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Sprint 52 – May 30, 2014

In our last sprint, the Avalon team continued its progress on a major feature of 3.1, allowing Avalon collection managers to use LDAP groups to provide access to content. With Avalon 3.1, content permissions may be assigned to user groups created within Avalon, to LTI courses, and to LDAP groups. Enabling LDAP groups requires a simple configuration. The organization of LDAP groups and use of LDAP active directories vary by institution, so we are exploring the most efficient method for Avalon to search for LDAP groups.


We’ve completed work on the option to bypass transcoding of media files attached through the Avalon dropbox. New tooltips were written to clarify the process of assigning pre-existing permalinks, setting thumbnail images, and creating section labels for media content with multiple segments. 


To ease the transition to Avalon at Indiana University from the current media service, we’re working closely with IU Libraries Media & Reserves Services and IU Libraries Moving Image Archive. We’re planning an ingest workflow for their current and future content and have translated the current service’s metadata fields to Avalon’s so that records can be transferred.


Sprint 52 – May 30, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VOV-2661 - I want to use Skip Transcoding for files attached from the dropbox.
  • VOV-1717 - I want to restrict item accessibility to members of one or more dynamic LDAP groups
  • VOV-2727 - I want contextual help about permalinks in the file management page
  • VOV-2463 - BUG: Dropbox directories with spaces break batch ingest
  • VOV-2723 - [IU Prod] I want to know what an Avalon-based VSS interactive ingest workflow will look like at IU
  • VOV-2696 - [IU Pilot] Implement LTI for Oncourse and Canvas

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Sprints 49, 50, & 51 – April 18, May 2, & May 16, 2014


Since the release of Avalon 3.0, the team has focused on putting Avalon in production at Northwestern University as well as adding features needed for IU’s move to production. We expect to implement and release the latest features by the end of June as a minor release 3.1.


In our latest sprint we created the ability to assign a pre-existing persistent URL (PURL or Handle) to media that has been added to Avalon. We also developed a way for collection managers to choose or change a thumbnail image for a video even after the master file has been deleted or moved elsewhere. Using HLS to create thumbnails means that this image is made from the best available derivative rather than from the master file.


Now the Avalon team is working on the option to bypass (skip) transcoding for media files uploaded through the Avalon dropbox. This option may be used when a transcoded version of a file already exists and can be provided instead.


In 3.1, Avalon will be able to take advantage of LDAP groups to authorize access to users affiliated with campuses or departments or other LDAP-managed entities.


We have assessed the impact of upgrading to Hydra 7, Blacklight 4, Bootstrap 3, and Rails 4. The upgrades have been deferred to after our minor release due to the amount of user interface rework required, but the work will commence shortly. In addition to these dependency upgrades, our next major release is likely to include some of the following features:

  • Bulk operations to enabling publishing, access changes, or deletion of multiple items simultaneously
  • Ingest queue management, so high priority items can be processed quickly even if there is a long queue
  • Automated metadata ingest from OPACs
  • Additional descriptive and administrative metadata fields
  • Time limits on access permissions

What are your thoughts on our progress, ideas, and goals? We’re looking forward to your comments on our mailing list, Our mailing list is also the place for our partners to share ideas and issues with existing Avalon pilots and implementations. 


Sprints for Avalon 3.0:


Sprint 49 - April 18, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VOV-2396 - I want to install R3 
  • VOV-2427 - I want have technical documentation for R3
  • VOV-2625 - I want to tryout R3 on the demo server
  • VOV-2629 - [design only] I want to be able to set time limits on sharing Avalon items with individuals, groups and courses.
  • VOV-2630 - I want manual instructions for how to set up Avalon with AMS
  • VOV-2631 - I want to have a technology training refresh after R3

Sprint 50 – May 2, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VOV-2625 - I want to try out R3 on the demo server 
  • VOV-2630 - I want manual instructions for how to set up Avalon with AMS 
  • VOV-2663 - I want to configure R3 features when I set up or upgrade Avalon 
  • VOV-2664 - I want to use R3
  • VOV-2660 - I want to add an previously existing PURL or Handle to an avalon object
  • VOV-2633 - I want to configure dropbox privacy and access 

First Sprint for Avalon 3.1:


Sprint 51- May 16, 2014 Demo Recording 

  • VOV-2660 - Add a previously existing PURL or Handle to an Avalon object 
  • VOV-2659 - Change a thumbnail after the master file is gone 
  • VOV-2661 - Skip Transcoding for files attached from the dropbox. 
  • VOV-2690 - Upgrade to the latest Hydra components 
  • VOV-2631 - I want to have a technology training refresh after R3 
  • VOV-2695 - [IU Pilot] Implement PURLs
  • VOV-2626 - [NU Prod] I want to test R3 on NU Production and identify problems 
  • VOV-2628 - [NU Prod] I want to use Avalon with Blackboard and Canvas 


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Release 3.0 Now Available


Release 3.0 of the Avalon Media System is now available. Both Indiana University and Northwestern University will be using this release to set up production environments and we hope other institutions will join us.


Release 3.0 adds the following capabilities:

  • provide authorization for item access from your learning management system by integrating Avalon as an LTI tool (Learning Tools Interoperability is a standard used by many course management systems)

  • embed Avalon's media player in other web page using embed codes

  • configure Avalon to delete, move, or do nothing to your master files after they are transcoded

  • track location of master files and derivatives in Fedora

  • configure Avalon to assign a permanent URL (e.g., PURL or Handle) when an item is published

  • quickly import previously transcoded derivatives

  • maintain privacy of dropboxes between collections

  • numerous media player bug fixes and improvements


There are several options for exploring release 3.0. You can try it out on our public test server. You can also download and install a preconfigured Avalon virtual machine image, perform a step-by-step installation, or find out how to download our source code from Github. More information on all of these options is available on our software page.


We look forward to feedback on this release via the avalon-discuss-l list. If you haven't already signed up for the Avalon discussion list, you can find out how to do so on our connect page.


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Coming Out of Our Ears: An Abundance of Media to Preserve and Share at Stanford Libraries


This interview is with Hannah Frost, Services Manager for Stanford Media Preservation Lab and Stanford Digital Repository. Hannah has been leading media preservation efforts at Stanford Libraries since 2001 after earning a MLIS in archives and preservation at the University of Texas at Austin. Her first introduction to the challenges of media preservation arose while working as a studio assistant for documentary photographer and media artist Jim Goldberg, who had some finicky Hi8 video tapes with recorded content to be included in a single channel video piece for his "Raised by Wolves" exhibition.


What audio and video collections are you considering putting into Avalon?

Stanford envisions a number of ways to use Avalon. We need the ability to gather media content produced by students, faculty, research groups, and departments. Our expanding Stanford Digital Repository service is attracting a lot of interest around campus, and an amazing variety of media material is coming out of the woodwork: podcasts like Generation Anthropocene, public radio programs like Philosophy Talk, and teaching and learning resources like Entrepreneurship Corner. We also imagine using it for the deposit of event recordings like Stanford commencement speeches (see Steve Jobs in 2005), and creative works, like this chamber opera by Stanford professor, composer, and researcher Jonathan Berger. Stanford is brimming with media content produced in the interest of education, research, creativity, and the well-being of society. Much of the content is of high quality, broad appeal, and long-term value. Avalon will greatly facilitate the Libraries’ ability to collect, describe, preserve, and deliver it.


Stanford Libraries also plans to use Avalon for bringing in bulk collections of digital video and audio materials from our partners. We are increasingly collaborating with other cultural heritage institutions that have rich digital collections, including media content, to preserve and serve up, but without their own means to do so.


The list of use cases continues to grow!


"Zooming In on the Mandelbrot Set", a 16mm motion picture film illustrating the work of Benoit B. Mandelbrot, the "father of fractals". Courtesy Stanford University Libraries, Department of Special Collections.


Who will be able to access these collections in Avalon?

In many cases, not everyone, and frankly that is part of Avalon’s appeal. Most of the media content in Stanford’s collections is encumbered by copyright, privacy, or licensing terms.  Without an integrated media delivery solution that supports access limitations to the Stanford community, or specific locations or groups within Stanford, it has not been possible for us to make our digital media collections available in a controlled, systematic way.  Avalon provides a full-featured system that meets the array of Stanford’s access requirements.


What are some unique or interesting items in your media collections?

We have lots! Just to list a few:

Original 1-inch video footage from the Stanford Prison Experiment, preserved in the archive of Philip G. Zimbardo, Professor of Psychology. Courtesy Stanford University Libraries, University Archives.


How will Avalon help you achieve your preservation and access goals?

For over a decade, Stanford Libraries has been actively engaged in media preservation and digital preservation – two major challenges facing research libraries today. Avalon is a natural choice for us: Stanford is a founding member and devotee of Project Hydra and home of the Stanford Media Preservation Lab.  We have invested heavily in establishing a program with supporting facilities and expert staff for reformatting aging, unique media and stewarding the digital copies in a robust preservation environment. However, we have struggled to bring up an access environment that is compatible with both access policies and the repository’s technical infrastructure … until Avalon.  Furthermore, as more and more media is born-digital, we need to expand our capabilities for efficient deposit to our repository.  We believe strongly in flexible, robust, open source software solutions in the service of information preservation and access, and Avalon fits the bill!



Sprint 48 - April 4, 2014


We have an Avalon release candidate! We've tested and tagged the code and completed technical documentation about how to configure permalinks integration. We had new eyes look at our manual installation process. Since our production environments are going to look different from your production environments, standalone instructions for the various components such as Fedora, MySQL, Solr, Red5, Matterhorn and others have been provided to help get Avalon users up and running without too much trouble.  


Sprint 48 - April 4, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VoV-2388 – Getting to code freeze – Chris

  • VoV-2545 – R3 Manual Install – Jim

  • VoV-2427 – Technical Documentation – Adam

  • VOV-2396 – R3 Installers – Team (Story not completed)


Now the team is working on migration and installers. The work done earlier in the sprint to create a pushbutton automated release process has really helped to speed up this process and we are happy to say our efforts have paid off; instead of taking 6 hours to build an .ova, the process is less than 40 minutes!


We should have some exciting news by the end of this next sprint so keep watching this blog, Facebook and Twitter!

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Sprint 45, 46, & 47 - February-March 2014


The last three sprints have been a flurry of activity for the Avalon team. LTI can be configured for Blackboard, Canvas and Sakai. We have improved our playback on Android. We updated our Avalon Collections Guide. Bugs were found and squashed; features were frozen. And we still had time to win the largest poster presentation at the Code4Lib conference. (We wish that was a real prize!)  


During this sprint we have been beefing up our documentation, getting our installers ready for Release 3.0, and preparing to provide support for migrating from Avalon 2.0 to Avalon 3.0. Be on the look out for an Avalon 3.0 announcement any time now!


Sprint 45 - February 21, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VoV-2391 LTI configured for NU's Blackboard & Canvas

  • VoV-2389 Migration from R2 to R3

  • VoV-2395 Cleaning up logging

  • VoV-2428 Testing across platforms

  • VoV-2388 Getting to Code Freeze

  • VoV-2465 Embed code using permanent url 

  • VoV-2432 CAS (SSO) Embedded player pops up a "home page" window when you are already logged in 

  • VoV-2373 IE10 dragging scrubber beyond player

  • VoV-2366 Dropbox permission issues NU-Test

  • VoV-2424 Batch isn't checking for currently running batches

  • VoV-2458  Skip transcoding of mp3s

  • VoV-2431 Bad LTI credentials causes login to fail with unhelpful error or redirect to other omniauth login page

  • VoV-2461 Deleting a file causes exception but succeeds

  • VoV-2474 Permalinks not setup on mallorn 

  • VoV-2491 Two videos with the same Hdl


Sprint 46 - March 7, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VoV-2315  Collection notification emails contain relative link back to collection instead of full url

  • VoV-2541  Access control indentation got disappeared on collections page

  • VoV-2540  Put a help icon next to [x] Skip Transcoding that gives popup help about file types


Sprint 47 - March 21, 2014 Demo Recording

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Get to Know the Avalon Team: Cynthia Ramlo


In our series Get to Know the Avalon Team, we're providing a closer look at the individuals who are working each day to develop the Avalon Media System.

Cynthia Ramlo

Cynthia is the Lead User Experience Designer for the Avalon Media Project. Prior to joining the Avalon team she was the Lead Designer for the Lakota Language Project, a joint project with the Indiana University American Indian Studies Research Institute and the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.


Can you talk a bit about your role in the project?

It is a tremendous opportunity for me to be involved in helping to shape the user experience for Avalon. I am most excited to work with our system’s users. From them we can gain a clearer idea of how to design a system that they will enjoy using.


What apps/software/gadgets can't you live without?

Pinterest is fun and easy to use. It is my favorite way to look for creative crafts.


I just started using Duolingo to learn Spanish, but have not been diligent about using it.


Last summer, I traveled to Alaska. It is a beautiful place to visit and I took a lot of photographs. This year I am determined to do something with my existing photographs beyond downloading them to my computer. I love Photoshop. It is without a doubt the software application that I would not want to live without and I hope that I will take the time to use it at home to work on my photography.


When you’re not working, what can you be found doing?

Late last year I joined an archery club and have enjoyed participating in this sport. Now, I am looking forward to better weather when we can practice outdoors. This summer I would like to compete in the state finals. 


Sprint 43/44 - January 27 & February 7, 2014


We have been a little delayed in posting our last two sprint demos but the delay was worth the wait. During the last month, the Avalon team has been nailing down some pretty impressive features prior to our next release.  


Our team has managed to get Avalon working with both Sakai Oncourse and Canvas learning management systems (LMS), with Blackboard on the way. After a sprint or two needed to understand how we wanted Avalon to work within each LMS, the team created configuration files that allow institutions to set the display label for classes instead of the rather cryptic names generated by the LMS.  There was also additional clean up to restrict any files in LTI to be strictly for playback – if one is in a class watching a video, they are unable to share the resource or edit resources (if they have that permission).  


The embedded player is getting better with every sprint. More bugs were reported and vanquished after testing various browsers and devices. We also embedded audio and video files in WordPress, Tumblr, Omeka and other websites with relative ease, with both public and restricted files.   


Once we complete our work on LTI, we have reached feature freeze for release 3.0! From there, the team will start preparing for code release. 


Sprint 43 - January 27, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VoV-2269 – Skip Transcoding documentation
  • VoV 2308 – Improved video quality settings
  • VoV 2329 – Configurable class display label
  • VoV 2267 – Permanent URLs at IU 
  • VoV 2270 – Class facet for staff 
  • Review of stories 

Sprint 44 - February 7, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VoV-2390 – Skip Transcoding for Audio Files
  • VoV-2267 – Permanent URLs for all items
  • VoV-2391 – Northwestern LTI configurations
  • VoV-2328 – Public items listed in LTI course
  • VoV-2329 – Define displayed LTI Class label
  • VoV-2320 – Share option is disabled in LTI
  • VoV-2393 – Documented difference of stream video quality
  • VoV-2386 – Updated Test Scripts
  • VoV-2376 – Login redirects to self_closing if embedded player is closed before login completes
  • VoV-2377 – Embedded audio player quality controls not visible
  • VoV-2383 – Safari on iPad – staff user can edit/delete from an embedded video page


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2013 in Review


2013 was a busy year for the Avalon Media System team, but we definitely had fun! Our proudest accomplishments of the year were releasing version 1.0 and 2.0 of the Avalon Media System.


Release 1.0 (May 2013) introduced a lot of the baseline functionality of the software, including support for both Adobe Media Server and the Red5 open source media server for audio and video streaming; integration possibilities for a variety of authentication systems, along with permissions management by user- or group-based authorization; and manual media ingest and description and a dropbox-based batch import capability.


Release 2.0 (October 2013) included a new hierarchical permissions model; default access controls for collections which could be more easily be shared with defined groups; a new, more usable media player; and the ability to create custom thumbnails for video content by taking a "snapshot" during playback or by specifying a timepoint. This is our current release, so don’t forget to download or try it out today!


Beyond our releases, here’s a quick recap of what we worked on this past year, complete with links in case you want to learn more about a particular presentation or event.


In January, Jon Dunn and Adam Hallett gave a presentation about Avalon at the Opencast Unconference.

In February, Julie Rudder presented the poster "Avalon Media System: A Collaboratively Developed Video and Audio Content Management and Delivery Solution" at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Annual Meeting. Michael B. Klein and Nathan Rogers also presented “The Avalon Media System: A Next-Generation Hydra Head for Audio and Video Delivery” at Code4Lib 2013.


In March, Jon Dunn and Mark Notess gave a talk and demo of the Avalon Media System as part of the Indiana University Digital Library Brown Bag series.


In April, Jon Dunn and Claire Stewart presented "The Avalon Media System: An Open Source Audio/Video System for Libraries and Archives" at the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Membership Meeting. Stu Baker and Stefan Elnabli gave a presentation at a meeting hosted by the Media Preservation Initiative in Bloomington, Indiana. Jon Dunn gave a lightning talk at CURATECamp AVpres as well.


In May, we celebrated Release 1.0 by donning fancy celebratory gear!

In July, Claire Stewart participated in a panel discussion titled, “Repository solutions for time-based media” at Open Repositories 2013. Jon Dunn presented the poster “The Avalon Media System: A Platform for Access-Controlled Delivery of Time-Based Media” at the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries. We also welcomed Leah Lee to the Avalon team as a new Programmer/Analyst.


In August, Stefan Elnabli presented a poster about Avalon at the Archives 2013 conference.


In October, we held the Avalon Partners Meeting in Bloomington, Indiana. Later in the month, we announced Release 2.0, our most current release of the software.

In November, Jon Dunn and Andrea Zielke presented a poster about Avalon at the 2013 DLF Forum. Stefan Elnabli also presented a poster at AMIA 2013.


In December, we welcomed Cynthia Ramlo to the Avalon team as Lead User Experience Designer.


Over the course of 2013 the team worked through 10 presentations at national and international conferences, 25 sprints, and two releases of the software. We can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for us!


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Sprint 42 - January 10, 2014

During the 42nd sprint of the Avalon Media Project, the team made major progress on our 3.0 features... and then some! Our player and content is now embeddable even when the content is restricted. Avalon can now support permanent URLs (although at this point we have only configured it to work for Northwestern, which uses CNRI's Handle System).  We continued work on campus and course-based access control through learning tools interoperability (LTI). Classes can now be given access to specific items and collections. Students and faculty members can now access items through their learning management system (LMS), so they only have to log in once! The team is investigating how to jump the processing queue for priority ingest, including developing a separate transcoding engine, adding additional Matterhorn servers for encoding, running multiple separate instances of Matterhorn and using alternative workflow methods. All in all, it was a very fruitful sprint! 

Up next is improving upon our LTI work and testing out many of the new features that were recently added.

If you are going to Hydra Connect in San Diego, Jon, Mark, Claire, Julie, Michael, and Chris will all be available to chat about Avalon. Say hi, ask questions, grab an Avalon sticker and get a demo of our most recent work! 

Watch the full recording of this week's demo.

  • VoV 2233 Access reserve items through an authenticated link in an LMS – Leah/Chris
  • VoV 2271 Granting a class access to an item – Leah/Chris
  • VoV 2181 Investigation of bypassing queue  - Phuong/Adam
  • VoV 2265 Embedding access controlled media – Phuong
  • VoV 2267 Assigning Permanent URLs – Michael/Adam
  • VoV 2272 Updated batch documentation – Julie H
  • Review of stories – Team led by Andrea

You can also watch the demos for past Sprints or learn more about our development process.

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