Scrubbing and Flipping

When creating an animation it’s often easier to spot mistakes when things are in motion. To see the animation in motion without rendering a new video we resort to scrubbing the timeline or flipping frames.

Scrubbing refers to manually scrolling through an animation, forward and backward, previewing your animation in order to check, correct or add frames to your animation.

Flipping refers to manually “flipping” two or three frames of an animation, back and forth in order to check motion, volume consistency and continuity of line and detail.

Flipping the Photoshop timeline

When working on paper, animators continually flip their drawing to check if the movement works and if they’re not accidentally growing or shrinking their subject or even forgetting to draw parts of the animation.

Flipping a few frames on the Photoshop timeline can be achieved by using the work area markers. Start by unchecking the “Loop Playback” option in the timeline fly-out menu.

Place the work area In-marker at the first frame of the sequence you’d like to flip. Place the work area Out-marker right after the frame you’re working on. Select the layer/frame you’re working on and press the space bar each time you want to flip. (Make sure you have the “Enable Timeline Shortcut Keys” checked). The play head will jump to the beginning of the work area and stop right at the frame you’re working on.

Scrubbing the Photoshop timeline

Scrubbing is something you can not do with paper but rather a functionality of your animation or editing software. The most intuitive way to scrub the timeline is to grab the timeline’s playhead and drag it along the timeline. Although it works, it is not the most efficient way to control “manual playback”. When your view of the timeline is zoomed in to only a portion of the timeline, thats all you can scrub. When your view is completely zoomed out it becomes hard to accurately scrub the part you want to check.

The best way to scrub the Photoshop timeline is to drag left or right from the timecode field. Dragging the timecode results in smoother playback (making Photoshop less prone to crashes) and there are no limitations based on the visible part of the timeline. As a bonus you can use the [SHIFT] and [CMD] or [CTRL] modifiers to change the playback speed of the drag.

Hold [SHIFT] to skip through the timeline at every 10th frame. This is especially useful when you have some reference video on the timeline putting a heavy load on rendering a preview.

Hold [CMD] or [CTRL] to scrub through every frame but a much slower phase than dragging/scrubbing at normal speed. Use this method for finding the exact frame where something’s off.

Did you discover something interesting while animating in Photoshop?
Share your own tips in the comments below.