JavaScript animations

JavaScript animations can handle things that CSS can’t.

For instance, moving along a complex path, with a timing function different from Bezier curves, or an animation on a canvas.

setInterval

From the HTML/CSS point of view, an animation is a gradual change of the style property. For instance, changing style.left from 0px to 100px moves the element.

And if we increase it in setInterval, by making 50 small changes per second, then it looks smooth. That’s the same principle as in the cinema: 24 or more frames per second is enough to make it look smooth.

The pseudo-code can look like this:

let delay = 1000 / 50; // in 1 second 50 frames
let timer = setInterval(function() {
  if (animation complete) clearInterval(timer);
  else increase style.left
}, delay)

More complete example of the animation:

let start = Date.now(); // remember start time

let timer = setInterval(function() {
  // how much time passed from the start?
  let timePassed = Date.now() - start;

  if (timePassed >= 2000) {
    clearInterval(timer); // finish the animation after 2 seconds
    return;
  }

  // draw the animation at the moment timePassed
  draw(timePassed);

}, 20);

// as timePassed goes from 0 to 2000
// left gets values from 0px to 400px
function draw(timePassed) {
  train.style.left = timePassed / 5 + 'px';
}

Click for the demo:

Result
index.html
<!DOCTYPE HTML>
<html>

<head>
  <style>
    #train {
      position: relative;
      cursor: pointer;
    }
  </style>
</head>

<body>

  <img id="train" src="https://js.cx/clipart/train.gif">


  <script>
    train.onclick = function() {
      let start = Date.now();

      let timer = setInterval(function() {
        let timePassed = Date.now() - start;

        train.style.left = timePassed / 5 + 'px';

        if (timePassed > 2000) clearInterval(timer);

      }, 20);
    }
  </script>


</body>

</html>

requestAnimationFrame

Let’s imagine we have several animations running simultaneously.

If we run them separately, each one with its own setInterval(..., 20), then the browser would have to repaint much more often than every 20ms.

Each setInterval triggers once per 20ms, but they are independent, so we have several independent runs within 20ms.

These several independent redraws should be grouped together, to make it easier for the browser.

In other words, this:

setInterval(function() {
  animate1();
  animate2();
  animate3();
}, 20)

…Is lighter than this:

setInterval(animate1, 20);
setInterval(animate2, 20);
setInterval(animate3, 20);

There’s one more thing to keep in mind. Sometimes when CPU is overloaded, or there are other reasons to redraw less often. For instance, if the browser tab is hidden, then there’s totally no point in drawing.

There’s a standard Animation timing that provides the function requestAnimationFrame.

It addresses all these issues and even more.

The syntax:

let requestId = requestAnimationFrame(callback)

That schedules the callback function to run in the closest time when the browser wants to do animation.

If we do changes in elements in callback then they will be grouped together with other requestAnimationFrame callbacks and with CSS animations. So there will be one geometry recalculation and repaint instead of many.

The returned value requestId can be used to cancel the call:

// cancel the scheduled execution of callback
cancelAnimationFrame(requestId);

The callback gets one argument – the time passed from the beginning of the page load in microseconds. This time can also be obtained by calling performance.now().

Usually callback runs very soon, unless the CPU is overloaded or the laptop battery is almost discharged, or there’s another reason.

The code below shows the time between first 20 runs for requestAnimationFrame. Usually it’s 10-20ms:

<script>
  let prev = performance.now();
  let times = 0;

  requestAnimationFrame(function measure(time) {
    document.body.insertAdjacentHTML("beforeEnd", Math.floor(time - prev) + " ");
    prev = time;

    if (times++ < 10) requestAnimationFrame(measure);
  })
</script>

Structured animation

Now we can make a more universal animation function based on requestAnimationFrame:

function animate({timing, draw, duration}) {

  let start = performance.now();

  requestAnimationFrame(function animate(time) {
    // timeFraction goes from 0 to 1
    let timeFraction = (time - start) / duration;
    if (timeFraction > 1) timeFraction = 1;

    // calculate the current animation state
    let progress = timing(timeFraction)

    draw(progress); // draw it

    if (timeFraction < 1) {
      requestAnimationFrame(animate);
    }

  });
}

Function animate accepts 3 parameters that essentially describes the animation:

duration

Total time of animation. Like, 1000.

timing(timeFraction)

Timing function, like CSS-property transition-timing-function that gets the fraction of time that passed (0 at start, 1 at the end) and returns the animation completion (like y on the Bezier curve).

For instance, a linear function means that the animation goes on uniformly with the same speed:

function linear(timeFraction) {
  return timeFraction;
}

It’s graph:

That’s just like transition-timing-function: linear. There are more interesting variants shown below.

draw(progress)

The function that takes the animation completion state and draws it. The value progress=0 denotes the beginning animation state, and progress=1 – the end state.

This is that function that actually draws out the animation.

It can move the element:

function draw(progress) {
  train.style.left = progress + 'px';
}

…Or do anything else, we can animate anything, in any way.

Let’s animate the element width from 0 to 100% using our function.

Click on the element for the demo:

Result
animate.js
index.html
function animate({duration, draw, timing}) {

  let start = performance.now();

  requestAnimationFrame(function animate(time) {
    let timeFraction = (time - start) / duration;
    if (timeFraction > 1) timeFraction = 1;

    let progress = timing(timeFraction)

    draw(progress);

    if (timeFraction < 1) {
      requestAnimationFrame(animate);
    }

  });
}
<!DOCTYPE HTML>
<html>

<head>
  <meta charset="utf-8">
  <style>
    progress {
      width: 5%;
    }
  </style>
  <script src="animate.js"></script>
</head>

<body>


  <progress id="elem"></progress>

  <script>
    elem.onclick = function() {
      animate({
        duration: 1000,
        timing: function(timeFraction) {
          return timeFraction;
        },
        draw: function(progress) {
          elem.style.width = progress * 100 + '%';
        }
      });
    };
  </script>


</body>

</html>

The code for it:

animate({
  duration: 1000,
  timing(timeFraction) {
    return timeFraction;
  },
  draw(progress) {
    elem.style.width = progress * 100 + '%';
  }
});

Unlike CSS animation, we can make any timing function and any drawing function here. The timing function is not limited by Bezier curves. And draw can go beyond properties, create new elements for like fireworks animation or something.

Timing functions

We saw the simplest, linear timing function above.

Let’s see more of them. We’ll try movement animations with different timing functions to see how they work.

Power of n

If we want to speed up the animation, we can use progress in the power n.

For instance, a parabolic curve:

function quad(timeFraction) {
  return Math.pow(timeFraction, 2)
}

The graph:

See in action (click to activate):

…Or the cubic curve or event greater n. Increasing the power makes it speed up faster.

Here’s the graph for progress in the power 5:

In action:

The arc

Function:

function circ(timeFraction) {
  return 1 - Math.sin(Math.acos(timeFraction));
}

The graph:

Back: bow shooting

This function does the “bow shooting”. First we “pull the bowstring”, and then “shoot”.

Unlike previous functions, it depends on an additional parameter x, the “elasticity coefficient”. The distance of “bowstring pulling” is defined by it.

The code:

function back(x, timeFraction) {
  return Math.pow(timeFraction, 2) * ((x + 1) * timeFraction - x)
}

The graph for x = 1.5:

For animation we use it with a specific value of x. Example for x = 1.5:

Bounce

Imagine we are dropping a ball. It falls down, then bounces back a few times and stops.

The bounce function does the same, but in the reverse order: “bouncing” starts immediately. It uses few special coefficients for that:

function bounce(timeFraction) {
  for (let a = 0, b = 1, result; 1; a += b, b /= 2) {
    if (timeFraction >= (7 - 4 * a) / 11) {
      return -Math.pow((11 - 6 * a - 11 * timeFraction) / 4, 2) + Math.pow(b, 2)
    }
  }
}

In action:

Elastic animation

One more “elastic” function that accepts an additional parameter x for the “initial range”.

function elastic(x, timeFraction) {
  return Math.pow(2, 10 * (timeFraction - 1)) * Math.cos(20 * Math.PI * x / 3 * timeFraction)
}

The graph for x=1.5:

In action for x=1.5:

Reversal: ease*

So we have a collection of timing functions. Their direct application is called “easeIn”.

Sometimes we need to show the animation in the reverse order. That’s done with the “easeOut” transform.

easeOut

In the “easeOut” mode the timing function is put into a wrapper timingEaseOut:

timingEaseOut(timeFraction) = 1 - timing(1 - timeFraction)

In other words, we have a “transform” function makeEaseOut that takes a “regular” timing function and returns the wrapper around it:

// accepts a timing function, returns the transformed variant
function makeEaseOut(timing) {
  return function(timeFraction) {
    return 1 - timing(1 - timeFraction);
  }
}

For instance, we can take the bounce function described above and apply it:

let bounceEaseOut = makeEaseOut(bounce);

Then the bounce will be not in the beginning, but at the end of the animation. Looks even better:

Result
style.css
index.html
#brick {
  width: 40px;
  height: 20px;
  background: #EE6B47;
  position: relative;
  cursor: pointer;
}

#path {
  outline: 1px solid #E8C48E;
  width: 540px;
  height: 20px;
}
<!DOCTYPE HTML>
<html>

<head>
  <meta charset="utf-8">
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="style.css">
  <script src="https://js.cx/libs/animate.js"></script>
</head>

<body>


  <div id="path">
    <div id="brick"></div>
  </div>

  <script>
    function makeEaseOut(timing) {
      return function(timeFraction) {
        return 1 - timing(1 - timeFraction);
      }
    }

    function bounce(timeFraction) {
      for (let a = 0, b = 1, result; 1; a += b, b /= 2) {
        if (timeFraction >= (7 - 4 * a) / 11) {
          return -Math.pow((11 - 6 * a - 11 * timeFraction) / 4, 2) + Math.pow(b, 2)
        }
      }
    }

    let bounceEaseOut = makeEaseOut(bounce);

    brick.onclick = function() {
      animate({
        duration: 3000,
        timing: bounceEaseOut,
        draw: function(progress) {
          brick.style.left = progress * 500 + 'px';
        }
      });
    };
  </script>


</body>

</html>

Here we can see how the transform changes the behavior of the function:

If there’s an animation effect in the beginning, like bouncing – it will be shown at the end.

In the graph above the regular bounce has the red color, and the easeOut bounce is blue.

  • Regular bounce – the object bounces at the bottom, then at the end sharply jumps to the top.
  • After easeOut – it first jumps to the top, then bounces there.

easeInOut

We also can show the effect both in the beginning and the end of the animation. The transform is called “easeInOut”.

Given the timing function, we calculate the animation state like this:

if (timeFraction <= 0.5) { // first half of the animation
  return timing(2 * timeFraction) / 2;
} else { // second half of the animation
  return (2 - timing(2 * (1 - timeFraction))) / 2;
}

The wrapper code:

function makeEaseInOut(timing) {
  return function(timeFraction) {
    if (timeFraction < .5)
      return timing(2 * timeFraction) / 2;
    else
      return (2 - timing(2 * (1 - timeFraction))) / 2;
  }
}

bounceEaseInOut = makeEaseInOut(bounce);

In action, bounceEaseInOut:

Result
style.css
index.html
#brick {
  width: 40px;
  height: 20px;
  background: #EE6B47;
  position: relative;
  cursor: pointer;
}

#path {
  outline: 1px solid #E8C48E;
  width: 540px;
  height: 20px;
}
<!DOCTYPE HTML>
<html>

<head>
  <meta charset="utf-8">
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="style.css">
  <script src="https://js.cx/libs/animate.js"></script>
</head>

<body>


  <div id="path">
    <div id="brick"></div>
  </div>

  <script>
    function makeEaseInOut(timing) {
      return function(timeFraction) {
        if (timeFraction < .5)
          return timing(2 * timeFraction) / 2;
        else
          return (2 - timing(2 * (1 - timeFraction))) / 2;
      }
    }


    function bounce(timeFraction) {
      for (let a = 0, b = 1, result; 1; a += b, b /= 2) {
        if (timeFraction >= (7 - 4 * a) / 11) {
          return -Math.pow((11 - 6 * a - 11 * timeFraction) / 4, 2) + Math.pow(b, 2)
        }
      }
    }

    let bounceEaseInOut = makeEaseInOut(bounce);

    brick.onclick = function() {
      animate({
        duration: 3000,
        timing: bounceEaseInOut,
        draw: function(progress) {
          brick.style.left = progress * 500 + 'px';
        }
      });
    };
  </script>


</body>

</html>

The “easeInOut” transform joins two graphs into one: easeIn (regular) for the first half of the animation and easeOut (reversed) – for the second part.

The effect is clearly seen if we compare the graphs of easeIn, easeOut and easeInOut of the circ timing function:

  • Red is the regular variantof circ (easeIn).
  • GreeneaseOut.
  • BlueeaseInOut.

As we can see, the graph of the first half of the animation is the scaled down easeIn, and the second half is the scaled down easeOut. As a result, the animation starts and finishes with the same effect.

More interesting “draw”

Instead of moving the element we can do something else. All we need is to write the write the proper draw.

Here’s the animated “bouncing” text typing:

Result
style.css
index.html
textarea {
  display: block;
  border: 1px solid #BBB;
  color: #444;
  font-size: 110%;
}

button {
  margin-top: 10px;
}
<!DOCTYPE HTML>
<html>

<head>
  <meta charset="utf-8">
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="style.css">
  <script src="https://js.cx/libs/animate.js"></script>
</head>

<body>


  <textarea id="textExample" rows="5" cols="60">He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
  </textarea>

  <button onclick="animateText(textExample)">Run the animated typing!</button>

  <script>
    function animateText(textArea) {
      let text = textArea.value;
      let to = text.length,
        from = 0;

      animate({
        duration: 5000,
        timing: bounce,
        draw: function(progress) {
          let result = (to - from) * progress + from;
          textArea.value = text.substr(0, Math.ceil(result))
        }
      });
    }


    function bounce(timeFraction) {
      for (let a = 0, b = 1, result; 1; a += b, b /= 2) {
        if (timeFraction >= (7 - 4 * a) / 11) {
          return -Math.pow((11 - 6 * a - 11 * timeFraction) / 4, 2) + Math.pow(b, 2)
        }
      }
    }
  </script>


</body>

</html>

Summary

JavaScript animation should be implemented via requestAnimationFrame. That built-in method allows to setup a callback function to run when the browser will be preparing a repaint. Usually that’s very soon, but the exact time depends on the browser.

When a page is in the background, there are no repaints at all, so the callback won’t run: the animation will be suspended and won’t consume resources. That’s great.

Here’s the helper animate function to setup most animations:

function animate({timing, draw, duration}) {

  let start = performance.now();

  requestAnimationFrame(function animate(time) {
    // timeFraction goes from 0 to 1
    let timeFraction = (time - start) / duration;
    if (timeFraction > 1) timeFraction = 1;

    // calculate the current animation state
    let progress = timing(timeFraction);

    draw(progress); // draw it

    if (timeFraction < 1) {
      requestAnimationFrame(animate);
    }

  });
}

Options:

  • duration – the total animation time in ms.
  • timing – the function to calculate animation progress. Gets a time fraction from 0 to 1, returns the animation progress, usually from 0 to 1.
  • draw – the function to draw the animation.

Surely we could improve it, add more bells and whistles, but JavaScript animations are not applied on a daily basis. They are used to do something interesting and non-standard. So you’d want to add the features that you need when you need them.

JavaScript animations can use any timing function. We covered a lot of examples and transformations to make them even more versatile. Unlike CSS, we are not limited to Bezier curves here.

The same is about draw: we can animate anything, not just CSS properties.

Tasks

importance: 5

Make a bouncing ball. Click to see how it should look:

Open the sandbox for the task.

To bounce we can use CSS property top and position:absolute for the ball inside the field with position:relative.

The bottom coordinate of the field is field.clientHeight. But the top property gives coordinates for the top of the ball, the edge position is field.clientHeight - ball.clientHeight.

So we animate the top from 0 to field.clientHeight - ball.clientHeight.

Now to get the “bouncing” effect we can use the timing function bounce in easeOut mode.

Here’s the final code for the animation:

let to = field.clientHeight - ball.clientHeight;

animate({
  duration: 2000,
  timing: makeEaseOut(bounce),
  draw(progress) {
    ball.style.top = to * progress + 'px'
  }
});

Open the solution in the sandbox.

importance: 5

Make the ball bounce to the left. Like this:

Write the animation code. The distance to the right is 100px.

Take the solution of the previous task Animate the bouncing ball as the source.

In the task Animate the bouncing ball we had only one property to animate. Now we need one more: elem.style.left.

The horizontal coordinate changes by another law: it does not “bounce”, but gradually increases shifting the ball to the right.

We can write one more animate for it.

As the time function we could use linear, but something like makeEaseOut(quad) looks much better.

The code:

let height = field.clientHeight - ball.clientHeight;
let width = 100;

// animate top (bouncing)
animate({
  duration: 2000,
  timing: makeEaseOut(bounce),
  draw: function(progress) {
    ball.style.top = height * progress + 'px'
  }
});

// animate left (moving to the right)
animate({
  duration: 2000,
  timing: makeEaseOut(quad),
  draw: function(progress) {
    ball.style.left = width * progress + "px"
  }
});

Open the solution in the sandbox.

Tutorial map

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