Interactive Video (Part Two): Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker

16 Mar

Mozilla Popcorn MakerTo my shock and horror, my students claimed to have never seen a PopUp Video. They were vaguely aware of VH1 and suspected that some old people still watch it? If it even exists?

We were brainstorming uses of Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker, and I was sharing that a colleague had a great idea of using the free online tool to make a PopUp video of a presidential debate. As candidates make their claims, viewers could fact-check or point out rhetorical techniques, completely changing the viewer’s experience. A quick search and fifteen seconds of the Ghostbusters’ Theme Popup had them back on track. (They actually knew what I was talking about after all.)

Recently, I have been exploring how to make online videos more interactive for the viewer. In Interactive Video (Part One), I reviewed TED-ed’s Flipped Video Interface. In this post I will examine Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker, an easy way to take most anything that exists on the Internet and “lay it” over a video or audio track.

For my first experiment, I took the same video I flipped at TED-ed and used it to explore Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker. I have about two hours invested in this current version, and after a colleague gave me some time saving tips, I found the interface to be simple and intuitive. I suggested the tool to some students, as well, and they picked it up without any instruction on my part. In addition, some of my colleagues and I brainstormed uses for Popcorn Maker during a recent  in-house professional development session. Feel free to add your own ideas to this list! As I collect examples of the various ways we use the tool, I will share them.

Based on our initial test run, here are some pros and cons of Popcorn Maker:


  • Video must come from YouTube and audio must come from Soundcloud. Vimeo and other sources offer some wonderful content, and the added step of getting that content to YouTube is a deterrent to many students. Work-arounds certainly exist, but it creates a bit of hassle that doesn’t really need to be there.
  • Remixes are stand alones. Creating your own Popcorn video from someone else’s is very simple, but I would be even more excited about this product if an option existed for “hive editing,” allowing anyone to add content to one video while keeping the same address. For instance, I would prefer to embed a Popcorn in a class site and then watch that one video grow organically as other users added content. Right now, I can start a video and then others can remix it, but each of these remixes exists separately. We can asynchronously edit one video by sharing a username and login, but a truer “hive” video capability would make this great product even better.
  • Video cannot be combined with video. Users can use just one video as a baseline track and then provide only links to other videos. One cannot, however, have another video “popup” within the first. It would make for more dynamic viewing to be able to pause the main video and play clips of other video (similar to what can be created using Dragontape [INSERT LINK], an easy way to combine clips from various YouTube videos).
  • Popcorn needs embedded web pages other than Wikipedia. Being able to embed live, searchable web pages into video is amazing. I’m very impressed with this feature. I would be even more impressed, of course, if these searchable pages could come from somewhere other than Wikipedia. (I feel particularly crotchety for this last one. This critique is certainly a minor one.)


  • Popcorn Maker allows you to do something that was not possible before. It truly is a new, dynamic way of interacting with video content. Anyone can enhance a video in ways that simply weren’t possible before Popcorn Maker existed. I know nothing about programming or coding, yet I can now easily make “directorial” decisions about videos I watch.
  • Sleek, professional products can be produced very quickly. The interface is reliable, easy, and flexible. Much more important than any “techie” abilities is a sense of design and balance. Anyone can now create videos with high impact.
  • Precision editing is a snap. It is quite easy to time the entrance and exit of content.
  • The “forever” pause allows for tactical breaks within a video. I particularly like the ability to communicate very precisely with the viewer, adding pauses and links at key moments.
  • The range of content options that can be added to video means that the output is limitless. Prezis can be engaging, but after you have seen a few, too many feel the same. It doesn’t feel like the same will be true of content made with Popcorn. There are so many variants that the output can seem new and unique each time.

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