Incremental video


Incremental video with SuperMemo

Incremental video is a technique for learning or watching video material. On the face of it, it looks like channel-zapping on steroids. However, it is also a powerful learning technique that makes it easy to process thousands of videos at the same time without getting lost. It also makes it easy to learn individual video scenes for long-term retention. It can be used to learn sports, master musical instruments, understand biology, or learn fun dialogs in your favorite movies. Individual videos are processed in small portions. Viewing can be resumed at any time at the last viewing position. Best pieces are preserved for repeat viewing. Individual videos are prioritized and served on a daily basis in manageable portions in order of priority. Incremental video in SuperMemo uses YouTube as the main source of its video material.

SuperMemo: Incremental video in action - Incremental learning about DNA wrapping and replication based on a video imported from YouTube

For users of SuperMemo

SuperMemo is a pioneer in implementing versatile incremental video. For those who are familiar with incremental reading (also pioneered by SuperMemo), incremental video is an analogous technique. Instead of text extracts, you generate video extracts that form a portion of a larger video. Video extracts are viewed repeatedly in increasing intervals, as is the case with other pieces of information in SuperMemo.

Individual videos and their extracts are treated in the same way as all other topic elements and enter the learning process according to the rules that are known from Incremental reading. Currently, only passive review of extracts is supported. There is no equivalent of cloze deletion in incremental video that would allow of active learning.

SuperMemo: Incremental video in action - Watching the historic North Pole swim by Lewis Gordon Pugh

General idea

This is how you work with incremental video in SuperMemo:

  1. open your favorite YouTube videos in Internet Explorer
  2. choose YouTube import option to import videos to SuperMemo (Edit : Import web pages : YouTube (Shift+Ctrl+Y))
  3. use Learn to process individual videos
  4. use Start and Stop buttons to mark interesting scenes
  5. use Extract to generate new elements with scenes marked with Start and Stop (see below)
  6. use learning tools of SuperMemo to prioritize, schedule, and organize videos and video extracts

SuperMemo: An extract created from the "Pirates of Silicon Valley - Part 4" YouTube video in the process of incremental video watching

An extract from the "Pirates of Silicon Valley " (yellow color in the template is used to differentiate between extracts and parent videos) . SuperMemo will play the fragment between the start time of 8 min. 43 sec. and the stop time of 9 min 8 sec. (of the original YouTube video). The checkmark near the Test button indicate that the fragment should be played in a loop. On the right, you can see the description of the video imported from the YouTube database. In pink, you can see references generated automatically (when importing videos with Edit : Import web pages : YouTube (Shift+Ctrl+Y)). Both the video description and the references are propagated from the original video element to all video extracts.

You can easily work with thousands of videos at the same time and never get lost, never get bored, or ever miss a valuable scene. You can also use SuperMemo as your video or music jukebox. You can work with individual videos for mere seconds. Just as much as is needed to set the new viewing point, determine the priority and determine the date of the next viewing. This way, you can process dozens of videos daily and work with thousands of videos in parallel. You shall feel overwhelmed with the richness of YouTube never again!


Incremental video in SuperMemo is based on YouTube. You can still use local video files, but these slow down the program, take lots of space, and are not as easy to use with incremental video (due to the poorly developed toolset). You can capitalize on the video streaming power of YouTube and speed up SuperMemo (even though you may suffer video lags on weaker Internet connections). You will also dramatically save on hard disk space. Videos are notorious hogs of space, your YouTube collections will take a tiny fraction of space. They will actually take less space than incremental reading collections while carrying lots of learning power. If your network is slow or frequently down, you should take comfort in the fact that this situation is likely to change for the better as networks improve worldwide all the time (and this progress is not likely to be slowed soon). Last but not least, SuperMemo will encourage you to upload your favorite videos to YouTube and thus share them with other users of SuperMemo. It would be helpful if you marked them as suitable or specifically destined for incremental video by including "incremental video" text in the description.

Importing videos

To import videos for incremental learning do the following:

  1. open YouTube videos in Internet Explorer
  2. choose Edit : Import web pages : YouTube (or just press Ctrl+Shift+Y)
  3. optionally, set import options (e.g. which videos to import, video priority, name of the import node in the knowledge tree, etc.)
  4. click Import
SuperMemo: Importing videos featuring Richard Dawkins from YouTube for incremental learning

Viewing videos and learning

Use Learn in the same way as when learning with SuperMemo. The videos start automatically. When you get bored or would like to watch other videos, press Start to mark the point from which you will resume the video next time you see it. If you find an important fragment that you would like to learn or view again, press Start at the beginning of the fragment, and Stop at the end of the fragment. Use Test to view the fragment again. Press Extract if you would like to create a new fragment that should take part in the learning process as a separate element.

You can use Mark and Resume to set a bookmark that will not affect the point from which video starts (e.g. when preparing an extract).

You can generate extracts without interrupting the viewing process. Extract elements are generated only when you move on to the next element or when you press Alt+X.

If you get the same videos over and over again, and you would like to get some variety (even though the videos might be of top priority), use Learn : Sorting : Sorting criteria and increase Randomization (move the thumb from Prioritized towards Randomized, i.e. to the right).

Incremental reading is a good introduction to understanding incremental video. If you are not sure how to handle the incremental learning process, see the rich documentation and FAQs related to incremental reading.

Forwarding video fragments to friends

If you forward a YouTube element in SuperMemo via e-mail to others, it will include the link and start:stop boundaries of the video. Your e-mail will look similar to this one:

Please have a look at this YouTube video:

See the fragment from 01:33 to 01:44.

If you are using SuperMemo 15 you can also:

(1) copy this code to clipboard: 

         {SuperMemoYouTube: sWvotIqMaDY,01:33,01:44,00:00}

(2) use Ctrl+N to paste the code to SuperMemo and play the recommended fragment.

#Subject: Beyond The Glory - Joe Frazier part 6
#Author: hotScot619
#Date: Dec 16, 2008 - 22:26
#Source: YouTube (Beyond the Glory)
#Collection: YOUTUBE [Element=2936]
#Generated: Friday, August 14, 2009, 3:51:21
#Software: SuperMemo 15

Forwarded videos can be viewed in a web browser or directly in SuperMemo with Start and Stop buttons set to make sure only the recommended fragment plays.

Exemplary videos

Incremental video is a video equivalent of incremental reading. However, there are many things you may wish to learn that are best learned with video and cannot be substituted with incremental reading. The list is truly endless. However, these are a few examples just to give you the first sense of why incremental video is an important complement to incremental reading:

  • learn a foreign language with the help of movies, speeches, lectures, etc.
  • learn recent history with archive footage
  • learn to play a musical instrument using video tutorial produced by experts or best players
  • learn to play along or sing along your favorite songs
  • use Mike Phelps videos to learn how to swim butterfly
  • recover from injuries by learning physiotherapeutic exercises
  • watch movies incrementally
  • listen to your favorite music
  • watch historic sports events
  • watch video lectures from reputable universities
  • enjoy or learn the best jokes or comedy pieces by Leno, Connan, Jon Stewart, and others
  • master speechmaking with videos of MLK, JFK or Obama
  • seek motivation from Tony Robbins or other self-help gurus
  • learn to cook
  • relive memorable moments in the lives of your family and friends
  • learn physiology, geology, physics, or history, wherever a video explanation is needed
  • learn sign language, volleyball, soccer, etc.


Here are some problems you may encounter when learning with incremental video:

  • Alt+Left shortcut is used by Internet Explorer to return to the previously visited page. As a result, it also works like an Undo for your Start:Stop setting. To return to the previous page in SuperMemo, use the < button on the element toolbar
  • it may happen that your network is down or the Internet is slow when working with YouTube videos. You may therefore prefer to first experiment with a dedicated incremental video collection to learn how to handle videos and prevent interruptions to learning in cases of network problems. You can always stop working with your incremental video collection, return to your regular learning, and resume video learning when the network returns to normal functionality
  • if you would like to use SuperMemo as your YouTube jukebox, you should also keep music videos in a single collection (or mark them all with a specific keyword for fast subset learning). You can later hide your jukebox collection in the system tray. Your jukebox will play only the selected fragments of individual videos in order of priority as specified in your sorting criteria. As in incremental reading, using intervals and priorities is a good remedy against getting bored with a given song or video
  • videos cannot be played in SuperMemo if their embedding is blocked (you will see a message Embedding Disabled By Request). Those videos you can only watch in YouTube. This means that those videos are pretty useless in your incremental video learning; however, you can still use prioritization and scheduling tools to choose which videos should be played in which sequence and on which day. Note also that many of those videos are uploaded multiple times by various users, and you only need to search for an alternative that can be embedded
  • for technical reasons, some videos (roughly one in a thousand) cannot be watched incrementally (they will ignore extracts and always play in their entirety); some can show large rounding errors for extract precision (around 10% of videos can only be watched in large increments). These estimation are valid for winter 2009
  • some videos may display loading errors on first entry. Right-click over the video and choose Refresh to reload (or use Alt+Left followed by Alt+Right to revisit the element). If the error reoccurs, use the link in references on the right to visit the original page at YouTube. Some videos are removed for copyright violations or other reasons. In such cases, you will lose the original video as well as all extracts (they are not stored locally). Sometimes, video authors decide to disable embedding, and this will also prevent videos from showing inside SuperMemo

Your own incremental video script

Videos are handled with the help of YouTube Player API in HTML components using a small JavaScript program. When you first run SuperMemo, it writes this script into a file stored in the BIN subfolder of the folder in which you installed SuperMemo. The name of the file is yt.htm. If you know JavaScript, you can substitute your own incremental video script in that file (e.g. to change the layout, size of buttons, or even add new functions for processing videos). Here are the only components of the script that you need to preserve:

  • the order of INPUT fields (these are used by SuperMemo to collect extract boundaries)
  • SELECT and OPTION fields for generating extracts
  • INPUT field with YouTube video ID substituted by SuperMemo (id="videoid")
  • INPUT field that determines the position of video start and end (id="startvideoat" and id="stopvideoat")(must be "0:00:00")

If you would like to share your own script with others, you can upload it to SuperMemoPedia, or the wiki version of this page.


How does incremental video work?

From: Krzysztof
Sent: Dec 10, 2009, 19:56:25


How does Incremental Video work in SuperMemo? Do you chop the film and piece it at intervals to the user?


In incremental video, it is the user who decides which portions of a video are important to remember. Those portions are part of a standard learning process known from other applications of SuperMemo. Each portion of the video forms a separate topic that is reviewed at increasing intervals.

YouTube videos can be pulled at any time


What happens if a video gets removed from YouTube? You can't really count on them being up there forever. Perhaps there should be a way to localize the most important fragments?


YouTube videos can be removed at any time. They can also have embedding disabled. This is a major problem for the present implementation of incremental video in SuperMemo. There are no API tools that could allow of legal localization of YouTube contents. However, the problem mostly affects copyrighted material that shows up on YouTube illegally (e.g. movies, music, etc.). Occasionally, video authors themselves remove content. This should never be a problem though if you use your own videos. Hopefully, there will be more and more persistent content uploaded for educational purposes. Users of SuperMemo could also contribute to that goal if there are many of them enough to master incremental video (note that it took many years before SuperMemo could encourage users to adopt incremental reading).

Incremental Audio

From: ernesto.bergeron
Sent: Mar 10, 2010, 04:24:51


Your system of incremental reading is truly efficient. Have you thought about incremental audio? Imagine a person hearing a poem one phrase at a time, with cloze deletions, and repeating overtime. Does it work under the same principles as incremental video or incremental reading?


Incremental video can serve as incremental audio. Currently you cannot "cloze delete" portions of the video, however, you can, with some effort, use video extracts as answers to text questions, or even video questions. Incremental video is currently most suited for processing video or audio material passively with the most interesting portions extracted for passive review as topics. In the future, indeed, incremental video should support "cloze deleting" portions of video to meet the functions you envisage.