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Sprint 17 - January 11, 2013 Demo Recording


During our last Sprint, the Avalon team was very successful in continuing to add functionality to the system. Some of the highlights of the Sprint are that users have the ability to upload full length films and can now choose the playback bitrate for videos. Collection information can now be associated with an item from the web interface as well as during batch uploads.


To find out more about the additional stories that were completed, you can watch the entire demo recording here.

  • Video Encoding Profiles (VoV 669) - Stefan (0:00:00)
  • Automated Batch Upload Notifications (VoV 906) - Adam (0:16:07)
  • Added "Collection" Facet (VoV 934) - Michael K (0:18:49)
  • Batch Upload Metadata (VoV 903)- Michael K (0:19:46)
  • User Chooses Bitrate for Playback  (VoV 943) - Phuong (0:28:52)
  • Full Length Film Upload (VoV 778) - Phuong (0:35:19)
  • Batch Uploading Large Videos (VoV 802) - Phuong (0:38:42)
  • Review of Sprint Stories – Team led by Steve (0:39:55)

You can see the demos for past Sprints here or learn more about our development process here.

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Association of Moving Image Archivists 2012 Conference


The following post was written by Stefan Elnabli, Audiovisual Media Specialist for the Avalon Media System, on his experience at the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) conference from December 4-7, 2012.


There are many types of chicken that I like. In fact, at the top of my list has to be the fried hard variety of Harold's Chicken Shack, BOTH sauces please (my guilty Midwestern pleasure). But there is one chicken that I do not abide: the Chicken Little. As you may have heard, Earth was supposed to be at the brink of a major cataclysmic event on December 21, 2012, to have taken place in conjunction with a galactic alignment of apocalyptic proportions. This apocalypse, the Chicken Little said, would have ended human civilization as we know it. As a skeptic, with reasonable mitigations, the cries of the Chicken Little could not have been more clucking laughable. But around this time, as I prepared to represent Northwestern University Library and Avalon Media System at the 22nd Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) conference in Seattle, I began contemplating a different type of end-of-life scenario that seemed more realistic given the practical limitations of the audiovisual preservation field: the loss of our moving image heritage in the face of growing collections and limited resources. But rest assured, gentle reader, the reality is not that bleak. If it wasn't for the community of archivists and librarians to remind me of this at AMIA 2012, I might have found myself half-heartedly playing the part of a self-loathing Chicken Little on his way to being devoured by the fox!


My AMIA conference experience in The Emerald City began with a fast paced workshop on FFmpeg, an open software solution for analyzing, transcoding, processing, and filtering audiovisual data. As an aside to all of you who are not familiar with Avalon Media System, Avalon is built upon three major open source technologies: Fedora, Opencast Matterhorn, and Hydra. In adopting this modular approach, the Avalon team leverages existing open-source technologies to support open connectivity and make it easier for future contributors and users to add or remove parts based on their needs. Avalon utilizes Opencast Matterhorn's processing workflow, of which FFmpeg is a central component. Through the practice of scripting FFmpeg commands, learning the power of its multitudinous options set, and hacking through syntax to alter mandelbrot test patterns, workshop attendees got an in depth crash course into this rich program for creating and manipulating digital audio and video.


Assuaging the Chicken Little's audiovisual doomsday fear, this year's conference was stacked with inspiring sessions reminding us that good work is being done throughout the field to improve audiovisual preservation and access. After kicking off the opening plenary with an uplifting presentation on audiovisual disaster recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there were some notable highlights over the course of the conference. Co-presented by AMIA's Diversity Committee and the Independent Media Committee, a "community archiving workshop" was led wherein attendees paired with Seattle's Three Dollar Bill Cinema to process, inspect, and catalog its audiovisual collections. Later, a session entitled "Archiving and Preserving Digital Cinema Packages" sparked a lively discussion of the increasing presence of DCPs with encrypted content in archives, a digital packaging standard that will inevitably find its way into many archives' collections. In a session entitled "Getting Your Footage Online Now," three smaller archives in the Chicago area presented their strategies to navigating the complex world of online digital access to archival video collections.


The topic of digital access to archival video collections is important to the Avalon Media System team. Partnering with Jon Dunn, our Project Director, and Julie Hardesty, one of our Metadata Specialists, I set up shop in a corner of the vendor cafe to present an Avalon poster, distribute handouts, and give attendees an opportunity to test-run the system at a designated laptop. The response from AMIA attendees was overwhelmingly positive and we had the pleasure of interacting with representatives from such diverse institutions as Hampshire College, The New Zealand Film Archive, and the United Nations Audiovisual Archive. This was the first time that we were able to connect with librarians and archivists as they were demoing the system live, and we found a consistent thread in their lines of inquiry. In general, the majority of questions had to do with digital repository integration and the system’s flexibility in customizing encoding profiles for audio and video assets. We’re happy to say that Avalon Media System supports both of these things.


Leaving the conference, I did not have the wild-eyed energy of the Chicken Little, but that of an invigorated audiovisual archivist inspired by the work of his colleagues and their willingness to share their work with the community at large, even if it revealed limitations our profession sometimes faces. Moreover, the opportunity to engage directly with the AMIA community about Avalon Media System was a pleasure in and of itself. Now that we know the end of the world was false hysteria and that the fox's appetite is satisfied, the Avalon team will see you at many conferences to come!

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2012 Hydra Developers Congress


From December 3-5, the Avalon Media System developers were at the University of California-San Diego for the Hydra Developers Congress, or "Hackathon." The Hackathon consisted of approximately 20 developers from institutions around the country, mainly universities but also MediaShelf and the Boston Public LibraryMichael B. Klein and Adam Hallett (Northwestern University) and Chris Colvard and Phuong Dinh (Indiana University) represented the Avalon Media System. Project Director Jon Dunn (Indiana University) also attended, though he took part in the Strategic Planning Meeting and not the Hackathon. 


When the developers returned, I asked them a few questions about their trip.


How does Avalon use Hydra?


"It's a framework that Avalon developers are building on to create the Avalon Media System. The main interface is a Ruby application built pretty much entirely using Hydra." -Phuong


What was the goal of the Hydra Hackathon?


"Hydra partner meetings are quarterly gatherings for developers and managers to come together and solve a problem or chart a trajectory. This time around, developers wanted more developer-only time. The Hackathon was totally separate--developers coding (and talking when necessary) and managers discussing in another area." -Chris


What was the agenda like?


"The call for agenda items was posted beforehand. When we arrived, certain things on the list--bugs, new features to be added, discussions--were chosen and we broke up into groups by topic. After that, it was totally freeform." -Adam


Was anything Avalon-related discussed?


"Whether, when, and how to package Avalon's core functionality as a reusable gem for other Hydra heads (see Sufia, developed from PSU's ScholarSphere, for an example of another gem-ified Hydra application)." -Michael


"Things that we are doing in Avalon that might be pulled into the Hydra-head core."-Phuong


Did you leave with any new insights or ideas?


"We discussed the future of defined XML terminologies using nom-xml instead of OM. I'm particularly interested in the nom-xml work, as well as the work being done to build a Rubygem ecosystem around Hydra with a lot of plug-in functionality as opposed to application-based silos." - Michael


What was your favorite part of the trip?


"It was great to connect with the Hydra community. People are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, so it's exciting to learn from them." -Phuong


"Collaborating with other developers to work on the Hydra tutorial." -Adam


"I most enjoyed spending time away from Avalon to dig into the internals of Hydra. I was able to get problems that we had run into fixed." -Chris

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Welcome to Our Blog


On the Avalon Media System blog, we'll share stories about the work we are doing to build an open-source video management system. You'll get to know the Avalon team, stay up to date with development between releases, and learn more about our partners.


We want to connect with you! You can find the Avalon Media System on FacebookTwitter, JIRA, or IRC, plus we often post additional information to our wiki and mailing list


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