Archive for the 'mashed' Category

Twitter powered subtitles for BBC iPlayer

Virtual RevolutionUpdate: Latest twitter subtitle file for The Virtual Revolution

Update: Revised code to include other timed text/caption formats

On demand television like the BBC iPlayer has changed the TV habits of many users. Instead of waiting to tune into the live broadcast views can download and watch programmes at a time of their choosing and on a range of devices. Another media revolution has been status update/social networking sites like twitter. Ever wanting to engage with the listeners twitter is becoming the new ‘phone-in’ or ‘SMS text your thoughts’ for broadcasters. Whilst in the general populous there is still uncertainty over the benefits of sites like twitter broadcasters are already exploring how this technology can be used. A case in point in the BBC/Open University The Virtual Revolution series which is exploring how 20 years of the web has shaped our lives. Its not surprising that a programme of this ilk is exploring how technology can be used to support the broadcast (including allowing viewers to mash-up and reuse clips from the series), it is also the first programme that I’ve seen broadcast a hashtag within its opening credits. The hashtag is a community driven invention which allows comments and content to be tracked across the web including in comments made as tweets.

I find watching the programme with this backchannel communication is entertaining and for me adds a new dimension. There are perhaps educational uses to be explored such as engaging students in real-time discussion, asking them to critically reflect and evaluate what is being presented in real-time.

But what if you are busy on a Saturday night? Whilst you can rewind the programme via iPlayer and use the twitter search to pull up the tweets, these have become decoupled. This might have been a problem Tony Hirst encountered when he tweeted:

psychemedia mulling over how to replay a hashtagged feed in real time from, say, a two hour window (bbcrevolution) View tweet

Tony has been a valuable source for me in past, providing inspiration for my Twitter voting mash-up (TwEVS). Another of his ideas is a Twitter YouTube subtitle mashup, which extracts tweets to use as subtitles in YouTube videos of live events. Using exactly the concept I’ve come up with a way to allow a user to replay a downloaded iPlayer episode subtitling it with the tweets made during the original broadcast.

In action

So first to see the results in action. The video below shows the iPlayer playing ‘The Virtual Revolution: The cost of free’ displaying the tweets made during the live broadcast as subtitles.

How it was done

When you download a programme to watch using iPlayer as well as the video several other assets including a subtitle file in W3C Timed Text Authoring Format. To see this episode in full with twitter subtitles download The Virtual Revolution: The cost of free here. Once downloaded by default the programme should be saved in [My Documents] > [My Videos] > [BBC iPlayer] > [repository] > [obscure-broadcast-folder-name-like-b00qx4t0] (not sure what this would be for non-PC). To view with tweets open this folder and replace ‘obscure-broadcast-folder-name-like-b00qx4t0_prepared.xml’ file with this one [righ-click save link as], keeping the folder name at the beginning of the file name. When you play the video and turn on subtitles the tweets should be displayed.

imageTo create the XML file for any downloadable BBC broadcast I created a tool using the same concept as Tony’s subtitling YouTube example. Here is the Twitter Powered Subtitles for BBC iPlayer Tool I created.

Whilst the tool was designed for the iPlayer it generates a timed text xml file which might be suitable for other applications. Hopefully the tool is straight forward to use all you have to do if find a programme with an active twitter back-channel (you might be surprised at how many their already are once you start searching). If you have any questions/problems post them in the comments below.

Here is the code used for this tool (it also uses the SimplePie code library for handling the RSS). The code includes comments to describe what is going on. Feel free to edit, modify or build upon again use the comments below to share developments.

Limitations and future directions

One of the limitations of this solution is it only replays tweets for the duration of the programme. Having looked around I haven’t been able to find any other twitter replay tools. A solution I did explore was using another W3C format called Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL). This standard also integration of multimedia with text, images and other objects. My plan was to use the smilText JavaScript engine to replay tweets in the browser without linking it to any media. Having played around with the JavaScript engine I couldn’t get it to work. Perhaps the baton needs to be passed back to Tony … ;)

Enabling micro-discussion in PowerPoint using Wiffiti

It’s rare for me to have an idea of my own, instead I rely on mashing up ideas of others. A case in point is taking a post on Pontydysgu 20 things to do in the classroom with Wiffiti and David Hopkins PowerPoint: Embedding YouTube Video, which equals ‘Enabling micro-discussion in PowerPoint using Wiffiti’.

Some background – Wiffiti is a free web service which allows to to upload an image, users can then publish messages in real time which are overlaid. Message can be submitted via SMS, twitter, flickr or via the web. Below I’ve embedded the example Jenny Hughes used (if you don’t see swirly messages it is probably because your network goes through a proxy server. Potentially a big issue if using it on campus - I’ve let the developer know):

In Jenny’s post she list some educational uses of Wiffiti. The obvious application for me is to stimulate in-class discussion. Like EVS removing the stigma of putting your hand up with an anonymous communication channel. You could of course just like to the Wiffiti page from your presentation but having read David Hopkins how-to on embedding YouTube in PowerPoint I was inspired to look at Wiffitifying PowerPoint. 

Basically all you need to do is:

  1. Create your page on Wiffiti
  2. Copy the ‘Share this Screen – Movie url’
    [The next part is an edit of David’s instructions]
  3. Go to the point in your presentation where you want the Wiffiti to be placed.
  4. Control ToolbarMake sure you can see the ‘Control Toolbox’ toolbar. [For Office 2007 users if you can't find the 'Control Toolbox' toolbar you might need to enable it by opening PowerPoint -> clicking on the Office icon (top left) -> click 'PowerPoint Options' and within the popular tab make sure the 'Show Developer tab in the Ribbon' is checked]
  5. Select the ‘hammer / spanner’ looking icon and then select ‘Shockwave Flash object’ from the subsequent menu list.
  6. Then drag the cross-hairs into a square area you want the video to be shown in. You’ll end up with a white box on the screen with two diagonal lines from corner to corner.
  7. Right mouse-click in this box and select ‘Properties’ from the list.
  8. In the empty ox next to the heading ‘Movie’ paste the URL of your Wiffiti.

Here is a PowerPoint file with the Wiffiti embedded. To see it work you need to be in presentation mode. You may also need to enable Active X Macros.

About

This blog is authored by Martin Hawksey e-Learning Advisor (Higher Education) at the JISC RSC Scotland N&E.

mhawksey [at] rsc-ne-scotland.ac.uk | 0131 559 4112 | @mhawksey

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