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Having recently bought a shiny new camcorder and then having uploaded my first YouTube video, I am now enthusiastically looking to see what new developments YouTube are working on. Their equivalent of Google Labs is called Test Tube and right now, there are four experiments that they are working on. In my opinion, only two of them are really worthwhile – Video Annotations and AudioSwap, and that is what I will be looking at today in this article.

So to test the features out, I made a short video of Rudy (my mascot, although sometimes he has delusions of grandeur and he thinks he is the boss around here). I then uploaded it to YouTube and I began to use VideoAnnotations and AudioSwap on the video to see what it is like.

Although you know what they say about “best laid plans” – when I tried to enable “AudioSwap”, nothing happened! I don’t know if it is because I am in Europe and it’s a US-only thing. Maybe if you got it to work, you can tell us about it in the comments but I tried for ages and it wouldn’t work for me. Aaaagh, OK….moving on, Video Annotations, that’s a goodie, let’s look at that.

In a nutshell, Video Annotations is being able to place speech bubbles and text over your video as it plays. This allows you several advantages right off the top of my head. First of all, you can embed weblinks in your video so if you have a promotional videoclip, you can feed weblinks to your viewers (although right now, they are only accepting URL’s for YouTube videos or search results). Secondly, you can tell your viewers more information about what they are watching (as long as it doesn’t take away some of the enjoyment of what they are watching). You could also use text bubbles for humor effect – if you’re uploading an office party video for instance, you could insert humorous text bubbles. What else? You could link to other YouTube videos if the video is one of a series. So the possibilities for Video Annotations are huge. I’m sure you can think of other possibilities yourself.

To enable this feature for your own videos, just go to Test Tube and enable it. Then when you go to your account to edit your videos, the annotation option will then be there. Just bear in mind though that this feature is a beta feature and as such, it’s a bit rough around the edges and not perfect. So don’t expect everything to work out perfectly first time around. For example, during the testing of the feature for writing this article, Video Annotations crashed several times prompting me to start again. So if you want to do this yourself, a lot of patience is needed.

OK so using the Rudy video as an experiment, let’s do some annotating. The rule is basically that each annotation is 5 seconds long before it disappears off the screen. So you run the video and when you want the annotation to appear, you press the “+” key in the bottom left hand corner. This opens up a text box where you type what you want the annotation to say :

Now obviously I don’t want the text box right in Rudy’s face like that so I can drag it to the top left corner out of the way with my mouse. I can also drag the arrow with my mouse so it is pointing towards Rudy’s mouth. If you don’t like the shape of the box, you can also drag the shape the way you like it with your mouse as well.

When everything looks good and you’re ready to move on to the next annotation, just click your mouse in the plain white box to the left of the video and that saves the annotation. Then press the play button on the YouTube video and that continues the playing of the video. Then just hit the “plus” button where you want to put the next annotation and repeat the process as before.

The only thing that is slightly annoying at the moment is that the only URL’s that can be inserted into the text bubbles are YouTube URL’s and search results (presumably Google). Hopefully other URL’s will be supported in the future and this feature could become a big publicity tool for companies advertising on YouTube (question to YouTube : will URL’s embedded in YouTube videos influence Google PageRank?)

If you want your annotations to stay on the screen longer than 5 seconds, then you can adjust the times, no problem. 5 seconds is just the default time but you can have the text box stay on the screen for as long as you want simply by tweaking the times.

When all your annotations have been inserted onto the YouTube video and everything is the way you want it, you just need to hit the “publish” button and your YouTube video is then instantly re-published back onto YouTube along with your annotations. One snag though. You can’t currently embed your annotated videos onto another website so click here to see the annotated Rudy video.

Rudy is so taken with his sudden MakeUseOf fame that he has asked me to tell you that he is now taking autograph requests or he also has a unique offer for all you groupies out there :


Rudy makes an irresistable offer on 12seconds.tv

I don’t know about you but that’s a tempting offer! I just have to stop him now from getting onto the MakeUseOf Podcast! Watch out Jason!

  1. göbek eriten diyet
    February 5, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    what a impressive article. last days I didn' t read post like that. I am now your blog' s follower thanks for this useful blog. you are now in my bookmarks.

  2. joomla boy
    July 29, 2008 at 4:47 am

    Cute, Mascott

    Cant wait to try those new you tube features (saw one today in action, good for bringing attention to certain ares).

  3. Ibrahim Rabbani
    July 28, 2008 at 3:55 am

    haha lovely, i'll try it out soon.. but i guess its still in its developing stages.. it shows alot of promise tho.. like all google projects :P

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