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Photoshop Animation

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Photoshop Frame Rate Essentials

When I set up a new Photoshop Animation document I generally start by setting the size and then change the timeline to the preferred Frame Rate.
FYI the process of creating a new Animation Project is simplified when you use the “New Project” button/function of the Animator’s Toolbar.

Frame Rate is the most essential thing the get right before labouring away at a new sequence. Although these settings can be changed at any time, it might cause your layers to shift timing to half or quarter frames forcing you to go over every frame/layer to correct in- and out-points That’s why I start of with some general information about Frame Rates and look into the options you have in Photoshop to experiment with.

Frame Rate in general

The Frame Rate specifies how many frames are shown per second of playback of your animation. The standard Frame Rate for film is 24 Frames per second (Fps). Common Frame Rates for video are 25 Fps and 30 Fps. A lot of animation is done at 12 Fps and later transferred to 24 Fps by duplicating every single frame. This is known as animating on two’s (two exposures for every single drawing). It effectively halves the amount of drawings needed per second of animation. Some animators cut Frame Rates even further: most for economic reasons but for some, like Bill Plympton, esthetics also plays a big role in choosing a specific Frame Rate.

I feel that shooting on fours, which is basically six drawings per second,
gives it a certain look that I like. ~ Bill Plympton


Animated gif of The Tune

Excerpt from “The Tune” (1996) by Bill Plympton

Some animations are done at 24 Fps, this means that every frame is a new drawing, which is known as animating on ones (or Full Animation). This is mainly used when the animated sequence contains fast action. When animating normal action on two’s the difference between frames is small enough for the brain to register it as “acceptable” motion. With fast action the difference per frame becomes so big, a strobing effect becomes noticeable. You may have noticed while animating in Photoshop, there are two location where a Frame Rate can be specified.

Frame Rate setting #1 – Main Timeline

The first location where a Frame Rate can be specified is very straight forward, being that of the Timeline Panel (or Main Timeline). When you click the dropdown-menu icon in the upper right corner of the Timeline Panel you’ll see the option Set Timeline Frame Rate. This is the main Frame Rate of your project. This setting specifies the Frame Rate of your timeline playback and that of your final output, being a video or image sequence. When you create Layer Animations, his is the only Frame Rate that really concerns you.

The Timeline Frame Rate is also the default Frame Rate for New Blank Video Layers. When importing a Photoshop-Timeline into other applications like Premiere and After Effects; the last saved Timeline Frame Rate is the Frame Rate at which your Psd-file’s timeline will be interpreted by the application.

Timeline Frame Rate Panel

Timeline – Frame Rate Panel

Frame Rate setting #2 – Video Layer

The second Frame Rate setting is that of the Video Layer and is name Interpreted Footage. First you’ll need to have a Video (Layer)/ Footage present and selected in your project before this option is available.

To create a Video Layer Goto: Layer > Video Layer > New Blank Video Layer
To open the settings select a Video Layer and Goto: Layer > Video Layer > Interpret Footage…

When clicked you’ll get the Interpret Footage panel where, apart from other video-related settings, you can specify a Frame Rate. It’s a bit buried and probably only noticed when you’ve worked with Video Layers before. This setting specifies the Frame Rate of the selected Video Layer and does not alter the Frame Rate of the Main Timeline. By default, new Video Layers are created matching the Timeline’s current Frame Rate.


Video Layer – Interpret Footage Panel

Note: The duration of a new Blank Video Layer will match the total combined length of the footage on the Timeline.
Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, this may or may not be what you want. The easiest way to counter act this is to create an “Assets Document“.

Combining Frame Rates

When doing Layer Animation* the frame rate is only set in the Main Timeline, therefore it’s only possible to have different Frame Rates combined in one project when using Video Layer.
Switching between animating on one’s and two’s is probably the most obvious reason to use different Frame Rates in one project but I want to show you some caveats to look out for when different Frame Rates are combined.

When opening the Frame Rate Settings you’ll be presented with some common presets and given the opportunity to specify a custom value. As long as the Frame Rate of the Main Time and the Video Layer are derived from the same main Frame Rate sequence (1/24, 1/25, 1/30), playback behaviour is pretty predictable;

When the Frame Rate of the Main Timeline is higher than that of the Video Layer, frames of the Video Layer are being “held” to match the Frame Rate of the Main Timeline.

When the Frame Rate of the Main Timeline is lower than that of  the Video Layer, frames of the Video Layer are being “dropped” to match the Frame Rate of the Main Timeline.

If you choose to combine Frame Rates that are “not related”: predicting how long and which frames are held or dropped becomes a case of trial and error.

Frame Rate or Speed?

When you animate on Video Layers you’ll have the option to alter the speed of your animation without the “Interpret Footage dialog”.
Right-click a Video Layer to display the layer’s Duration, Speed and Audio settings. The Duration setting will move the out-point of your Video Layer to match the duration value entered in the Duration field. The duration of a Video Layer can’t be changed beyond the duration of the footage of the Video Layer at the specified speed (percentage).

Video Layer - Duration, Speed and Audio settings

Duration, Speed and Audio settings

The Speed setting will speed up your Animation by dropping frames and slow it down by holding frames, very convenient! This means that switching between animating on “ones” and “two’s” using Video Layers is easy.


Using the Speed parameter of a Video Layer makes it easy to switch/adjust Fame Rates

Lets say you want to animate on two’s. You can create a new blank Video Layer has the same Frame Rate as the timeline by default (24fps @ 100% speed) and then change the Video Layer’s Speed to 50%(24fps @ 50% speed = 12fps). If at any moment you need to switch to animating on ones; use the scissor button to split the Video Layer and change the Speed of the new segment back to 100%.

I’ll end this rather long post with a little reference table.

Frame Rate 100% 50% 33% 25%
30 fps 30 fps 15 fps 9,9 fps * 7,5 fps *
25 fps 25 fps 12,5 fps * 8,25 fps * 6,25 fps *
24 fps 24 fps 12 fps 7,92 fps * 6 fps

* these settings result in irregular distribution of frames opposed to animating on one, two’s or thirds

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