disc, on the paper. On the paper is, the stage or the space, where you draw your character. The position where you draw your character on the page is working on spacing. When you overlay your sheets of paper the spaces between each drawing of your character is spacing.
Timing occurs on a timeline in the computer. The first timeline a traditional animator (these days) will encounter is at the line tester. The drawings are captured into images by the camera in the line tester. The images are then placed into frames in the line tester. When you move the frames containing the images of the drawings of the key moments (breathe) of the animation up and down the timeline in the line tester, you are working on timing. Key frames contain key moments and when you change the position of key frames on the timeline you are working on timing. Timing occurs at the computer when working with the key frames in the timeline.
Summary: Spacing occurs at the lightbox. Timing occurs at the computer.
Things get more complex when an animator does all the work at the computer.
So I tried to make a video tutorial to explain spacing and timing in this 21st century situation.
When I critique an animation I wonder if the animator understands what I mean when I say, "The spacing could be adjusted to depict more weight", or, "The timing could be adjusted to build more tension or add more texture." I think many of the animators in my studio may think timing and spacing are the same thing. They often use the word "timing" where I would have used the word "spacing". Anyway, this is my attempt at explaining about timing and spacing.
It is important that animation students grasp the difference and the interconnectedness of timing and spacing. If you understand these principles and how to animate with them you will have unimaginable, super animation powers that will be irresistible to animation employers, and your animation will be awesome.
Timing & Spacing explanation attempt by Pixar animators