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September 5, 2023

How to animate countdowns in After Effects

Type is an After Effects plugin that’s designed to save you time. But it can also make time…as in time counters.

How to add a time counter

Time counter button in Type for After Effects

Press the time counter button to create a time counter. Or hold shift to create an automatic countdown timer. Type will convert your selected text layer to a timer or create a new layer if nothing is selected.

Once a timer is created, the layer will contain an effect called Count. Here you can adjust the speed; 100% will count up, -100% will count down.

You can also adjust the start time. When creating an auto countdown this will be set to the length of your current comp.

By default, the timer will use colons to separate each time unit. You can turn on Custom Colon and it will replace these colons with whatever text you have typed on the actual text layer.

Finally, you can adjust which units are visible or hidden. Turning on Auto-collapse will hide a unit when the current time is below that threshold. For example the hour unit would be hidden one the timer reaches 59:999.

How to add monospacing

Monospacing button in Type for After Effects

If you are using a non monospaced font, chances are your timer will appear to animate very wobbly. This can be fixed by adding monospacing. With the layer selected press the monospace button.

Make sure your text is set to Metrics in the Character panel.

With monospacing added, you can control the spacing between each character under the Spacing effect.

To control the spacing between a specific range (i.e. the spacing around the colons) you can add variable spacers. With the layer still selected, hold shift and press the monospace button – this will create a variable spacer.

Under the Variable Spacer effect, use the Start and End to set your desired range. This will depend on the direction (either left to right or right to left) and begin counting at 0.

Variable spacers in After Effects

Once you have your range set you can adjust the spacing. Set this to a negative value to tighten the spacing on your given range.

You can add as many variable spacers as you need.

Type for After Effects

Type does way more than just time counters. With Type you can highlight text, underline text, add blinking text cursors, format numbers, split text based on word / line / character, and more.

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