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February 3, 2014
After EffectsTutorialsVariousVideo Editing

After Effects Video Tutorial: Creating a Self-Animating Clock

Create a self-animating functional clock in After Effects using expressions.

Adobe After Effects

In this Premiumbeat exclusive video tutorial you’ll learn how to create a virtual “analog style” clock in After Effects that doesn’t use any keyframes. The technique is very useful if you are trying to make a self-animating clock. Fundamentals covered include:

  • The “value +” expression
  • Pick-whipping expressions
  • Adding a shape layer repeater

This tutorial will save you a lot of time if you are used to animating clocks manually. Instead of setting keyframes, with a few quick expressions the whole process can be completely hands-off.

Don’t want to watch the video? Follow along with the step-by-step tutorial below. Click any image for larger view. 

1 Create a new hour-long composition. 
2 Create a new solid for the background.

3 Create the face of the clock using an ellipse path on a shape layer.

4 Create a new small rectangle and move to the top of the clock. Add a repeater to create 12 copies that rotate 30 degrees each.

5 Add a drop shadow to all 3 elements.

6 Make a new red rectangle for the seconds hand. Move the rectangle so that it is positioned around the middle of the clock correctly. 

7 Edit the rotation of the second hand and add the expression:


8 Duplicate and recolor the new layer. Pickwhip the new layer rotation to the old layer rotation add: /60

Then, resize.

9 Duplicate the minute hand to create an hour hand. Pickwhip the rotation of the hour hand to the minute hand and add: /12

If you have any questions regarding this tutorial, or if you have any quick tips for using expressions in After Effects, please comment below!

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  • sanee

    Great Tutorial.. Learned lot from it. I’ve a quick question.. Can we add the jumping effect to the “Seconds Hand”.. you know..on clocks, Second hand sometime..moves.. jumps from second.. to second…(sry abt my bad english.. lol..).. Thanks..

    • Evan Abrams

      You can, but you will need to use a different method to move the second hand around. You’ll need to look into expressions that increase the rotational value by a set amount only on each second. OR you can posterizeTime on the expression. That may work for you too. Cheers.

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