Slow in and Slow out effective animation principles

Explore the importance of slow in and slow out in animation. Discover how these principles enhance motion, create smoother transitions, and elevate the quality of your animations.

Slow in and Slow out effective animation principles

Slow in” and “slow out” are common terms used in animation design, describing the gradual acceleration or deceleration of movement. These principles mirror real-world physics, where objects tend to start and stop moving progressively rather than abruptly. Essentially, when animating an object starting from rest, the spacing between frames needs to increase gradually until the desired speed is reached. Similarly, when bringing an object to a stop, the spacing decreases until it reaches zero.

The concept of spacing has been integral to animation since its early days on paper. Even in hand-drawn animations, the space between corresponding parts of characters’ drawings affects the perception of movement. Larger spacing typically indicates more significant movements.

To achieve smooth and realistic animation, it’s essential to adhere to basic animation principles, including proper spacing, timing, and easing in and out of movements. These principles ensure that the animation appears natural and visually appealing to the audience.

Basic animation principles

Arcs play a crucial role in creating attractive and engaging animations by effectively depicting acceleration and deceleration. Understanding arcs can be simplified through basic physics concepts such as translation, velocity, and acceleration.

Translation refers to the movement of an object from one position to another, while velocity represents the rate of change of position over a fixed time. Acceleration, on the other hand, measures the rate of change in velocity over time.

In animation, the position of an object corresponds to its location on the screen. Translation describes how far the object moves between frames, with velocity and acceleration factoring in time. Adding frames increases the duration of the animation, leading to slower velocity, while acceleration illustrates how velocity changes over time.

When the spacing between frames remains consistent, it indicates zero acceleration and steady velocity. Conversely, reducing spacing signifies deceleration, where velocity decreases over time. By incorporating arcs into animations, designers can effectively portray these changes in velocity and acceleration, resulting in smoother and more dynamic motion sequences.

Maya spacing is common

In Maya spline tangents, we observe distinct slow in and slow out effects, which are automatically generated with appropriate acceleration or deceleration. When determining movement spacing in animations, several factors must be considered, including the character’s personality, physiology, and animation style.

The concept of overlap and follow-through can be applied, allowing different parts of the character to have varying spacing. This technique adds depth and realism to the animation by simulating how different parts of the character react differently to movement.

Another fact of physics! Force = mass x acceleration

The equation f=m*a provides another straightforward way to understand spacing and apply it effectively in animation. According to this equation, for a given force, a heavier object will accelerate more slowly. As a result, the spacing in the animation needs to increase more gradually for heavier objects, particularly during the slow-out phase.

This concept is evident in drawings and frames depicting slow-out, where the spacing gradually increases as the object slows down. Additionally, it’s important to consider external forces such as gravity when animating objects falling. In such cases, the downward spacing should consistently increase as the object descends until it reaches the ground.

A common mistake to avoid is failing to adjust spacing appropriately based on the forces acting on the character. For instance, when an object is about to hit the ground, its spacing should reflect the increasing acceleration due to gravity. Understanding the relationship between acceleration and forces is fundamental in creating realistic animations.

Spacing tools for Maya

For CG animations, there are several effective spacing tools available, with the arc-tracker being one of the most common options. This tool allows animators to visualize both the arc of movement and the spacing of specific parts of a character. However, a limitation of this tool is that it typically tracks a control curve or joint rather than the actual geometry of the character’s body parts. Despite this drawback, the arc-tracker is a valuable tool that should be incorporated into regular polishing routines.

In the traditional animation era, animators used to track arcs and spacing on different sheets of animation paper using various colored pencils for different body parts. Many modern animators still follow this approach but use dry-erase markers directly on the screen instead. To maintain a clean monitor while employing this technique, animators can utilize Maya’s Grease Pencil tool. While it may seem messy, the Grease Pencil tool is quick and functional, offering powerful capabilities that work in both 3D space and screen space. Therefore, it comes highly recommended by experts in the field.

Spacing is not Timing

Many people often confuse spacing with timing, but they are distinct concepts in animation. Timing refers to when actions occur and how long they last, while spacing defines how actions unfold.

To illustrate this distinction, consider a quarter-mile race between a regular car and an electric car. Both cars start and finish the race together, but their movements differ in timing and spacing. The electric car accelerates smoothly and rapidly to reach its top speed, maintaining even spacing throughout the race. In contrast, the regular car accelerates more slowly, experiencing brief decelerations each time the driver changes gears. Despite these differences, both cars complete the race in the same amount of time, demonstrating how timing can remain consistent while spacing varies significantly.

Spacing applies to your character, not the Graph Editor curves

One common mistake in animation is attempting to fix the spacing graph editor curves unnecessarily. It’s important to avoid this mistake because adjusting the spacing graph editor won’t necessarily improve the animation. Instead, focus on how the animation looks on the screen. This is especially important when working with IK controls, where the visual appearance of the animation takes precedence over the technical details of the graph editor curves.

Spacing (like arcs) applies to every part of the body

In animation, every part of a character’s movement follows its own arcs and has its own spacing. This principle applies not only to body movements but also to facial animation.

Fine-tuning spacing comes later in the animation process, typically when the animation is already well-developed. During the blocking stage, you can use stepping tangents to maintain focus on key points. Cleaning up spacing can be a messy task, so it’s best not to spend too much time on it if the timing and posing are still being adjusted. Additionally, it’s important to remember that good spacing doesn’t always mean perfectly smooth spacing. Sometimes, a bit of roughness or grittiness in the movement can add to its realism. Striving for perfection in spacing may not be necessary, as real-life movement is rarely flawless.


These principles of animation may seem common, but they can have a significant impact on the final result. Animation is about imbuing characters with human-like qualities and presenting them to the audience in a captivating manner. While the concept may seem simple, making it understandable and engaging for the audience is no easy feat. Even a small mistake can detract from the overall value of the animation. That’s why experts need to identify common mistakes and provide guidance on how to avoid them.

KrishaStudio is one of the most popular animated video production companies in India. Delivering quality and satisfying clients is the primary goal of this animation firm. With experienced and knowledgeable video creators, they offer a wide range of videos, from explainer videos to product demos, all with high-quality standards. Taking the time to understand each client’s unique needs, they strive to provide the best possible outcome for every project. Whether it’s engaging employees or attracting customers, videos from KrishaStudio are sure to make an impact.

If you’re looking to promote your business or entertain audiences with animations, reach out to KrishaStudio today for satisfying results!

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