Timing is simply the time it takes for a character or object to go from one pose to another. Timing and spacing are intricately linked.
The way it was explained to me was like this. Take the classic ball as an example. If it rolls from A - B, it might take one second to do so. This is the timing of the ball. If the ball moved from A -B in a linear fashion over the one second then each frame would be evenly spaced like this.
But if you added different spacing to the frames then you introduce things like acceleration and deceleration to the animation. It still takes exactly one second to get to its end point but it could start off really slow and speed up at the end. Or it could shoot off at the start and slow down at the end. Or maybe start fast, then slow down and then end fast. The spacing possibilities are endless but what is constant is the fact that the timing in this case is always going to be one second.
Before I knew anything about animation I always thought that timing was the absolute key to great looking animation. I honestly believed that if the animation had perfect timing based on real life it would look amazing.
This, in my opinion, is completely wrong. I would even go as far to say that you can change the timing completely against what would usually perceived as correct but as long as the object in question still obeys the other principles, it will look right.
You only have to look at the Looney Tune cartoons to see my point. Most of those characters move so quickly and in impossible ways but because all the other principles are being followed it always looks good.
In fact, if you stick too much to accurate timing you can end up sacrificing other crucial principles like appeal and exaggeration and your animation can come across as dull and boring, which is one of the reasons why mo-capped animation is hand tweaked a lot by animators after the capture. People think Golum was mo-capped by Andy Circus and then put on the screen. In fact many months were spent after by animators tweaking the performance and bringing out exaggeration and appeal. I believe in some cases the original mo-cap was actually removed completely and re-animated from scratch .
If you want to know what mo-cap is, have a look here mo-cap
So that sums up timing, it’s the time it takes to get from one pose to the next, simple!
Hope that was of some help? Always love to hear people's thoughts so give me a shout.
And any help on your animation needs then again please get in touch.
Till next time.