Making Engaging YouTube Videos: A Workshop

As part of Innovate at OSU, I present a hands-on workshop on Making Engaging YouTube Videos.  Although YouTube has been around since 2005, it remains the most popular place to watch videos on the internet. Not only can these YouTube videos be embedded almost everywhere, but annotations allow increasing levels of interactivity that can make videos more engaging by enabling viewers to navigate to different points within a video or to different videos entirely.

Getting Started

You will need a (free) Google, Google+ or YouTube account, and a laptop with some video files to upload.  It would be helpful to have some video editing software on the laptop, but it is not completely necessary.


Ronald has a spider on his head – more than two choices per fork

Haircut (a choose-your-own-adventure song) – note organization of nodes

The Time Machine: A Chad, Matt & Rob Interactive Adventure! – branching or non-branching choices?

Youtube Street Fighter – Lots of buttons to choose from – Home Page – Annotations as website menu buttons


There are 5 different types of Annotations:

Speech bubbles include a pointer that you can drag to point in any direction.

Notes are like speech bubbles without the pointer.

Titles are like notes but without the background color.  Available fonts are largest for Titles.

Spotlights are for highlighting an area to be clicked on.  Text is optional and appears transparent when the mouse is over the highlighted area.

Labels are like spotlights, but the border is bolder and text appears in a white box within the border when the mouse is over the highlighted area.

Annotations can be customized with different colors and font sizes. In addition to Annotations, users can also apply many Instagram-like filters with the Enhancements tab, add music with the Audio tab, and upload a caption file or transcript with the Captions tab.

Links within Annotations

Every kind of Annotation can be linked to a point within the same video, a point within another video, a YouTube channel or playlist, or a subscribe button.  (Note: Linking within a video used to be almost instantaneous, but has since become a bit clunky due to the video reloading.) Links can also be set to open in a new window when clicked, which is useful if you want to be able to come back to the original video.

To configure the link, set the start time and end time and check the link box.  Paste the link to the video to link to a different point within the same video, or a link to a different video to link to something else one.

Let’s Try It!

(This video was annotated during the workshop.)

Other Resources – One of many tools that allows you to download YouTube videos.  Be sure to respect all copyrights, etc. but know also that mashups that are “transformative” are generally considered protected under “fair use“.

Download YouTube Videos as MP4 (Firefox extension) – This extension puts a download button into the YouTube interface on any video you view on Firefox.

Where do we go from here?

There are lots of potential uses for Annotations in YouTube videos.  By giving viewers an opportunity to interact with a video, rather than just passively watching it, they become more engaged.  We will discuss some of these in the workshop, but feel free to list more in the comments below.

EDIT: Thanks to everyone who came to this presentation at Innovate. I really like taking existing, stable technologies with low barriers to entry like YouTube and pushing the limits of what can be done with them. I hope you found this session useful. If you have any comments, or questions, or want to share a video you’ve created and annotated, please leave a comment.  Thanks!

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