Add links and annotations to your videos and make them hypervideos with Asterpix.
Josh LowensohnFormer Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Up until this afternoon I had never heard of the expression "hypervideo," although I was quite familiar with the concept having used it in video services like Viddler, and enhanced podcasts in Windows Media Player. The idea is simple--take hyperlinks and textual information, and add it to various times or positions on a video. The result is that your viewers can have added contextual information about whatever they're watching, at the moment it happens.
The hard part is the execution, and making things user-friendly. A service called Asterpix has taken a stab at it with a hypervideo service that lets users build their own link-infested videos, complete with visual cues that tell you when you can access the added URLs and notes. While watching a video that's been enhanced on Asterpix, you won't notice much besides a small glowing circle that will show up on a person or object, and track them as they move. When you mouseover the notification, the video will pause, and you'll get a little page full of whatever text or links users have added to the video.
The actual process of adding these links takes two-steps. The first is picking the video you want to annotate. This is managed through the integrated search tool, which will scour YouTube, Google, MySpace, Brightcove and MTV to let you find whatever you'd looking for. Unfortunately you can't just plug in a video URL from one of these services, but if you know the title, you're good to go. The second step involves maneuvering a box around any object in the video clip and adding a description, URL, and tags. To do this, you simply need to highlight the object with a box. The service will do its best to track the object you've tagged, which it managea to do really well with on clips where there aren't quick cutaways.
The end result is a video experience that is slightly disjointed due to starting and stopping videos, coupled with various flashing indicators that pop up on the screen. If you're just in it to watch the video, you can turn the notes off, or click the link to watch the video on its original site. Also, if you're trying to avoid the flashing indicators altogether, there's a index on the left that shows all the notes for the entire clip. Clicking any of them will jump you right to the spot, complete with annotation.
I actually prefer Viddler's approach to this entire concept with their timed tags and comments, which are visually separated into two groups by color. The only downside with that system is that you can't call action to what's going on in certain part of the screen, and with more than 30 or 40 comments on a short video, things get a little hectic. However, when you scale Asterpix's approach to visual tagging, the entire screen will be covered in little pulsing indicators--not exactly viewer-friendly.
For other solutions that do visual video annotation with existing videos, see BubblePly and the currently defunct Click.TV.