Wednesday, 5 November 2008

YouTube: deeplink to exact time in video, & other improvements

You can now link direct to a particular spot in a YouTube video, so that someone clicking the link will be taken to the video at that exact spot.

I think this deeplinking is the best of the many enhancements which Google-owned video sharing site YouTube have been rolling out recently.

How to deep link to YouTube video

To deep link to the exact spot you want in a YouTube video, while watching the video just note down the desired time position, and then include the time position at the end of the standard YouTube URL using the format:


where X is minutes and Y is seconds - e.g. will take you to the video linked to, but directly to the spot that's 0 minutes and 21 seconds in.

(Cleverly, it in fact seems to take you to the video at a second or two before your indicated time, so that you don't miss the start of the spot.)

How to deeplink to YouTube video in a video comment

This works in a comment to a YouTube video too, in fact it's easier - if when posting a comment on a YouTube video you mention a time location in your comment (in format m:s e.g. 0:21 for 0 minutes & 21 seconds in), then the "0:21" becomes a direct deep link to that time location in the video concerned.

So, the syntax for a clickable time position link in a video comment is just:


See for example my test comment to the same video.

One gotcha to watch: do not include any punctuation or anything except a space right after the Y, or else it won't work; e.g. "0:21." won't be made into a deep link but "0:21" (without the quotes, of course) will.

Other YouTube improvements / enhancements

Some other interesting features on YouTube over the last few months (as well as a personalised customisable homepage) are:

  1. Video annotations - the ability to, as YouTube put it, "add background information on-screen, create branching ("choose your own adventure" style) stories or add links to any YouTube upload, channel, or search results page -- at any point in your video... adding speech bubbles, notes and highlight boxes anywhere you want". Including, now, even for embedded videos.
  2. Hot spots - the ability to get a graph showing at which points in your video readers are leaving (if at all), and which spots in the video are the most popular with your viewers.
  3. Captions / subtitles for videos - the ability to add captions and subtitles, now with real time automatic machine translation of captions too, into several languages.
  4. YouTube for free film distribution - with the ongoing "From Here to Awesome Festival".
  5. Click to buy feature - some may bemoan this commercialisation (or e-commerce-ialisation!) but let's face it, YouTube aren't a charity, they need to make money at some point somehow.

    I actually like the idea of embedding Amazon / iTunes links to songs etc in some YouTube videos, as often I hear a good song in a movie or video soundtrack but have no idea what it's called or how to get it.

    I can imagine "product placement" increasing in YouTube videos, with "click to buy" links for products shown in videos too, but as long as the product placement isn't too overt and isn't subliminal conditioning, again I'm quite happy to have the opportunity to buy something I like from a video - I sometimes covet certain jackets I see actresses wear on TV, for instance!

    This sort of thing looks set to be a growth area, in my view - for TV, video and film generally, i.e. all things "celluloid", not just Web-based video.
  6. Earn ad money from YouTube videos - the ability via Google's AdSense to get a cut of advertising revenue if you embed certain YouTube videos (some examples)/

Of course, the increasing efforts to monetize YouTube will inevitably bring up issues such as a copyright owner demanding all the ad revenue if you include their song in your YouTube video - but in my view, given the attitude of the music industry, that's progress compared with the record companies' former fave strategy of simply suing you or getting your video taken down!

(Note on YouTube blog links: but there's something weird about their site - if you're in the UK, the US link won't work, and doesn't forward properly to the equivalent UK site page. So I've included both links where possible; hopefully if one doesn't work for you t'other will!)

Video / audio wishlist

It would be great if YouTube enabled the deeplinking feature when you embed a video in a blog post or webpage too. I tried it, and adding (e.g.) #t=0m21s to the end of the URL in the embed code just didn't work, the video started from the very beginning. Maybe in the future?

While I'm on it, while YouTube now allow the upload of higher quality videos, I do which they'd let all users upload videos of more than 10 minutes long. They introduced that limit, they said, for copyright reasons (they seem to think most videos more than 10 minutes long are likely to be copyright infringing clips, I'm not sure I'd agree) - but as many of my videos are of (non-copyright breaching!) geek talks, I have to use Blip instead.

If Blip were to introduce the features YouTube have, particularly deeplinking, I'd use them even more!

Speech to text technologies for video and audio

Finally, my biggest wishlist item: automatic speech to text transcription. Google Research's speech team introduced an Elections Video Search gadget a few months ago, using their speech recognition technologies to enable searching of politicians' spoken content and jumping straight to the relevant part of the speech.

Google Labs then launched Google Audio Indexing (GAudi) (that page can take a while to come up), and recently Google rolled it out for their Google News Election page so that you could search Presidential candidates' YouTube channels for particular words.

I've always thought that one of the biggest issues with the increasing proliferation of video on the Internet, yes and audio too, from MP3 podcasts to YouTube and other videos, is the difficulty of indexing that information so that it can be searched and found. This problem is why including metadata helps both publishers and readers / viewers / listeners, from the viewpoint of searching etc (see 6 Sayings for Search Engine Success (Top Tips to Boost Blog Ranking), though arguably from an economics viewpoint adding metadata benefits the audience more than the publisher.

Given Google's avowed corporate mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful", I really hope that working on speech to text for audio as well as video is a priority for them.

I'd love to be able to feed Google the URL of a sound file or a video file (any file, not just one on YouTube, and not just politicians' speeches), and have it automatically transcribe the audio or video into lovely, readable, skimmable, searchable text. And I really don't mind if they want to include contextual ads on the resulting webpage too.

I couldn't agree more with what one of my favourite columnists, Jonathan Guthrie of the Financial Times, said (in an article on corporate webcasts) about the big disadvantage of the video medium:

"It is slow. A webclip lasting a couple of minutes may contain just 200 spoken words. You can read 1,000 words of text in the same time... In the beginning of mass communications was the printed word. It will remain crucial until the end, too."

In my view, the audio and video media are both excellent for entertainment. But they are serial, sequential forms by their very nature. If your aim is to extract /analyse any useful information, it's too painfully slow to go through the audio or video of speeches etc, even with fast forward and rewind. Whereas a single page of text gives me lots of words, lots of information, at the same time. It's denser, but much quicker to scan, from an information retrieval viewpoint. And I'm too impatient to listen or watch through an "educational" podcast or video, most of the time - so give me text (with or without pictures) any day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said... generate this sort of deep links to an exact time in the video :-)
Cause i can't remember this tags :p