Great question! Unfortunately, there isn’t one quick answer that applies to all projects. In some cases, the limit is two frames, while with other projects, the answer may be as many as ten frames. So let’s dive a little deeper. Here are some of the factors that go into answering this popular question.
Will your image be animating as the viewing angle changes left/right or up/down? If your image is part of a display that people will walk by, it likely needs to be left/right animating (unless it is in front of an escalator or a trampoline!). Otherwise, we will always recommend up/down animation. The reason is that left/right animations tend to ghost more than up/down ones do. So up/down animations can more clearly hold multiple frames. Left/right animation should usually be just two frames, although in some cases, three will work.
How big is your image? Smaller images tend to do a better job at holding multiple frames than do larger ones.
What are you trying to achieve with the image? Sometimes a “flip” between two images has more impact than a multi-frame animation. Imagine you want to show the function of a door that can be opened or closed. A 2-frame flip between “open” and “closed” will often look better and communicate the function better than a 5-frame showing the in-between frames of the door opening and closing. It’s opened/it’s closed. Bam. Story told. Other times, the in-between frames are the story. Every story is slightly different.
One way to look at it is that the more frames you use, the less clearly and distinctly you will see each frame. If your animation is of a waterfall, the lack of distinction between frames may not be an issue, and in fact, it may help. However, if your image is one sentence changing to another, that ghosting is likely to be an issue.
So the bottom line is that you should use the fewest frames needed to tell your story effectively. That way, each frame has the best opportunity to be seen in all its glory.
And, of course, we’re here to guide you, so talk to us about what you’re trying to achieve. We’ll help you make sure your image looks great and your animation works perfectly.