Creating Custom Timers

A recent tweet and LinkedIn post attracted a lot of attention,  due to the lunch timer running in the background.

As a result I promised a blog post on how I built is, so here it is.

This is what we are aiming for, this is the timer used in the original tweet running in OBS Studio.

Here’s how you can make your own

Step 1 – Build your slides – Content & Background

I recommend 1 slide per minute of your timer.  That makes it easier to set the slide timer and also to create different length timers from the presentation.  It gives a more consistent feel to the timer if you can keep your timer in the same place on each slide and the same size.  Whilst setting out the main content and background you may also wish to include a placeholder for the timer.  In the example above I have used 4 placeholders, one per digit with different colours for the  minutes and seconds.

I recommend an intro slide for slide 1 saying something along the lines of “Time for a Break”

Step 2 – Add the timer numbers

Assuming you are counting down minutes & seconds you will need to display 4 digits on the slide, each digit will need to be in its own text box.  In this worked example I am going to assume a 10 minute timer.

Starting after your intro slide, add the digits for the total time and format them for your slide.

Use the alignment tools to align and space the digits

To make it easier on you in the later steps, I suggest you name the objects on your slide, using the Selection Pane.  To open the Selection Pane select one of the text boxes and from the Shape Format tab, choose Selection Pane. Then double click the name highlighted in the selection pane to edit the name.

Next we’ll add the digits to change the minutes.  Starting at 10:00, we should next see 09:59.  to do this duplicate the first minutes digit and change to 0.  Edit the name of the text box in the selection pane. Select both the starting digit and its replacement in the selection pane and use the alignment tools to align the two text boxes by center and middle so they are completely aligned.

Repeat this process for the second digit of the minutes.

Next we will be putting in the seconds – these all need to be named, but I would suggest naming them as per the number you add.  So the 5 for 50 seconds I would name 50, and the 5 for 5 seconds I would name 5.  Be sure to align each new digit as you go.

Step 3 – Animation

To get the numbers to appear to slide round and change we will use the Peek Out and Peek In animations.  First select the starting minutes digit text box using the selection pane and add the Peek Out animation from More Exit Effects in the animation gallery.  The default To Bottom effect is appropriate in this case. 

Now animate the replacement digit.  Select the number via the selection pane and add the Peek In animation from the More Entrance Effects in the animation gallery.  Change the effect option to From Top.

Open the Animation Pane and set the entrance on replacement digit to be Start With Previous.

For now we will leave the first step as Start On Click for testing purposes whilst building the slide.  I recommend running  the slide show to test the animation as you add animation to each set of digits.  However when finished, set the first step Start with Previous

To switch between the selection pane and animation pane use the icons beside the left pane.

Repeat for each digit, sliding one out and bringing in the next.  This is a time consuming process as we go from 10:00 to 09:59, 09:58, 09:57, 09:56, 09:55, 09:54, 09:53, 09:52, 09:51, 09:50, 09:49, … To 09:00.  You will need to animate the 1 second numbers multiple times to give the full one minute countdown.

As you do each pair set the first the exit effect to start 0.5 after the previous animation and the entrance effect to start with the exit effect.  The Peek In/Out animation takes 0.5 seconds so delaying 0.5 after to start next pair gives the 1 second timing.

The full animation for the 10:00 to 9:00 slide is shown below

Step 4 – Duplicate Slide and adjust for other numbers

Duplicate the slide and change the starting and end minute numbers.  The next slide you make will need to run from 09:00 to 08:00 and so on until the final slide is 01:00 to 00:00

Once you have finished duplicating the slides, I would suggest adding a 0.25 delay to the first animation on the first slide, to give people chance to see the total time.

You may also wish to add a placeholder – let’s start again slide at the end to give you time to switch over to the normal input at the end so as to avoid ending on a black screen. However if you are using OBS Studio, you can add a static image to the scene instead.

Step 5 – Slide Transitions

Set each slide to advance automatically after 1:00:00, without a transition effect.  The transition effects will extend the run time of the whole timer.

Step 6 – Test

Run the slide show from the beginning to test.  You may also want to time it to see just how close to accurate it is. 

An alternative to creating your own

Start with my template (below), that runs for 10 minutes and contains the animations described here.

Step 7 – Convert to a video

To convert a PowerPoint to a video use File > Export > Create a Video.  I would suggest that 480p or 720p are adequate if its just the timer, however if you have included graphics in the timer please user 1080p.  As you will be simply sharing the screen showing the video the quality will not impact on streaming speed.

Step 8 – Load into OBS Studio as a Scene

Create a new scene and add a media course input which is the video you generated from your PowerPoint.  When you activate the scene the video will start automatically.  If you wish you can also add a static ‘starting again soon’ image or text screen behind the video, so if the video runs out before you switch scenes the screen isn’t left blank.

Alternative Step 8 – If you don’t use OBS Studio – Playing the Video during your training

If you do not use OBS Studio then you can play the video during a break and share the screen it is playing on or just the video window.  If you use this method, you must not use the computer during video playback, even if the app you use is on a different screen  or the timer will pause/stop.

Where Next? Some Other Ideas

Why not create your own break time tip videos and add the two together.  You’ll need to use video editing software such as Camtasia.  If you try and embed video into the timer in PowerPoint the animations will not run true to time.  Or even how about a starting soon reel, including tip videos.  These both add value for your delegates and take pressure off the trainer.

Credit

I got the original idea from Free PowerPoint Countdown Template | PowerPoint Tips and Tutorials (shapechef.com), but have created the presentations in this blog from scratch.

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