A lot of meetings benefit from having countdown timers, but Zoom doesn’t have an easy feature that allows for on-screen timers.
In this tutorial, I’m going to set you up with an on-screen timer that you can use on any video conferencing platform. You’ll need a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer for this, though; it won’t work on a mobile device or tablet.
To make this work, we’re going to create a “virtual camera”, using an open-source program called Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). The virtual camera will combine the video from your computer’s webcam with a timer.
Open Broadcaster Software will let us create a virtual camera that we can then select within Zoom, Google Meet, Messenger, or anotehr video conferencing platform. Download OBS and install it on your computer.
When you open OBS for the first time, it may ask how you want to use the program. Choose “I will only be using the virtual camera.”
Add your camera to the scene
During the next steps, OBS will ask for permission to use the camera. Be sure to Allow this.
Now, the main OBS screen should open. The black box is a preview of what your video will look like in Zoom. Right now, it’s empty. Under the Sources panel, add a source (+) and select “Video Capture Device” and choose to a new one. Choose your webcam on the dialog that opens, and you should see a live video preview. Click OK. A box with live video should appear.
Resize the video box to fill the entire preview area.
Add your timer to the scene
Now let’s add the timer. You’ll need a timer app, so you should find one of those for your computer. I use an app called IntervalTimer which is designed for iPad but works fine on my Mac as well. But, you can use any app with a timer.
Open your timer app, and start a timer to test with. Let’s add the timer to your virtual camera. In OBS, add a second Source, this time choose Window Capture. Choose the Window of your timer app. You may need to select “Show Wnidows with empty names” in order to see it.
You will get prompts asking to allow OBS to monitor keystrokes and record your screen. You’ll need to allow these (on a Mac, in System Preferences, under Privacy) in order to see the timer.
You may need to restart OBS and remove and re-add the Window Capture source. But, with any luck you should see the timer window in your video preview.
Crop the timer
You can now crop the timer so that rather than showing the entire window, it just shows the timer. To do this, right click on the timer in the preview window and choose Filters. In the Filters window, add a new Effect Filter and choose Crop/Pad. Now, you’ll need to adjust the crop amounts for Left/Top/Right/Bottom to suit your particular timer.
Finally, once you have the timer looking the way you like it, close the Filters window and choose “Start Virtual Camera” under the Controls tab in the main OBS window.
At this point, open Zoom or any other video conferencing software and choose the camera called “OBS Virtual Camera.” For audio, use whatever microphone and speaker you usually use. Note that you need to have OBS running, and your timer window open and running in order for everything work. You can control the timer directly in the timer app, and the results will appear in your video conferencing self-view.
Mirroring issues Some video software has a “Mirror My Video” option, or it will mirror you video automatically. OBS will let you compensate for this setting: In OBS you can mirror either of your sources by right clicking on source in OBS, choosing Transform, then choosing Flip Horizontal.
Permissions Issues OBS requires access to the camera and to screen recording. You’ll need to make sure both of those are enabled (on the Mac, this is in System Preferences).
Blank video If you don’t see any video in OBS when you create your camera in the Video Capture source, you probably have not given OBS permission to access your camera. Check this setting in your system’s privacy settings, then restart OBS.