Timing Director  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotGenerally, timing directors control the actions and motions of animated characters.

They tell animators how long it takes an animated character to perform an action. Animators then base their drawings on that information.

"We have to decide who moves when, and how they move," says David Brain. He is a timing director with more than 30 years of experience in the animation industry.

dotThe process of timing roughly works like this:

A storyboard artist draws a scene frame by frame. Timing directors then decide how and how fast characters in that scene move. And when timing directors make those decisions, they have to consider the tone of the animation, as well as the physical traits of the characters.

For instance, a character with short legs has to have a shorter stride than a character with long legs. Once those decisions are made and recorded on a timing sheet, animators take over.

dotTiming directors also time the visuals you see on the screen with the soundtrack. If necessary, they will cut or add scenes. Timing directors set the length and the pace of an animated piece. And those are important elements in storytelling.

"Without the right sense of timing and pacing throughout a piece of work, we are not going to fully appreciate the storytelling process," says Dave Howe. He is a professor of classical animation. "If [a scene] is going by too quickly, people won't get it. If it is going too slowly, people will be dozing off."

dotAnimation studios -- large and small -- employ timing directors. Some work in-house, while others freelance.

dotPhysical requirements for this career are minimal. So the career is fairly accessible to people with some physical disabilities as long as they can sit and write for long hours.

"But for somebody who can't see or for somebody who can't hear, [this job] would be a problem," says Marlene Robinson-May. She is the director of animation for an animation studio.

dotWorking hours for timing directors may vary significantly, as they often face tight deadlines. Workdays that last 12 to 14 hours are common, says Howe.

dotTravel in this field is common because the animation industry is becoming more global.

Big players like Disney and Warner Bros. run studios in Asian countries to cut the high labor costs of animation. Eastern Europe is also becoming a popular spot for studios. So timing directors may have to work in those countries.

"You may find yourself going abroad for a year or two, either as a supervisor or working with an international crew," says Brain.

At a Glance

Make sure the show runs at the right pace

  • Much of the work in animation is going overseas, so you might have to work abroad for a while
  • You have to be able to meet tight deadlines
  • Get training in all aspects of animation