Enhancing & Remixing Video with YouTube

It has been awhile since I’ve done any video editing or enhancing with YouTube so when I popped the hood to tweak a couple of personal videos earlier this week I noticed that the production tools within YouTube have grown and matured since I last edited a video.

Slow Motion

One (new to me) enhancement that educators might be interested in is the slow motion enhancement. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about what I thought was a good piece of instructional video that relied on slow motion that really enabled learners to see the phenomena the instructor was talking about, in this case an octopus camouflaging itself. The change from recognizable octopus to unrecognizable piece of sea rock & coral happens really quickly – too quick for the human eye to really understand what is going on. So, the instructor slowed the video down. This gives students time to see all the processes unfold & also gives the instructor time to explain what was happening. In YouTube, adding slow motion to your video is a snap.


Add an Audio Soundtrack

They have also beefed up the audio soundtrack since I last played around with the tool. You can add background music to your video, with a number of YouTube suggested (and legal to use) background soundtracks from the (150,000 piece strong) YouTube music library. The difference between the last time I used the editor and now is that you can now mix the music with the original background of the video, and you can set a start point for when you want the music to begin on your video. The last time I used it, you could only replace the audio track with the music track. The mix feature is pretty rudimentary compared to a more advanced video editing system, allowing you to choose whether you want the audio to favour the original audio or favour the music soundtrack. But as an easy to use tool you can’t beat it to spice up your video with a bit of bg music.



Finally, for an educator, annotations can really enhance the video by adding additional information as a text overlay to the video. Going back to the octopus video from a few weeks ago, the original video had a number of bullet points appear on the screen as the instructor spoke about the points. In YouTube, you can do this in the Annotations tab which allows you to place text blocks at certain points of a video. You could use these text blocks to point out specific areas of the screen you want students to pay attention to in the video or, like the octopus video example, add bullet points to help explain what the student is seeing.

These are just a couple of tools within YouTube that let you enhance, edit or remix videos. If you want to experiment with video as a pedagogical tool, you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment or expensive software to enhance your videos. For most educators, your smartphone & a little time time invested in learning to use the YouTube platform as a production tool will do the trick.


Interactive storytelling with YouTube

As part of my Masters, I am currently reading Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education by Tony Bates and Gary Poole. My cohort is currently working with their SECTIONS model for choosing and evaluating new educational technologies. One of the criteria in the model is Interactivity (I) – what kind of interaction does the technology you are examining enable? As I was reading the chapter, a memory from my adolescence popped into my head – Dragon’s Lair.

Like most kids growing up in the early 80’s, video games were a big part of my life, including a game called Dragon’s Lair. Dragon’s Lair was different than most video games in that the action was high quality animation, not pixelated characters. The gameplay was incredibly clunky and I think it cost a dollar to play (compared to 25 cents for my game de jour Galaga) and since most of the time I ended up falling into a fiery pit of doom within 30 seconds, I didn’t invest a lot of time and money in it. But it made a lasting impression in that it was one of my first encounters with branching video. I loved that I had the direct ability to control the storyline and influence the narrative. It was like I was the Director in some fantastic animated movie.

Just over a year ago, YouTube unveiled the ability to annotate videos and add links to them. While there certainly has been a few problems associated with the annotations (most notably the lack of transparency on where the destination leads to and the possibility of linking to a malware site, as Pandalabs warned about earlier this year), it is really interesting to see how this feature is being used to create interactive stories and games on YouTube, much like the ones I experienced in the arcade hunched over Dragon’s Lair.

A good example of annotations being used to create an interactive story is this recent series of videos done by the Metropolitan Police in London as part of their Drop the Weapons campaign. At the end of each video you are asked to make a decision, which takes you down a different path.

For educators, this ability to link videos creates all kinds of interesting possibilities for creating interactive learning activities. For example, here is an interactive spelling bee.

I can’t imagine how much it cost to develop the Dragon’s Lair video game that sucked up my teenage cash, but I would hazard a guess that it was substantially more than it cost to create branching scenarios on YouTube. The point being that it doesn’t take a big budget to create compelling interactive activities using the technology available to us today. Sure, as the budgets go up so do the production techniques and special effects, etc. But really all it takes is a simple video recorder, some imagination and YouTube to create a bit of interesting interactive content.


YouTube launches YouTubeEDU

Brian Eno predicts YouTube

Seems like I have been all about free and open video collections lately. I’ll move onto some other fun tools I have been playing with soon, I promise. But I couldn’t let today’s announcement by YouTube go unblogged.

YouTube launched YouTube EDU, a special section of YouTube dedicated to educational videos from over 100 universities and colleges.  According to the YouTube blog, the task of collecting and organizing the collection was a volunteer project undertaken by a group of YouTube employees who wanted to highlight the educational content being uploaded by college and universities. The result is a subsection of YouTube dedicated to us educational types, complete with a lovely search engine that searches just the EDU section. Nice.

Flickr Photo:  Venezia 042 Tez – Brian Eno predicts YouTube by watz. Creative Commons license.

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When Chemistry meets YouTube you get reaction

I am no chemistry expert, but I have a strong suspicion that the periodic table has never been this much fun.

Fun you say? Chemistry? Yes, Chemistry.

The Periodic Table of Videos, put together by video journalist Brady Haran and Professor Martyn Poliakoff at the University of Nottingham, is a great example of what you can do with a video camera, some inspiration, a dash of sodium and a group of eager scientists. The result is an interactive periodic table with each element represented by a video. Here’s the sodium video:

In all seriousness, you have to love it when a chemistry professor says that, during the course of making these videos, they discovered new things which they never really realized before. It was through the act of creating this project that learning took place. This is a point that Educause makes in 7 Things You Should Know About YouTube.

Many educators believe that the act of creating content—in virtually any form—is a valuable learning exercise, helping develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter and the tools used to create that content. To the extent that YouTube facilitates such creation, it has the potential to expose students to new insights and skills, as well as link them to various online communities.

The good professor also speaks to that point; the linking to various communities and the value of transparency. Rather than locking this resource away, they made it free and open on the web using a simple website and YouTube as the video delivery platform. This allowed people from anywhere to comment on the videos. And comment they did. In fact, one user asked if they ever considered expanding into molecules, which got the gears turning for Professor Poliakoff and has inspired him to continue on now that all the elements in the periodic table have been covered. Transparency breeds inspiration.

I also love this quote:

I’ve realize that, in the past 5 weeks, I’ve lectured to more people than the whole of the rest of my life.

Okay granted, the dynamic periodic table probably beats the periodic table of videos for information  and functionality (itself compete with a nifty Wikipedia integration that makes me go yum). I can’t say for sure, I am not a chemist. But for sheer learning fun, the periodic table of videos is an excellent example of a very well done open educational resource.


7 things you can do with your video on YouTube that I can't do on my media server

So, the question is – why use YouTube to host your video when the institution has a perfectly good media server sitting in the rack room? The Auricle asked this question recently and came up with 5 good reasons to choose YouTube over an in house media server. In some respects, this post is an extension to that.

Granted, I am pretending here that some of the elephant issues have left the room. I am not discounting these issues as they are vitally important when it comes to using a very public web service like YouTube. But there are more informed educators than me to discuss issues such as opening up your content, transparency, copyright and (gulp) sharing.

Instead, I am going to focus on a few of the killer technical features YouTube has that will enhance your video in ways that would take me, as an educational technologist, hours and hours of time and effort to reproduce – if I could reproduce these at all.

Take embed, for example. Now, our in house Flash server does a decent job of streaming video content from a single location (which, at my institution, is usually Desire2Learn). But beyond that, well, that’s about all we can do with video. If you want to have that content in a second place (say, a blog or website), it requires an EdTech like me with access to server folders and the tools to create a custom video player to do. So for that reason alone, the YouTube embed ability is a killer feature.

But YouTube can do so much more with a video. Here are 7 technical things that you can do with your video on YouTube that I can’t do with my media server.

1) Annotate videos

After you have created and uploaded a video, you can add notes, speech bubbles and highlights to your video. You can even create hyperlink hotspots that, when clicked on, will take users to an external website or another YouTube video.

2) Close caption videos

Looking to make your videos more accessible, or add in a second language to your video? Try adding subtitles or captions to your YouTube video. What’s the difference? Captions are in the same language as the video’s audio track, subtitles are in a different language.

3) Deep link videos

Want to trim a bit off the top of your video? To do this on our media server requires me to edit the clip, a cumbersome process at best. With YouTube, you can create a link to a specific point in a YouTube video. For example, if you’d like the viewer to start watching the video at one minute and fifty-one seconds into the video, you’d add the following time code to the end of the URL: #t=1m51s. So, here is the link in example. This url should take you to a clip from a New Scientist video that is 1:51 seconds in. http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=CmPDbktOyBc#t=1m51s

4) Swap your audio for music

Again, I would need to edit and, probably, reencode your video. But YouTube gives you the ability to turn your video into a music video with a preset music track.

5) Subscribe to feeds

RSS feeds are an area we haven’t even begun to explore with our in house media server, so if you want to replicate anything like a YouTube channel that people can subscribe to, well, you are out of luck unless you happen to catch me at a slow time of the year.

YouTube, on the other hand, does have basic RSS feeds for subscribing to content. If these feeds are too general, find some smart people who can work their way around YouTubes public API and create the most useful YouTube feeds not found in the YouTube interface.

6) Watch a high resolution version

Okay, granted, the quality of YouTube video is bad, and on this point our in house server has YouTube beat.  But that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with really lousy video when you use YouTube. Add this code &fmt=18 at the end of the video URL on YouTube and see a higher resolution version of the video.

7) Embed that higher resolution version

Here is a simple hack from Make on how to embed that higher quality video in your site. Basically, add the code &ap=%2526fmt%3D18 at the end of your embed and param url’s and embed the high resolution version of the video on a webpage.

Update November 21: Just found out that you can actually view and embed HD quality videos on YouTube.


Embed a YouTube video in Desire2Learn

Well, I put this video together and demonstrated this technique at a video workshop for our faculty last week, only to have it fail miserably in Internet Explorer 7. Of course. Go figure.

I have embedded dozens of YouTube videos in blogs, wikis, discussion boards and in older version of D2L (prior to 8.3) and have never had a problem. But the D2L HTML editor (which I believe is based on the open source TinyMCE editor) strips out the embed tag when you cut and paste using IE7.

This is a brutal bug, imho, and I’ve reported it to D2L as well as posted it in the D2L user community.

At any rate, here is the video, complete with a spiffy annotation (my first for a YouTube video) explaining this does not work in IE 7.


5 tips to find the good stuff on YouTube

As of March 2008, there were roughly 73.8 million videos on YouTube, with 200,000 added everyday. That’s a lot of video. And if you are looking for quality, educational video to use in a course, it’s a lot of noise. So how do you separate the educational wheat from the panda sneezing chaff? Here are a couple of strategies you might want to try out when navigating the YouTube waters.

1) Create an account

When you create an account, YouTube will be able to analyze your viewing patterns and find content that it thinks you will be interested in. Looking for videos on Gestalt therapy? View a few and YouTube will recommend similar videos and have those recommendations ready for you the next time you log in.

When you create an account, you also have the ability to mark videos as a Favorite. Very handy when you do find a useful video and don’t want to forget where it is. Videos marked as Favorites are put in a special spot on your account page where you can easily find it again.

An account also gives you the ability to subscribe to other users videos or channels and be notified when new videos are added to those channels. What kind of channels might you like to subscribe to? Well, how about….

2) Sources you already trust and use

Recently I was doing some work with a trades instructor who does a lot of work with students on work place safety. One of the prime sources of content he uses is WorkSafeBC. Imagine how happy we were when we found the WorkPlaceBC channel on YouTube with loads of high quality videos directly related to this instructors specific needs?

Before you start your general search, search the channels for organizations you already know and trust. Chances are, they have a YouTube channel which you can subscribe to (using your newly created account from tip 1).

Oh, did I say general search? Sorry. I meant…

3) Advanced Search is your friend

YouTube advanced search options

YouTube is now the second most popular search engine after Google, so it makes sense to spend a bit of time getting to know the advanced search options.

Doing a general search on a site with close to 100 million resources is going to pull up a lot of irrelevant content, so skip the search bar and go straight to advanced search options.

One of the first search filters you want to use is the category filter. There is an Education category you can choose, but also choose categories that are relevant to your subject area.

If you are looking for English language videos, filter by language, which will also narrow down the results returned.

Finally, if you are looking for geographically specific content, check out the location filter. Click on Show Map and you get a lovely Google interactive map that will let you zero in on videos from a specific location. Looking for videos of volcanic eruptions at Mt. Etna in Italy? Easy with the location filter. Add in some keywords for a specific location and you have a very powerful search option.

Search by location on YouTube

4) Set your country preference

Set your YouTube country preference

Right beside the YouTube logo in the top right corner of the site is a link labeled Worldwide (all). Click on that and choose your default country. This will give videos from your country preferential treatment. This is, of course, providing you want to start locally. If you are looking for videos on, say, British History, then you may want to set your location to the UK. YouTube doesn’t care if your default location is really your default location. Self select a location that works for you and YouTube will begin the filtering process.

5) When you find a video, follow the trail

YouTube Related Videos and Other Videos From User

For every video you find, YouTube will display a list of Related Videos and More From this user videos. Chances are, if you find one video on a subject by that user, they may have more along the same lines. Follow the links and check out their other videos.

Same thing with Related Videos. If you find something you like, check the Related Videos list to the right of the video to see if there are more, or maybe better, examples.

There you go – 5 tips to make finding content on YouTube a bit easier.You may want to add a few of your own in the comments area.

Using content from YouTube is just one way to take educational  advantage of the video sharing site. Now that you have an account, consider creating your own videos and posting your own content. Or explore the possibilities of having students create and post content, turning YouTube into a powerful learning tool for students. I’ll explore these themes in future posts. But for now, happy searching.


Splicd lets you edit YouTube videos

Video is great, but the linear storytelling format sometimes forces you to watch a lot of irrelevant content before getting to the meat of the clip. Which is where a handy tool like Splicd comes in. Splicd let’s you edit the start and end points of a YouTube video. Enter in the url of the video and a start time and end time.

It feels a bit like a quick and dirty implementation, but it works. Here is an example I took from the recent video of our current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, copying word for word a speech given by Australian Prime Minister John Howard on the eve of the Iraq war. The original video is about 3 minutes long (and well worth a look, imho). With Splicd I was able to isolate 30 seconds that really illustrates the the point.

There are limitations. Splicd only works with YouTube videos and there is no method to embed the edited video into a website. Only allowing increments of seconds as opposed to tenths of seconds makes some pretty jagged start and end points. Allowing smaller time increments would make the edits a bit smoother. But this simple little tool does the trick.

via Webware


Encouraging citizen filmmaking

This is a bit of a plug for our College Relations people as well as a nod of the cap lens to people powered media. My Camosun is a video contest open to anyone in the community. The idea is to create a 1 minute that answers the question “what does Camosun mean to you?”

A couple of interesting notes about the contest is that it is open to everyone and anyone, regardless of your involvement (or lack of) with Camosun. The second notable is that the videos will be posted on YouTube. The College marketing department obviously has their eye on the fact that prospective students search for their potential college’s on YouTube as part of their decision making process on what school they will attend, so why not try to flood it with feel good positive vibes about Camosun?

Imagine you are a potential student and you do a quick search on YouTube for Camosun. Right now, the results are pretty sparse and don’t tell you much about the college or its culture. Do the same search in January after these videos have all been posted and I am sure you will have a good idea of what Camosun is all about – a third party picture of our institution, completely created by Joe Q. Public.

I am very interested to see the results of this contest. I suspect we will see quite a few entries from our Applied Communication Program and Visual Arts program, which has a strong filmmaking component to it. But hopefully we will see some general community members contribute as well. With $1500 in prizes out there, I am hoping that the general public will be encouraged to pick up their camcorders and tell some great stories.

Deadline for entries is October 31st. And even our President is getting in on it. Check out her moves in this entry…she’s grooving in the Paul Building around 37 seconds in.