Generally, timing directors control the actions and motions of animated
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
The 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.
Timing 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
Animation studios -- large and small -- employ timing directors. Some work
in-house, while others freelance.
Physical 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.
Working hours for timing directors may vary significantly, as they often
face tight deadlines. Workdays that last 12 to 14 hours are common, says Howe.
Travel in this field is common because the animation industry is becoming
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
"You may find yourself going abroad for a year or two, either as a supervisor
or working with an international crew," says Brain.