IE # 234
Member # 801
If you are using standard dope sheets (also called exposure sheets or x-sheets) you are probably using 96 frame sheets. Each line is equivalant to 1 frame of film. You'll notice that most of the time they are broken down into blocks of 24 (indicating 24 frames of film or 1 second) and 16 frame blocks (when you were dealing with film, there were 16 frames in 1 foot of 35mm: This is what animators are referring to when they talk about feet or footage).
Most sheets have camera instructions on the left hand side. Again, in the old days you would write all of the camera information in this area. The far left column is usually left for the director to notate the timings. The center rows indicate one level of animation. In general the level that lays on the bottom is shown to the right.
Inbetween the timing column and the last layer there is a column that is usually indicated as dial: that stands for dialogue. In this column the dialogue is read phonetically frame by frame before the animator gets the scene so they know were to place the mouth shapes. However, when you read dialogue it doesn't really look like true phonetics. If you read a track with the word "phonetics" it might look something like this...
Reading tracks is much more of an art than a science.
When you fill out the sheets, levels are usually indicated alphabetically and the drawings are indicated by frame number (something like A-1 would imply level A, drawing 1, frame 1). If you have no drawings in a level then you indicate that by putting an X in that column (the X indicates a blank cell) and drawing a vertical line below the X and down the sheet until something comes on. If something holds, wether it is a drawing or a blank, you use the vertical line to indicate that it is holding (a held drawing is referred to as a Held Cell or a Hold Cell).
When I fill my sheets out I like to number the odd numbered frames in the timing column right next to the dialogue column so I can easilly keep track of numbering. Remember, the numbering is usually relative to the scene: each scene should start at frame 001. That being the case, each scene should get it's own set of sheets. The beginning of the scene should be indicated with a red horizontal line just before frame one and the end of the scene should be indicated by a red horizontal line after the last frame of the scene.
If you are animating paperless you may not necesarilly need sheets since the program will build the sheet as you go. However, if you are working with multiple people, the sheets will allow everyone to see what is going on. They are absolutely critical if you are animating by hand though.