Using ‘useNativeDriver’ in react-native animations effectively

React-native allows us to easily create beautiful animations easily using the Animated class. However, unless we specify ‘useNativeDriver’ when starting our animations, all the work is done on the JS thread.

This can cause frame drops in our applications. ‘useNativeDriver’ fixes this by passing all the information about our animations to the UI thread when it starts, meaning that the bridge is no longer needed during the course of the animation. In short, ‘useNativeDriver’ makes our animations run faster.

“Gotta go fast”

More on this in the official docs: https://facebook.github.io/react-native/blog/2017/02/14/using-native-driver-for-animated

The drawback of using ‘useNativeDriver’, is that it only supports things like transform and opacity. For example, we cannot use the native driver on an Animated.Value that is used directly on the “width” style of a view.

In this article, I will discuss a few tips and tricks for making use of the native driver on common animations.

Animating colors

Let’s say we have a view that should change from red to green. Our first instinct is to animate the RGB values.

import React, {Component} from 'react';
import {StyleSheet, View, Animated} from 'react-native';

class App extends Component {

animatedValue = new Animated.Value(0);

componentDidMount() {
Animated.timing(this.animatedValue,
{
toValue: 1,
duration: 1000,
}).start();
}

render() {
return (
<View style={styles.container}>
<Animated.View style={[styles.square, {
backgroundColor: this.animatedValue.interpolate(
{
inputRange: [0, 1],
outputRange: [
'rgba(255, 0, 0, 1)',
'rgba(0, 255, 0, 1)'
]
})
}]}/>
</View>
);
}
}

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
container: {
flex: 1,
justifyContent: 'center',
alignItems: 'center',
},
square: {
position: 'absolute',
width: 200,
height: 200,
backgroundColor: 'green',
},
});

export default App;

Above, we have defined an animated view. This views backgroundColor will animate from red to green over the course of 1 second using our animatedValue we set up.

This is fine, but wait, we’re not using ‘useNativeDriver’. This means if our app is doing a lot of work, we are more likely to lose frames when playing this animation as it is on the JS thread. Let’s fix this by making it use the native driver.

First we need to add “useNativeDriver: true” to our Animated.timing config. However, the backgroundColor style is not supported by the native driver.

So let’s use the opacity style instead.

Transparency is sort of a color, right?

If we have a red square on top of a green square, and we fade out our red square over time, we can have the same effect as our above example.

import React, {Component} from 'react';
import {StyleSheet, View, Animated} from 'react-native';

class App extends Component {

animatedValue = new Animated.Value(0);

componentDidMount() {
Animated.timing(this.animatedValue,
{
toValue: 1,
duration: 1000,
useNativeDriver: true
}).start();
}

render() {
return (
<View style={styles.container}>
<View style={styles.squareBG}/>
<Animated.View style={[styles.square, {opacity: this.animatedValue}]}/>
</View>
);
}
}

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
container: {
flex: 1,
justifyContent: 'center',
alignItems: 'center',
},
squareBG: {
width: 200,
height: 200,
backgroundColor: 'green',
},
square: {
position: 'absolute',
width: 200,
height: 200,
backgroundColor: 'red',
},
});

export default App;

It’s as easy as that. Now our color changing animation will be done on the UI thread.

Let’s look at one more example for a common component used quite frequently.

Animating progress bar

For animating a progress bar, it makes sense to have a view, with a view inside it, with the width value of the inner view increasing over time. Something like this:

import React, {Component} from 'react';
import {StyleSheet, View, Animated} from 'react-native';

class App extends Component {

animatedValue = new Animated.Value(0);

componentDidMount() {
Animated.timing(this.animatedValue,
{
toValue: 300,
duration: 3000,
}).start();
}

render() {
return (
<View style={styles.container}>
<View style={styles.loadBar}>
<Animated.View style={[styles.loadAmount, {width: this.animatedValue}]}/>
</View>
</View>
);
}
}

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
container: {
flex: 1,
justifyContent: 'center',
alignItems: 'center',
backgroundColor: '#333',
},
loadBar: {
width: 300,
height: 40,
backgroundColor: 'white',
},
loadAmount: {
position: 'absolute',
width: 0,
height: 40,
backgroundColor: 'red',
},
});

export default App;

The problem here is again, we do not use the native driver. And we can’t animate the width value of a view using the driver.

T.Hanks for reading this far..

So how do we approach this? The driver supports animating the transfrom (position, scale etc.) of views. So if we were to make our outer view have overflow: ‘hidden’, this would make our inner view hidden if it is not directly within the view. And if we change it’s x position over time, we can get the same effect as our above example, except now, we are using the native driver.

import React, {Component} from 'react';
import {StyleSheet, View, Animated} from 'react-native';

class App extends Component {

animatedValue = new Animated.Value(-300);

componentDidMount() {
Animated.timing(this.animatedValue,
{
toValue: 0,
duration: 3000,
useAnimatedDriver: true,
}).start();
}

render() {
return (
<View style={styles.container}>
<View style={styles.loadBar}>
<Animated.View style={[styles.loadAmount, {transform: [{translateX: this.animatedValue}]}]}/>
</View>
</View>
);
}
}

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
container: {
flex: 1,
justifyContent: 'center',
alignItems: 'center',
backgroundColor: '#333',
},
loadBar: {
width: 300,
height: 40,
backgroundColor: 'white',
overflow: 'hidden',
},
loadAmount: {
position: 'absolute',
width: 300,
height: 40,
backgroundColor: 'red',
},
});

export default App;

In conclusion, react-native Animated is a great tool, and using the native driver makes it even better and more powerful! However it doesn’t let us animate on every view value, meaning we have to be more creative with our animations if we wish to make use of it in certain situations.

The future? There is a complete reimplementation of the Animated library https://github.com/software-mansion/react-native-reanimated which (like the examples above) does all the work on the native side, meaning smoother animations for us all. So go check it out!

Thanks for reading!

--

--

Robert is a React-Native Developer currently working at VROMO, with a BSc. in Multimedia & Computer Games Development from the University of Limerick.

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Robert O'Connor

Robert is a React-Native Developer currently working at VROMO, with a BSc. in Multimedia & Computer Games Development from the University of Limerick.