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When animating a paper and pencil back in the pre-computer age, one of the tools that the animator had to use very well was the exposure sheet, also called the dope sheet. And this was a gigantic sheet of paper on which you would write down your camera instructions as well as your dialogue, the leveling of the scenes, like which layer the background went on, which layer the characters went on. And it would go from bottom background here to the top layer on the left. And of course, as you can see, we had a limit number of levels.
There was quite narrower range of possibilities with the classic X-sheet than we currently have with our modern timelines. Nevertheless, they were a very great tool, and the important thing was to use them to make notes on your X sheet. For example, if you have musical beat, you could mark them out wherever they occurred, and this would enable you to plot your animation very, very efficiently. And using, using the X-sheet wisely was a very good thing to learn. Today we don't have paper X-sheets or dope sheets, well, most of us. But we do have timelines in our computer programs, most of us, so let's take a look at one.
Well, this is the one I'm familiar with. It's the Flash timeline. So how do we best use this timeline? We could easily just use it the way most people use it; which is we put our key frames down and we animate. Well, the problem with that is you very quickly can end up with a situation where you have a lot of little black dots all the way along here, and you don't have much of an idea of what they are. So I have made this imaginary scene where John and Mary are looking at each other, and then maybe they dance or they do various actions. So let's start with where the action might begin, let's say on frame 10. So let's make an empty keyframe, and we will type in, in our Properties panel, John taps foot.
And then we might begin a different action from Mary, I don't want them overlapping but making new levels for her. And we'll just type in the note, Mary reacts. And then by this point, they're both dancing. As I type in these labels, it gives me an idea of where the various action should occur. And let's say they're tapping a beats, maybe I even want a third layer for that. And if the beats happening every, say, 12 frames? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, that'll be John's foot tapping, I can make a note of this. Extend the timeline if I need to, and tap foot.
So now you see we have plain English descriptions of the different keyframes and what's happening on those keyframes. And this has a great advantage. If you hand the scene onto somebody else who needs to work on it later on, if you get your scene back for revisions maybe a month or two months from now. Or if it's a long term project that you put on hold for some time. And you open it up again, you can see this is what's happening, that's why it's happening. And if you have little areas that might be trouble spots, you can make a note. Watch out here, this is where they overlap, and so forth.
So, this is a really nice tool to have. It's a, it's a very good skill to learn. It isn't just the case that you can do this in Flash. After Effects also allows you to put labels on the timeline, and I suspect most of the programs out there have some kind of labeling feature. Do not be afraid to make these notes on your timeline. And that don't just have a timeline, that's a bunch of little black dots if you can help it, because that can lead to confusion later on. I think you'll find this is a really good habit to develop.
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