Embed video and images in Google maps: A beginner’s guide for multimedia news reporting

Using Flickr and Youtube to host your photos and video, you can add multimedia contents to an interactive Google map. Free and easy.

ALERT: Please check out an updated post for how to embed video and photo in Google maps. Google replaced its mapping tool with Maps Engine Lite, and techniques introduced in this post need to be updated.

When teaching students how to use Google maps, I found some not-so-techy students had difficulty with photo and video embedding, and Google’s tutorial looks too sketchy for them to comprehend and follow. So I decided to write a more detailed tutorial for my students and for any reporter/storyteller who are really new to all these digital tools.

There are two steps in embedding multimedia contents in a Google map: put video and photo online, and copy/paste the embedding codes. I’ll start with Step 2, assuming you already have a Youtube account, a photo-sharing service account such as Flickr, and have a Google map created. However, if you are really new to this, read Step 1 first then Step 2.

Step 2: Copy and paste the embedding codes

To insert video/photo in a Google map, you need to, in our jargon, “embed” some codes which tell Google map to grab the video or photo from either Youtube or Flickr, and display them within the map. Video and photo sharing services such as Youbute and Flickr all provide ready-made embedding codes for you to copy and paste. It’s that simple.

Here I’m using a sample Google map project as an illustration. It’s about community outreach activities of a medical service program in central New Jersey. For three of their recent events, I have three different types of contents: a photo, an audio photo slideshow, and a video.

The photo is on Flickr, the video is on Youtube, and the slideshow was converted to a video and also on Youtube. Here’s how the map looks like with the three pieces of content; click the three placemarks to explore the embedded photo and videos:

(Update January 2014: Google provides a service to convert map projects created with classic map to the current Maps Engine, and in so doing, we can bring back video playback. Below is a converted map with the original, classic map beneath it)

View Community Outreach in a larger map

Here’s how to embed the photo: when viewing your photo on Flickr, click on the “Share” button at the top and you will see a drop-down window. Click on the third choice, “Grab the HTML/BBCode” and continue clicking on the size box, then what you see should be similar to the sample screenshot below:

Choose a size that fits your needs. In the sample project above, since the map is being embedded in this post and has a width of 650, I want to use a smaller size for the photo so that when clicked, the photo window does not take over the whole map. The one you see in the sample map has a width of 320.

With the size selected, click anywhere in the codes window, the codes will be automatically highlighted (selected), copy these codes. Now go back to edit your Google map. In edit mode, click on a placemark, click “Edit HTML;” now in the text box below, write up some intro texts, then paste the codes you copied from Flickr.

A trick here is that you may want to select and remove the highlighted part as seen in the screenshot above. This string of codes makes your photo clickable, i.e., when people click on the photo in the map, they will be brought to the Flickr page where they will see the original image. But if that’s something fine with you, then just leave this part as is.

Save your edits by clicking on the OK button at lower right corner, then save the map project by clicking the “Done” button. You should now have an image in the popup window when you click on the placemark.

Here’s how to embed the video: when viewing your video on Youtube, click on the share button which is underneath the video, then click “Embed.” What you will see is similar to the screenshot below:

Here’s what you need to do: (1) choose a size for the video. For the video in the sample map above, I entered a custom size of 350 – you only need to enter the width, the height will be set automatically.  (2) check the box for “Show suggested videos when the video finishes,” this is to eliminate some unwanted codes that, in my experiences, will prevent the video from working in the Google map.  (3) copy the embedding codes, go back to Google map, and follow the same procedure above to insert the codes into a placemark. Unlike in a photo embedding, you don’t need to remove any codes here.

Step 1: Put your video and photo on the web

You cannot upload photos and videos directly from your computer/camera to a Google map project. You’ll need to put photos and videos somewhere on the web, then link them to the map. There are various online services where you can upload and store videos and photos. I recommend two popular services: Youtube and Flickr, both are free to use.

Youtube will host (store) your videos on their server and you can link your video from Youtube to Google map. If you don’t have a Youtube account, watch a brief intro video  for how to get your account set up and your first video uploaded. Flickr will host (store) your photos on their servers and you can link your photos from Flickr to Google map. Here’s a video tutorial on how to set up Flickr account and upload/share photos.

Lastly, if you are really so new that you don’t know how to create a Google map to start with, then I recommend you watch a short video for a quick how-to:

Want to learn more about Google mapping? Here’s some popular books on Amazon that you can check out:

About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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