The Making of a Viral Edutainment Video Using Free Software

This guest blog post is brought to you by none other than one of the most creative Extension professionals I know, #DroneSinger: Victor Villegas from Oregon State University. You need to follow him on Twitter @OSUExtTech and subscribe to his YouTube Channel. – Paul Hill 

On December 22, 2014, the FAA, along with AUVSI, AMA and the Small UAV Coalition, launched the “Know Before You Fly” campaign to encourage drone safety, in anticipation of kids (and adults) receiving drones for Christmas. The campaign included an animated video and the use of the hashtag #KnowB4UFly.

The video seemed to be aimed at kids and the hashtag was obviously an attempt to take advantage of social media. The campaign received plenty of media publicity, but a quick look at the video makes you wonder how they ever expected to keep today’s kids’ attention for more than a couple of seconds. Yes, it was informational but, in my opinion, was rather dull and uninteresting. So I took it upon myself to see if I could come up with a better version and try my hand a producing a viral video.

I created a “Drone Carol” titled “If You Get a Drone For Christmas”, a music parody based on the tune “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. I had already been thinking of doing a music video on drone safety and had most of the lyrics written when the FAA’s campaign pre-empted my plan and launched their video before mine (I had planned to release my video on December 23). No matter, I re-wrote some of the lyrics to match their campaign’s message more closely and took advantage of their publicity. I also created an animation to go along with the song, trying to keep it fun and entertaining so that kids and adults might actually watch it.

I recorded my song using a Samson C01U USB microphone and Audacity, a free recording and editing audio software with multi-track capabilities. For the animation I used a nifty online app called PowToon. PowToon allows you to upload audio and create simple animations you can sync to music or audio on a timeline. The app has some built in graphics and there are more available in a premium version, but the free one was fine for this project as allowed me to upload my own graphics and images. I used GIMP, a free photo/imaging editing software, to edit some of my graphics before importing them into PowToon.

Once the animation was finished, I uploaded it to YouTube directly from PowToon. I then promoted it on social media via Twitter, Facebook and Google+, using the #KnowB4UFly hashtag, as well as #UAV, #UAS, #drone, #drones, #quadcopter, #DJI and other common drone related hashtags and keywords.

This was a fun experiment and the results have been rather encouraging. The video was written about and posted on, a popular drone news site, and has received almost 4,000 views since I published it four weeks ago. It has been the most viral content I have created to date and views keep increasing daily. Not bad for a small campaign created by an individual and basically for free. I’m sure the FAA spent a good deal of money to have its video created. Many people have commented they like my version better and feedback has been very positive. This has led me to create more drone songs to bring attention to drone and UAV issues in the US and I am currently looking to leverage interest in my drone songs and current ‘dronemania’ in general to build an audience for webinars on drone technology and research as part of Oregon State University Outreach & Engagement and Extension.

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