Monday, 26 March 2012

Six useful features in YouTube you may have missed...

It's easy to upload video to YouTube without noticing some rather nice features hidden away under the bonnet, that will help you enhance your videos and the way they're presented.

1. Annotations
Annotations, such as speech bubbles, labels or pauses, can be added to videos at selected points. These are very useful for screencasts created using free software, as you can add simple callouts without putting them through editing software, or for adding hyperlinks and other additional information to your videos.

It could be if you have information you think may change frequently (such as contact names, phone numbers, dates etc.) you add these as annotations rather than include them in the video itself, as they are easier to change and you can keep your YouTube URL for the video.

The example below is an excellent way annotations have been used creatively - using invisible annotations called 'spotlights' that have been used as a navigation tool between videos.

To get to Annotations select the video you want to change in Video Manager, click 'Edit Video' above the video window, and select the 'Annotations' tab.

2. Enhancements
You can make adjustments to your video once it has been uploaded, such as trimming, stabilising camera wobble, and making various tweaks to colour, contrast and brightness, which are really useful for making small changes without the hassle of editing the original file and reuploading. There are also a host of effects you can apply to make it black and white, pixellated, cartoonised, etc.

To get to Enhancements select the video you want to change in Video Manager, click 'Edit Video' above the video window, and select the 'Enhancements' tab.

3. Closed captioning
YouTube does have the facility to auto-caption videos, but this is still in its infancy, and often has baffling, if not hilarious, consequences. It's actually really easy to supply your own subtitles to your video, with the simplest way as follows.
  • Create a plain text (.txt) file with a transcription of your video.
  • Select the video you want to add subtitles to in the Video Manager, click 'edit captions/videos' above the video window.
  • Click 'add new Captions or Transcript'.
  • Click 'choose file' and select the plain text transcript on your machine, changing type to 'Transcript file'.
  • Click upload file and, after some processing, your closed captions should appear on your video.
The way it works is by using software to analyse then speech patterns of the video, and plotting the text file to fit. You can also import Caption files, which include the time codes, but this is a lot more fiddly to create and very time-consuming. One final way is, if your video has been auto captioned, you can download this as a file, edit the mistakes (of which there will be many!) and then reupload your edited captions.

4. Playlists
If you have a series of videos you want to show somebody in a particular order, you can create a playlist and link or embed to it. This can include other people's videos as well as your own.

An instance Playlists would be useful is if you had a series of modular videos that different groups of users needed to see a different combination of, you could use a series of playlists tailored to different groups. This would save you having to edit them together in various combinations, or send different users a long list of URLs or a page full of embedded video.

An example below is the Playlist of Creative Media videos from the University's Teaching Tech team.

To get to Playlists go go to Video Manager, and select 'Playlists' on the left hand menu. You can add a video to a playlist on the buttons at the bottom of the video.

5. Video editor
On of the best "hidden" features of YouTube is the video editor, which is hardly the most sophisticated way to edit, but is not far off Windows MovieMaker for various tasks.

When accessed it shows all the videos you have uploaded to YouTube (including unlisted and private ones), and allows you to place them on a timeline, trimming where necessary and adding wipes, music and titles. Once finished you then publish it to YouTube where it can be viewed as a normal video. This is a very basic way of editing, but more than capable of putting a simple sequence together. It's also useful if you haven't got much storage space, as your rushes are hosted online.

To get there go go to Video Manager, and select 'Video Editor' tab.

As well as editing with your own clips, you can add in other people's clips from...

6. Creative Commons

When uploading videos, there is a choice to give them a Creative Commons license. This means that the videos are usable by others when using the Video Editor.

This is a great resource for finding extra bits and pieces when putting a sequence together, with loads of footage (of very variable quality) to choose from. Be wary though - it's quite obvious there is some material on there that the uploaders had no right to give a CC license to, so still use common sense.

As well as videos there are a number of audio tracks on there with CC licenses that can be used in the Video Editor, or added via 'AudioSwap', which will replace the soundtrack of your video with some legal music.

So that's six that I've found useful, and really extend the functionality of YouTube beyond just a video-streaming service. So... what else is tucked away in there that I've missed?


  1. This is brilliant, Pete - loads of great tips, thank you! Re the closed captioning, have you also tried - CaptionTube? It's designed for creating captions for use with YouTube videos and is dead easy to use.

    1. Cheers for the link to CaptionTube - had a look and it looks really good.

      The best thing interface I've used is Camtasia, btw. It has a really great and intuitive way to time captions by clicking on the correct words as the video plays.



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