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Custom Animated Countdown Timer


Follow along to see how you can add custom countdown timers to almost any live performance or presentation. Without needing any plug-ins or third party solutions.


The game is afoot



Study Planner first hidden puzzle treasure hunt

Just before the Study Planner was sent out to be printed, there was a final opportunity to run through and test the game, to see if all the puzzles were in fact solvable. When hiding clues in a book that is written in code and backwards, the one thing not wanted is a spelling mistake.

One lucky staff member was, with allot of hints, given the final version of the study planner and told of the clues within. They were, with some helping nudges, a first and only real test case of the game before it would go off to print. It was a nervous few hours as we watched them discover and solve each cypher hoping that everything was spelt correctly, and that all the number trails lead to the correct pages. The real-world test was a success, and the book went out to print that same day.


Study planner school diary treasure hunt secret message

On the first day of school each student was, as every year, handed a copy of the study planner. With no notice, announcement, or hint given as to its extra special purpose. It wasn’t until two months later, inconveniently on April 1, that a message was left in the morning bulletin that would hopefully encourage some curious minds to begin discovering that a game is afoot. On the last day of the school term and the Thursday before the long Easter weekend. The notice read “Best of Luck: There is more than one Easter Egg to discover this year. A puzzling treasure hunt to the key and a $100 gift voucher for first place. Make sure to Plan your Study and are ready player 29?”.

While the timing wasn’t great it sparked the interest of almost every student who was hoping to solve the puzzle by the end of the day. While a handful of students had found and deciphered the first clue before the announcement, the message in the daily bulletin sent hundreds of students in all directions around the campus as each one came to a different conclusion.

The bulletin message itself needed to be solved, while not overly difficult, we needed to show that this was a puzzle to be completed and not simply a “follow the breadcrumbs” path. The cipher in the message laid out a few different bits of information; the phrase “ready player 29” is reference to Ready Player One, a book/movie about a video game having a long hidden quest to a prize. Again, reinforced with the wording “More than one Easter Egg to discover”, which is also reference to a secret hidden inside visual media. The wording “Plan your Study” was in refence to the Study Planner, and the “29” was the page number that contained the first puzzle and start to the quest, and a deliberate mistake of the ‘ready player one’ title.


Student Diary background page hidden number treasure hunt

The daily bulletin message kick started the entire school’s interest in the secret game included in the Study Planner, even in ways we didn’t expect. The most satisfying of which were those students who pooled their knowledge and worked together as a group. This was completely unexpected considering only one major prize could be won. Seeing that the journey of discovery, solving the puzzles, and finding the clues was something that was bringing people together completely exceeded our expectations.


Study Planner message translation student diary hidden message cypher

As time went on, the openly public hunting and solving of puzzles in the planner subdued. Those seeking the solution to the riddle and wanting the prize became less and less vocal about it. We received messages on occasion asking for hints, or wondering if a theory was correct. While nothing was ever given away, we relished in the knowledge that students were wanting to seek out and find the treasure. If they could actually solve the puzzles and get to the end was a mystery to even us, one that only time would know.


Add a Countdown Timer to PowerPoint



PowerPoint presentation slide with countdown timer

Welcome, to our guide for adding a custom animated countdown timer to your PowerPoint project or Live Presentation without the need to download third party plug-ins, or fiddle with complex animation setups. Read on below as we guide you through the process from start to finish.

Microsoft Office is commonplace in most business environments, and with PowerPoint files also being self-contained it makes it easy to transfer your presentation to different devices and locations without needing to worry about compatibility, linked files, or folder structure. PowerPoint is also a very versatile program and tool suite, along with its stability, it works on a variety of both Desktop and Mobile operating systems.

We use PowerPoint here at Giraffe and Elf to design and create our motion graphics and animations for live streams, stage performances, and digital signage. The software also allows us to easily export to a multitude of different formats which streamlines our process when transferring our presentations to even more Desktop, mobile, rack, and other unique display systems.


Live stream presentation graphics with PowerPoint

One thing PowerPoint doesn’t have a tool for, is a countdown timer. It offers ways to construct an arbitrary timer, animations of a filling bar or shrinking circle are simple to create but cannot display specific numbers without complicating the number of required animations, layers, and elements needed.

Within PowerPoint, creating an animated count down from 10, it isn’t too difficult. But from 30, 60, or more, adds an excessive amount of time and complexity. Utilising plug-ins or paid third party solutions limits the versatility of what can be displayed, where it is positioned, the font used, and the method to get it started. Everything we’ve tried in the past was restricted to stale blocky fonts or had huge ‘GO’ buttons that couldn’t be removed. None of them offered an elegant result.


Animated GIF countdown timer templates and styles

Our solution is simple and uses an animated GIF. It has great support within PowerPoint, has no required scripting or macro knowledge, and is not limited to only work within MSOffice software. With some tinkering in Adobe Animate, a template was created and a multitude of styles has been exported for a series of timers that count down from 30 minutes. Thirty minutes is a good maximum and below we guide you through cutting out frames to shorten the time for your custom needs.

Start by heading to GiraffeAndElf.com/Powerpoint with your internet browser and locate the article featuring a variety of countdown timer styles. All styles are available in both black and white versions, and you can click on each link to preview the timer in motion.


Saving animated countdown timer template to your local device

Once you have decided on the style you’d like for your project, Right-Click, or Command Click, and select ‘save image as’.
Then choose and save it to a location on your local device. Once you have the GIF file saved, you can add it to your presentation, or cut down the timer to suit your specifications. Read on below for instructions on both, cutting the timer length down to your custom duration, and adding it into PowerPoint.

For our example we are going to cut 30 minutes down to a 5 minute timer. For your use you can specify any time under 30 minutes, the method for cutting it is the same.

An online GIF frame cutter has given us the best success when trimming the animation. We use the site Online GIF Tools, and although successful when trimming files, the site isn’t without some caveats. Firstly, the 30 minute animated countdown GIF file is large and may take time to upload. Secondly, each GIF file is large and may also take time to download. The site may prompt that it is “unresponsive” and ask if the you would like to wait, be sure to select “wait” and be patient.


Online GIF cutting tools for countdown animation

Open up a web browser and head to, onlinegiftools.com/cut-gif. The site presents you with a select image box under the word ‘GIF’ with a variety of ways to upload your countdown timer GIF file. Locate the file on your device and upload it to the site.

The countdown timer GIF files are large, (especially for a typical GIF file) and the website may prompt that it is “unresponsive”. It will ask “if you would like to wait?” be sure to select “wait” and be patient. It may ask this multiple times, depending on your internet connection. However, keep selecting “wait” and it will eventually upload.


Online GIF cutting tools countdown animation trimming wait prompt

Once the file is uploaded and made available for editing it is time to trim the frames for your custom time, this part requires a little math. Each frame of the countdown timer animation is one second. You’ll need to cut the time you desire in remaining seconds from 30 minutes.

For this example, I want to output a 5 minute timer. As the frame count is in seconds I will need to multiply each minute by 60 seconds for my required frame count. I’ll start by multiplying 5 x 60, for the number of frames I’ll need to keep, which is 300.

Next, I need to subtract 300 that from the total animation frames, this would be 30 x 60 + 1. This is also shown on the Online GIF Tools site under “Input GIF, total frames”. The +1 is an extra frame added to the animation to start the countdown at the whole number. Typically, a 5 minute timer would start at 4:59, and if you want an accurate timer you can do that. For our application, this is more of a visual aid, and it looks nicer by starting at 5:00.


Online GIF tools cutting region for countdown animation

The input GIF total frames is 1801 (30 minutes), minus our 300 (5 minutes) frames is 1501. This number is what we insert into the GIF cutter options box. Select “Cut a frame range”, and input 1501 into “start frame”, and input 1801 into the “end frame” options boxes.

The preview, or “cut GIF” preview will now show a 5 minute timer counting down from 5:00, all the way to 00:00. When you are happy with the resulting GIF select “save as” under the “cut GIF” preview and then select “Download”, and save it to a location on your device.


Online GIF tools 5 minute timer and unresponsive prompt

The site may prompt you to, “be patient”, and again may also prompt a series of unresponsive warnings. Click “wait” on these, and eventually the “Save As” dialogue will appear. Save the file locally, and you are ready to insert it into your presentation.

Now that you have the custom animated countdown timer you can add it into any software that supports animated GIF’s. Below we will guide you through adding it into a PowerPoint presentation.

Start by opening up PowerPoint, and select a blank presentation.

With the first slide open, add your desired style elements, and background colour to it. In our example we are going to make a holding slide for a live stream. We are going to add in a stream name, and notification message.


Animated Countdown timer slide style for PowerPoint presentation

Next, we will add in the countdown timer and position the size to where we want it. There are some options we can use in PowerPoint, to further customise the countdown style beyond the simple black and white colours. With the GIF selected you have the option of selecting “Picture Format” on the top ribbon.

While all options are available, most of them will prevent the GIF from animating, some examples are.
Under the “Colour” menu, you can add a shade to the GIF, which gives you allot more colour options for styling.
Under the “Picture Effects” menu, you can also add Glow and Reflection stylings.


Microsoft PowerPoint picture effect menu ribbon and options

However, these depend on your operating system and version of PowerPoint so your best way forward is to test the animation with each change. Add your desired effect and then run the presentation to test that it still animates if it plays you are in luck, if not you’ll need to undo the last change, or select “Reset Picture”.

For colour edits, the black base will give you more saturated options, the white base will give you more pastel options. Combined it covers a large variety of custom colours.

Once you are happy with the style of your countdown timer the slide is ready to use. The timer animation will start as soon as the slide is presented, and the animation will pause during any transition or animation effect. To mitigate this, continuously test your slides and, if need be, put in a buffer slide if you want more control over your timing. Depending on your software, the timer may also loop once it reaches 00:00.
To avoid this in PowerPoint, we suggest automatically setting an animation to remove the countdown graphic when it reaches 00:00 so you are not having to precisely time your slideshow clicks with the clock on screen. When using a transition or animation, setting the duration to less than a second hides the pause in the countdown timer.


Microsoft PowerPoint live stream slide presentation countdown timer

That’s it, you should now have your custom countdown timer styled with the slide ready to use. For further details we have a YouTube video available that shows the entire process we’ve just explained. Follow the links in the article, to find and use everything that we’ve written about in this guide. I hope we’ve helped you with your future presentations as much as these timers have helped us here at Giraffe and Elf.


To Have and to Hold



Finished Lego Minifigure bride and groom custom figure

Every part of the Lego Wedding Minifigure project has come together. With challenges overcome and processes refined it is time to finish the extra-large bride and groom. With the paint still a little fresh and the polished wax finish looking very nice it was time to pack up these figures for delivery, but not before taking a few photos.

The bride and groom extra large Lego minifigures were painted and sculpted to resemble their real-life, betrothed human counterparts. The figures were presented on the wedding day as a feature for the cake cutting and reception ceremony. Both figures used a combination of 3D printed parts for the individually unique pieces, and cast parts for the common or shared pieces. All parts were sanded, primed with a spray body filler, and coloured with an airbrush or rattle can top coat. The final high gloss finish was created by using wet sanding and high gloss automotive wax polish.


Lego Minifigure with custom large wedding figure groom

While it can be difficult in the following images to tell these figures apart from a regular sized Lego minifigure. The bride and groom ended up being 220mm or 8.6inches tall at around ten times the size of a regular minifigure. With the chunky resin bodies they also each weigh around 0.5kg or 1.1lb. This is a nice weight for their size and means they are less likely to be knocked over while on display.


Lego Minifigure bride and groom custom large figure wedding display piece

We hope you have enjoyed following along with us as we’ve blogged our journey in their creation. We have had fun putting this extra content together and sharing a glimpse into the process behind the finished result.


Large custom Lego Minifigure Groom for wedding centrepiece display


Large Bride Lego Minifigure wedding theme display piece


Cut and Polish, Making Figures Shine



Custom Lego Minifigure extra-large groom designer toy paint and stickers

The extra-large Lego wedding minifigures are coming together nicely with all parts glued, prepped, and primed. There is only one more process left to make these models literally shine and reflect their original scale counterparts, and that is to give them and high gloss finish.
In hindsight the process we used was the logical choice, but it took a lot of learning and failing before we arrived at it. Follow along below to help achieve smooth high gloss finish detailing on your future creations.

Like most goals this one started with a simple assumption, to achieve a high gloss surface finish we should use a high gloss paint. The label on the rattle can confirms this and everything looks straight forward and easy. However obtaining a smooth high gloss finish with rattle can spray paint isn’t that simple, the slightest divot can create an air bubble, and the tiniest speck of dust creates a bump. It takes a considerable amount of paint to get a smooth finish, that can also run and drip when over sprayed. A thicker coat also dries from the outside in, leaving a soft skin on top for days/weeks leaving it susceptible to finger prints.


Custom lego minifigure parts primed and painted matt finish designer toys

Issues are further compounded when adding a second coat of paint or spraying in multiple thin layers. Second coats applied without perfect timing react with the first coat creating a ripple or crackle effect, while laying it down too thin won’t make it glossy. Lastly with allot of gloss paint brands light and dark colours are made differently, much like oil and water, they may not mix and react unexpectedly with the undercoat creating further undesired results. This becomes a problem when the same primer is used on the wedding figs, yet their top colours were black and white, each figure part had differing finish problems after spraying due to this.

After about two weeks of trial and error and about ten attempts at laying down a perfect gloss coat. With each attempt trying a selection of rattle can brands, matt air brush paint, and clear coating all the while having to sand back and prep the surface again when it failed, it was not looking good. The deadline for the job was creeping closer and waiting 3 days for another coat of gloss paint to dry was no longer an option.


Custom lego minifigure head and hair designer toy model high gloss paint finishing

At this point we took stock of our failures, and really looked at the issues we were trying to solve. The solution came about when looking at other, non-figure, painting techniques. Things like guitar bodies, and furniture weren’t finished with a high gloss surface paint, they are rather polished to a high gloss. The solution had been so simple, no matter the painted surface finish, it can be buffed and shined into a high gloss using a car polish and wet sanding techniques. With the parts of the wedding figures already at a close enough state from the rattle cans, they were easily wet sanded to a smooth satin finish before given their water slide transfer details. Then covered in a mirror finish car polish and buffed using an electric buffer.


Custom lego minifigure torso paint finish with applied stickers mirror finishing

This made the entire project come together, each additional coat of polish or time spend buffing added to the end result rather that detracting from it. It also meant that the finish of the paint didn’t rely on being glossy, so custom colours were mixed up and applied with an airbrushed that more closely resembled the official Lego colours. The end result was a assortment of very impressive minifigure parts that,  apart from their large scale, looked indistinguishable from the real thing.


Welcome to Giraffe and Elf


giraffe and elf design logo banner

Giraffeandelf.com is live and we would like to welcome you to our little corner of the internet. It has taken time and dedication behind the scenes to get this web page off the ground, and with it we look forward to showing you more of what Giraffe and Elf Design has to offer.

Follow along as we showcase our endeavours and produce some unique items and other projects. Thank you for visiting, and let us know your feedback and comments by following our social media channels.