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Have you ever had trouble setting rhythm and timing before you start animating? Have you ever done your keys and then realized that there is no middle frame for your breakdown? Let’s meet your new best friend when it comes to timing and rhythm: The number eight.

German filmmaker Andreas Hykade showed us this guideline once in a class, which is surprisingly simple but so helpful and logical, I wonder why I didn’t realize this earlier:

Make sure that your timing has something to do with the number eight – meaning the span of eight frames.

First let’s talk about a a mistake I used to make. I thought that even frame numbers are a good place for the keys, because when you put something on frame eight you can put the breakdown on frame four. Right? Wrong… Since frame one is the one with your first key, frame four is not in the middle.

I am not sure if anybody else makes the same mistake, but if animators say something like “every eight frames”, they mean that your keys are on frame one and frame NINE! And this is what this rule is all about.

If you put something on frame 1 and 9 you have 5 as the perfect middle, with 3 and 7 in between that with 2, 4, 6 and 8 being the center to that. You can always go to the exact middle to put breakdowns in or time something two or three times faster without leaving the rhythm.

But of course you cannot and should not give everything the same rhythm. If you only need one exact middle and the 8 frame span is to slow for your character, you could go with “every six frames” with frame 4 exactly in the middle. The great thing is that it is a sibling of the eight (4 x 6 = 24 = 3 x 8) in case you need to make it work with any other timing related to the 8-frame-span. Want to read more about rhythm in animation? Look no further than Animating to Music right here!

Last thing to say is that this is a good rule regardless of your framerate. You can and should consider the “every eight (or a number that is mathematically compatible with it) frames” rhythm no matter if you work with 24, 25, or any other frames per second your production manager throws at you!

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