How Fast Should You Animate?

How Fast Should You Animate?

Recently I’ve seen a lot of discussion between animators regarding how fast you should be animating. How many seconds per day need to be complete? What’s “normal” in the industry? Are you going too slow? Let’s step back and take a look to see if we can set the record straight.

First it’s important to understand that “animation” is a very broad term. If you’re attempting to do very limited Flash animation, you’re probably going to seem to produce work at cheetah-speeds compared to a frame by frame animator drawing by hand. Likewise some animators simply animate faster than others. That doesn’t make them better or worse, it is just how they work. And finally the actual SHOT you are animating is going to determine a lot as well. Is it simple, without much movement? Is the character performing an intense action with a huge amount of objects involved? On top of all that, there’s framerate to consider!

As long as we go into the discussion understanding that there are so many variables it’s nearly impossible to truly have a “normal speed,” we can start to compare the apples and oranges that are “how much animation in a particular amount of time.”

Ye Olden Days

Taking a look into the past, animation was once measured in feet. That’s because everything was done on actual film (no digital) and so instead of referring to individual frames regarding productivity, people just said “I managed 2 Feet of work this week.”

Feet of Film in Animation

A foot of film is equal to 16 frames. Since most animation for film runs at 24 frames per second, a foot of animation is over one second if on 2s, and under a second if done on 1s.

Editor’s Note: As Geoff points out in the comments, it is 16 frames regardless of if it’s on ones or twos. It would just be only 8 drawings if on 2s, vs. the full 16 drawings on ones. Thanks for the heads up, Geoff! Sorry I missed that.

In the earlier days of Disney Feature Animation, it was not uncommon for the animators to produce 3.75 feet of animation per day. That comes out to about 14 seconds of animation a week.

And that’s nothing compared to Disney’s FASTEST animators, who could blaze trails at 23-24 seconds of feature quality animation per week.

How does that compare to the current day and age, though? Surely with the technology we have now we go faster, right?

Animation Today

Truth be told, 14 seconds per week of film-quality animation is unheard of today. If asked to attempt that, most animators in the industry would laugh (or cry) and say it couldn’t be done. Today it’s not uncommon for feature animation (in 3D) to go at the pace of about 3-4 seconds of animation per week. A far cry from the 14 seconds that the Nine Old Men would churn out.

Meanwhile if you’re looking at direct-to-video film, it’s often in the 12-18 seconds per week range. Closer to the olden days of 14 second, but with a huge drop in quality by comparison. If you’ve ever seen a film produced direct to video, it can’t compare to the stuff that hits the big screen.

Emperor's New Groove vs. Kronk's New Groove

Side note: If you ever want something terrific to study, check out The Emperor’s New Groove directly compared to Kronk’s New Groove. The difference is staggering.

Television Animation varies a great deal, and also depends on where it’s being produced. In the US, some studios request their animators maintain around 25-30 seconds of animation a week, especially if it is limited style. That’s not particularly troublesome to do since limited animation has a large number of holds and focuses heavily on dialogue.

Game animation also varies a great deal, but speaking with a few folks at various studios it seems like “normal” ranges between 5-10 seconds per day, or 25-50 seconds a week. Something more important drops it down to 2-4 seconds a day, and during crunch time it can increase to 10-20.

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Variables Variables Everywhere

Again, everything above is based on such a variety of situations that it would be foolish to say there was a hard and fast rule about speed in which to animate. The biggest variable is going to always be quality. Quality will dictate your speed. Ferdinand and I once did a 48 hour animation competition together, and by the end we were producing 10 seconds of animation an hour! However the quality was rather terrible at that point. Such is a deadline of two days.

On the flip side, the Disney animators of days gone by could, and often did, sit for hours or even days at their desk contemplating a SINGLE FRAME. Keyframes are so important, as story-telling drawings, that no amount of time was set to make sure they were spot on. The poses of such frames required near-perfection, so rushing was not an option.

Time is ticking!

The final word is that speed really only matters “whence a deadline fast approacheth.” If you are working at a large studio that needs things done ASAP, you may have to work at a much higher rate (and lower quality) than if it’s a personal shot or short in front of you. And when it’s a personal short, don’t WORRY about speed. Focus instead on doing the absolute best animation you can. Because at the end of the day, it’s very similar to a quote by game designer Shigeru Miyamoto:

“A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.”

Delay if you must, but don’t sacrifice forever just to go fast.

So how slowly or quickly do YOU animate? Leave a comment below and share your stories of studio work, personal work, or any crazy deadlines that caused your normal speed to shoot through the roof!

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Robcat2075
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I’d add that those footage figures for famous classic-era animators were for guys who had assistants, maybe a team, helping them get it done with inbetweens and clean-up. Sometimes a lot of help because the animator only gave them minimal indications to show what was going on.

Someone said Grim Natwick just about animated in stick figures but if they teamed him up with good assistants lots of work got done.

mark
Guest
mark

do you mean in the old days, a single animator did 14 seconds of animation a week!!

ppammes
Guest
ppammes

basically yes.
but keep in mind that the animators only defined key poses and breakdowns and did not produce the cleaned up pictures you see on screen.
they had clean-up artists and inbetweeners that filled out the blanks.

we have the computer to do that for us though 😉

JOELDO
Guest
JOELDO

Of course ; the animation was largely based on one’s skill of drawing and indeed every one in the studio was an artist ; unlike software operators of today

Olubunmi john
Member

Im a begginner…and have learnt great lot from this post..from the little i have animated(puppet style)…i use to complete 4seconds with 5 hours of labour…im just currently working on my short(puppet style too) which im taking time on…after this short,im heading to the classical animation method with toon boom!..

adobe support phone number
Guest

Hey John! I suggest you Adobe Animate CC tools, here more powerful tools for creating Animation easily.

JOELDO
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JOELDO

its wonderful but largely vector based.But you can generate complicated animation with a bulky mess of layers and motion & shape tweens (You won’t have much support for that on youtube).
But frame by frame animation is great with a stylus.

geoduuude
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geoduuude

Now I feel slow lol

Geoff
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Geoff

Actually a foot of animation is 16 frames regardless of whether its shot on one’s or two’s. There’s just only 8 actual drawings if shot on two’s.

Tracy
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Tracy

I have worked in TV animation, in Toonboom’s Harmony for 5 years and seen quoatas from 20 seconds a week (juniors- intermediates were 30+) to 50 seconds a week.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Someone should write an equation that relates speed to QUALITY. Like you said the old guys at Disney did a lot more, but their quality was also way higher than anything done today. So it seems like if people are trying to do a minute per week (insane and stupid!) then the quality is probably piss.

JOELDO
Guest
JOELDO

Drawing speed * [Drawing quality] = Animation quality

gooser
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gooser

I never keep track of how many seconds or frames I do in a week. Is that normal? I figure you just get it done as fast as you can and then put it up on newgrounds.

Josiah579
Guest
Josiah579

The thing about speed is that you can never tell if you are going any faster or not because you are always improving.

Josh K
Guest
Josh K

I figure speed is one thing 2D animation software can still improve upon. I’m still waiting for an intelligent inbetween assistant. That is, something that will guide your pen strokes to make perfect inbetweens of the next and last drawing. Independent animators don’t have the luxury of having an assistant.

Ron
Guest
Ron

Josh, I believe that what you’re looking for would produce very dull, mundane quality. Richard Williams discusses this in his book and his videos. Take a look at his book to see how to avoid producing the dull and commonplace.

P. Stunner
Guest
P. Stunner

I never timed myself, but since I try to make a lot of content for the web I just go as fast as humanly possible. So probably at the high end of seconds per week.

james
Guest
james

Answer: Animate as fast as your studio makes you so you can keep your job or they will find someone else.

Lulu
Guest
Lulu

The great thing about animation is how it’s a slow and steady process!

Ginger BM
Guest
Ginger BM

Animate animate animate, as fast as you can, you’ll never catch me I’m the Gingerbread man! 😛

Medha
Guest
Medha

Honestly, I enjoyed reading this article. I’ll be completing my 2months as a pre-production artist next month. The first month has been very hectic! As a beginner, my pace was horribly slow and it made me very embarrassed among my other colleagues. Upon discussing it with my Senior, he himself said that I needed to work faster even if the output is not so good. Yes, when I am taking my own time, the final product comes out to been very gorgeous. But the sadness is that I am just hurrying into submitting my works on time.

ivan handle
Guest
ivan handle

Fast as you can if you want a job these days.

BirenK
Member
BirenK

I’m a beginner of 2d traditional animator. This post is really helpful for me. One of my producer asked me to submit 15 minutes animation project in one month. Which was impossible for me. I questioned myself “Am I really slow in work?” I get the answer of my question from this article. Thanks … for the article.

M. Torollo
Guest
M. Torollo

Animate en el menor tiempo posible, porque aquí si no entonces usted es despedido muy rápidamente!

rehan
Guest

Really Good Article thanks

PegasusArtist
Guest

well then im a fast animator for a teen then i do very moverable animations and i can do 1 min in a week but then again i work the whole day

Nymm
Guest

As a young web-animator, I try and get out one shot per evening. (1-4 seconds usually, mostly dialogue) I try my best to keep consistent quality, and my animation has really improved!

Roxirin
Guest

If I work hard, I can get two seconds done in four hours. I’m a very novice animator, though.

Gates
Guest
Gates

It’s getting really hard animating in the studio im at. Just started my 3rd week it took me around 2 weeks to get used to the program they animate with. was animating around 3 secounds a day in my first week now just about animting 8 secounds a day and my boss wants me to animate 10 secounds a day…. Sometimes i’m feeling inadequate. I’m always the first person to come into work (1hour early) just to catch up… It’s like i’m not meant to animate…. I was meant to learn how to rig… But i got a headache. Also… Read more »

jellyfish
Guest
jellyfish

Sorry that you were stressed out. How’s everything going now?

Gates
Guest
Gates

well I lasted, I left after working there for almost a year, I joined another studio, characters are a lot more complicated but fun. I’m finally happy and ever day feels like i’m playing a game even when i’m under pressure I just feel so excited, the rush is amazing! it’s always very interesting to talk to people with different types of experiences. working in 3D even if a studio says your quot is 5 seconds a day your actually close to doing 8 seconds a day because you’ll always get someone sick or on holiday every week. one thing… Read more »

Max
Guest
Max

hi i am from India i recently join one studio in India in that studio they are forcing to do 12 second per day. that was so freaking bad experience for me.

Jason
Guest

I do about 3-4 secs a day depending on what it is.

Gabriel
Guest
Gabriel

Hi,

I would like to know where did you got the information for how long TV series takes to animate. I’m doing my animation for graduation and involves tracking my time and comparison to others, so the more information I get on that the better.

Thanks

Ricky Bru
Guest

About 6 years ago , I worked in a 3D animation studio, here in Colombia (yes, the land of the best coffee, cocaine and most beautiful women in the world! :D) and when crunch times were the only way, we used to animate like 10-12 seconds full animation a day per character, high quality at that time… it is indeed very stressful, but I kept that habit. now as a freelancer sometimes I hit 6 / 8 seconds that involves normal acting, or sometimes action… and now that I read this, I think I haven´t developed this skill to my… Read more »

Scarlett
Guest

Does fast animation really matter? i think one should focus on quality and improvement of their skills and should not compete with anyone to create animations faster. there are many styles of animations i.e 2D & 3D animation, and all takes time according to their requirements.

Robert James
Guest

IT IS VERY INFORMATIVE….

Will
Guest
Will

So how long would it take to animate 8 seconds, let’s say a dance, including blocking in Maya and you have the reference.

Sloani
Guest
Sloani

I think the New Groove is an acceptable sequel. Much better example would be the Atlantis 1-2 comparison. (Possibly The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1-2…)

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