Animation &Animation Artifacts 30 Aug 2006 08:25 am

Bar Sheets

- This blog stuff is amazing. History revealing itself.

Posted on the ASIFA Hollywood-Animation Archive site, today, is a most amazing document. Mark Kausler has loaned his set of bar sheets from the Rudy Ising directed short “Shuffle Off To Buffalo.” and Steven Worth has digitized them.

Bar sheets are the director’s work book used in breaking down a film musical note to musical note. Obviously, as depicted on these pages, found on the Animation Archive site, they were actually recorded on the sheet music, itself.

Over time things morphed, and there were actual bar sheets designed specifically for the director. These generally incorporated music, exposure/timing sheets and a place for action comments. Then, they seem to have dropped the musical notes.

Nowadays they seem to have dropped the workbook altogether. I try to work with them on most of my films. On Doctor DeSoto, for example, I actually built the camera moves on a waltz tempo musician, Ernest Troost, had written. I couldn’t have done this without bar sheets. They allow you to see the big picture – the movie – rather than the frames.

You can see what they look like in the Halas book Techniques of Film Animation to the left.

Here’s a set depicted in the Eli Levitan book Animation Art in the Commercial Film:

(Click on any image to enlarge.)

The bar sheets I’ve used in my studio look like the doc on the left. It allows me to see 400 frames in one glance. I can cut the track readings from the dope sheets and place them right onto the bar sheets.

The post on the Hollywood Animation Archive is a real find, especially for such an early document. Thank you Stephen Worth and Mark Kausler. Stephen’s also constructed a scene-by-scene visual breakdown and given a QT version of the cartoon to be able to better study the sheets.

What a fabulous chunk of animation history. One-stop-shopping for free.

11 Responses to “Bar Sheets”

  1. on 30 Aug 2006 at 9:20 am 1.Ward said …

    This is great! Sad, because in the broadcast industry, I don’t even use sheets like this for the spots I direct. Most of the music is done after I’m through with the animation. Sometimes I can work with the music guy here at Primal, where I work, but most of the time the animation is not married to the music at all.

  2. on 30 Aug 2006 at 1:53 pm 2.Stephen Worth said …

    It’s interesting that none of the examples you’ve got there make any reference to beats. I can see why bar sheets have fallen out of use. Once you remove the measurement by beats and bars, they don’t have much real purpose. In TV, I’ve always seen “slugged boards” fill the role of the bar sheets, but of course those are timed around the dialogue, not the music or action. The exception to that was Ren & Stimpy, where we used bar sheets and exposure sheets pre-printed with either 12, 10 or 8 frame beats.

    Mark Kausler also loaned us some x sheets from Steamboat Willie, Fantasia, etc. All of those indicate beats as well. I’m going to post them next week.


  3. on 30 Aug 2006 at 4:42 pm 3.Rudy Agresta said …

    Wonderful post Michael. As an animator and composer I’m very aware of Bar Sheets. Ward and Stephen make a good point – they are not used very much anymore. Perhaps because there isn’t as much “Mickey Mousing” (tying the beat specifically to picture and sometimes synching every hiccup to music). When I compose for one of my animations I’ve done what Stephen spoke about -having my exposure sheets printed with the particular beat mark I may be using. I’ve done it the other way too and wrote the music after the picture was completed. I did this for the CAREER DAY theme I wrote for that picture. (CAREER DAY from Do It Now Prods! and now in post production over at Showcase Entertainment) I was animation director on it and the title credits were completed by another studio and had different music synched to it. I wrote something totally different. Since it was done in FLASH I had the timeline visible all the time in front of me. What I heard in my head musically was fine-tuned by using the timeline. I think it worked out fine. The theme is posted on my site but I can’t post the main titles at this time. Hopefully some day.

    Keep up the swell splog!

    Rudy Agresta

  4. on 30 Aug 2006 at 5:11 pm 4.Mark Mayerson said …

    Most animated TV series these days end up using a library of music and there’s a music editor who cuts the music to picture. That’s a real shame.

    On just one episode of Monster By Mistake, where we were starting a new season and willing to add new music to the library, I timed a sequence to a beat and then told the composer to score to the beat I’d set. It was one of the more effective dramatic sequences as the music and picture worked together tightly.

    By breaking down animation production for efficiency (and cost effectiveness), we’ve thrown out the baby with the bath water. When directors really controlled cartoons and all departments talked to each other, we got much better results.

  5. on 30 Aug 2006 at 5:27 pm 5.Michael said …


    Most music for animation is written after the fact. Only in song sequences is music done in advance, and even then it’s rerecorded to the temp track.

    Beats are always used by good animators. The director can dictate this and often does. I always plan a tempo and cut on a specific beat before it’s animated – a 120 beat is always safe since it allows a lot of variations when the scenes are being animated. You don’t need music sheets to indicate the beat.

  6. on 30 Aug 2006 at 5:31 pm 6.Stephen Worth said …

    On Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon, our music library came with click tracks. We assigned beats and rough timed animatics to music as soon as the storyboards were approved. Our music library was organized by mood and beat. Even though the cues in the animatics weren’t necessarily the cues we ended up using, the replacement cues dropped right in as long as they were the same beat.

    Musical timing isn’t just for musical numbers. It helps the pacing of dialogue scenes and action scenes as well. It costs less to plan out the timing to the frame, and not have to revise or trim. It wouldn’t cost any more to get composers of stock music to perform to a 8, 10 and 12 frame metronome beat. If they did that, timing by the beat would be plug and play.

    See ya

  7. on 20 Dec 2006 at 9:59 pm 7.Norm Drew said …

    When did the industry take the bar sheet off-ramp?

    Way back when we animated Yellow Submarine, bar sheets were used throughout for music and dialog.

    We even used bar sheets doing TV commercials over the decades.

    In mid 1980′s I supervised TV series productions in Asia and was amazed when two supervisors showed up who didn’t know what bar sheets were.

    When viewing those early music-timed cartoons you’re immediately aware of a third giddy, delightful dimension set up as contrapuntal rhythm between the visual action and the sound, and not just in the ‘Mickey Mousing’ sense.

    It’s a kind of critical mass, the whole effect being greater than its parts.

    Sad the industry lost sight of this value-added ingredient for so long.

    Let’s get it back!

  8. on 14 Oct 2007 at 4:37 am 8.hajar said …

    thanx for your information. I’m a M.A student of animation and doing a research about bar sheet and dope sheet. I would be grate full if you could give me some information about dope sheet.

  9. on 28 Feb 2009 at 1:51 am 9.subhankar maity said …

    Respected sir,
    i want actual mean off Bar sheet..
    And also i can’t understand between bar sheet & Exposure sheet…
    i wait for ur responce..

  10. on 28 Feb 2009 at 9:06 am 10.Michael said …

    As stated in the post, a bar sheet is an overall view of the film for the director. It places a particular focus on music.
    The exposure sheet is a frame by frame breakdown of the soundtrack for the animator.

  11. on 01 Jun 2010 at 10:57 am 11.Santiago Meade said …

    You’ve done it once more. Incredible post.

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