Monday, 19 October 2015

A Follow-up to Video and Mobile Things

I recently had cause to work on a video project. The end result was quite satisfying, but the journey was a bit rough. I thought that I'd share the experience with you, as it is an example of bringing a few of the Things together for a real-world use.

What I wanted to do
The project was to create a video tutorial for setting up a piece of land surveying equipment. The exact details are not that important, but picture a tripod with a very expensive optical instrument on top and you'll get the idea. The issue is that most textbooks make a very poor effort at describing exactly how to do this. It is a very hands-on procedure, and the best way to do it is usually only learned by doing it for yourself. In an effort to help my students to understand the steps in the procedure, I decided to make a recording of me doing the set-up. The plan was to edit it on YouTube, to include annotations, and make it public. It didn't go exactly as planned.

What I did first
I used my iPhone to record a full take of me setting up the equipment (I did the setting up, and a colleague did the camera work). The take included close-ups and wider angle views of what was going on. I then packed all the equipment away and started again. This time I took about half a dozen shorter clips of various close-ups. The plan was to edit these together to make a coherent story of how to carry out the procedure from start to end.

What I did next
I uploaded the video clips to my PC and opened them using Windows Movie Maker. I attempted to piece together the clips in the right order, including making duplicate clips to add-in where certain procedures needed to be shown a second time. I found that the software was not as easy to use as I expected, and after a short while (perhaps an hour or so), I gave up. I went back to the clips on my iPhone and had a play around with the iMovie app that was on there. What I found was a real eye-opener: it was far easier to piece together the edit on the phone than it was on the PC. I was able to add a title and end credits, and use slick looking transitions (such as swipes and cross-fades) between the clips. As I was not interested in adding a voice-over, or using the original recorded audio on the video, I muted all of the clips and added a music soundtrack (available in iMovie). At this stage, I was feeling very pleased with myself!

Where it went wrong
After getting the edit about right, I uploaded the video to YouTube. I did not make it public right away, as I wanted to add annotations to the video. The idea of using annotations rather than a voice-over was that I wanted the video to be easy to use "in the field" by students: I felt that if they could pause the video and read some instructions it might be more usable than listening to instructions. Also, I was conscious that perhaps audio-only instruction may not suit a viewer with hearing difficulties. As there was no voice-over, I could not add automatic subtitles. Instead, I had to go through the video and add annotations manually. This was not a difficult process, but was time consuming. To give this a bit of context, the video is about 5 minutes long, and adding the annotations took about an hour. When I was happy that the annotations and video were working well together, I made the video public. That's where it started to go wrong!

When I viewed the video on YouTube on my phone, I noticed that the annotations did not appear. The video and the music were working, but the written instructions were missing. I did some investigating, and it turns out that there is no way to display annotations on a YouTube video when it is being viewed on a mobile device. This was a big issue, as I had thought that most students would be using their smartphones to view the video while out and about. I quickly took the video out of the public domain.

How I fixed it
I went back to iMovie on my phone. The version that was on there had no annotation, just video and music. I found a setting that allows you to add titles to any video clip, so I went through the entire video and recreated the annotations that I had added on YouTube. This took longer than on my PC, as the screen was smaller and I had to be a bit more careful with my typing. However, after just over an hour, I had annotated the video on the phone. I then uploaded it to YouTube. Because the annotations were part of the video file coming from my phone, I did not have to add any text on YouTube. The video basically came as a finished product off my phone. The annotations were now visible on the video regardless of what device was used to view it. Result!

Wrap up
So there you go: a combination of video and mobile apps for a real-world application. What did I learn? 1. That my phone is an excellent piece of hardware for capturing video, and it has excellent software for editing movies. 2. That YouTube has a serious limitation regarding annotations. Sum up: Apple 1, Google 0

If you want to see the end result (and I realise that the exact content may not seem very relevant to you), have a look at the video below.

(Photo from

This "Follow-up" Thing was written by Wayne Gibbons, Lecturer in Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway, Ireland. 


  1. Hi Wayne, Just to say i was reading some of your blogs and i'am enjoying them, like yourself I want to take my time with each THING not just skim over them and blog hence i'am on Thing 16 as this course is completed, even though i will gladly use some of these tools again or even further explore them. Jackie

  2. Hi Jackie. Thanks for your feedback! Glad to see that you are enjoying the Things. If you need any further help with any of the ones I wrote, just drop me a line. Wayne.

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  4. Hi Wayne,

    Thanks for sharing - it's when things go wrong that we learn the most!


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