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A simple countdown in After Effects By Stephen Schleicher

I have received a couple of e-mails, and have seen at least one post in the DMN forums asking how to do a countdown in After Effects.  It can be done, and is as easy as 1, 2, 3 or should I say 3?2?1?

With the Text Tool introduced in Adobe After Effects 6.0, many users may have forgotten, or may not be familiar with the Numbers effect.  This may be especially true for users who are just acquainting themselves with this very powerful application.

I like to listen to music on my iPod as I work.  For this exercise, why dont you put on Peter Schillings ?Major Tom as you work.

Step 1:  Create a New Comp (Command+N on the Mac or Control+N on the PC).  For this exercise you can use the Medium, 320x240 Preset with a length of 10 seconds.

Step 2:  Create a New Solid (Command+Y on the Mac or Control+Y on the PC).  Make the layer the same size as your Comp by clicking on the Make Comp Size button.  Name the layer ?Countdown.  Because we will be applying an effect that has its own color picker, the color of this solid does not matter.  Click the OK button when you have set all of your parameters.

Step 3:  Make sure the Countdown layer is selected in the Timeline and from the Effect Menu apply the Numbers effect to the layer (Effect>Text>Numbers).  This will bring up the initial Numbers interface where you can select the font, style, and alignment.

For this exercise, I use Arial, with the alignment set to Right.

When you click OK, the Effect Controls Panel pops up where we can make some further adjustments.

Since we are doing a countdown, it works best to change the Format Type to Timecode[30].  This will create a Timecode counter that can be used for everything from a digital watch, to a counter on a bomb, to the time read out of a sporting event.

In the event you dont need all of the numbers (hh:mm:ss:ff), you can always apply a mask to the layer to hide the unwanted digits.

If you dont want your countdown to end at zero, you can use the Value/Offset/Random Offset to change the current time.

Use the Position control to place the readout where you want it on screen, and use the Fill Color and Size to get the look you desire.

If you make a RAM Preview now you will notice two problems.  The first is the numbers are counting up when we want them to count down, and the numbers spacing changes throughout the animation.

Lets tackle the second problem first.

Step 4:  To adjust the kerning of the numbers, deselect the Proportional Spacing box in the Effects Controls Panel.  Proportional Spacing tells the digits to space themselves according to the width of the number. 7 takes up more space the 1 for example.  By turning this off, all of the numbers will be even spaced.

Step 5:  The final step is to get the numbers to countdown.  This is very easy and this step can be applied to any layer you wish to run backwards.

With the Countdown layer selected in the Timeline, press Command+Option+R on the Mac or Control+Alt+R on the PC.  This reverses the layer.

If you make a RAM Preview now, you will see that the number effect does indeed countdown as you wanted.

You can now take this numeric countdown and Corner Pin it to another layer to get the numbers layer to blend seamlessly with the rest of composition.

As this exercise has shown, sometimes the easiest solution to a problem can be found in effects and plug-ins that may seem to have become useless.

For over a complete list of the 90 After Effects tutorials I have written to date, make sure you visit my website at www.mindspring.com/~schleicher.  While many are aimed at the beginner, advanced and pro users will find useful gems there as well.

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Stephen Schleicher is a well known writer, visual effects artist and media guru! You can see more of Stephen at
www.majorspoilers.com and www.stephenschleicher.com
Related Keywords:countdown, numbers, adobe after effects, after effects tutorials, schleicher, timer, ae, ae6.5 tutorials, tutorial, tutorials

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