Indiana University Bloomington



Funded by the NEH Office of Digital Humanities

Managed at Indiana University by Indiana University Libraries

Principal Investigator -- William G. Cowan, Head, Library Technologies Software Development

The Project

This project is funded by an NEH Office of Digital Humanities Startup Grant. The project is managed at Indiana University by the Indiana University Library in Bloomington, Indiana. The goal of the project originally was to create a plugin for Omeka that will allow the use of video segments and annotations created with the Annotator's Workbench to be ingested into Omeka. This plugin has been created and will soon be available. The Annotator's Workbench is a desktop tool to create segments and annotations from digital video, developed as part of the Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis (EVIA) project at Indiana University with funds from the Mellon Foundation.

After creating this plugin, it became apparent that while one way to access the items created for segmented and annotated video was through the creation of a new theme to layout the videos on the site, another way was to create a plugin that would allow the embedding of the streaming video in any theme. So to that end, we also developed a plugin that will embed a video player in any theme. This plugin works with both release 1.5.3 and release 2.0.3 of Omeka.

For the first way of accessing digital video I have create a theme that displays video based items. have modified the theme Easy-Colour by adding page layouts for browse and show items that checks for a start point in the video. If it exists, then it uses the video layout. If not, it uses the standard layout for images or text. These files contain the code that determines whether the video will stream from a server or use HTTP streaming. This code would need to be modified for use by each site, depending how they will be streaming the video.

For creating new items for Annotator's Workbench, have created a plugin called XmlImport that allows the user to select an awx file (an XML file created by the Annotator's workbench) and then choose an xslt file to transform that file into a comma separated file that can then be loaded as items into Omeka. The field in the xslt for the Video Streaming URL will need to be modified to point to the correct streaming server that you will be using. The value in this field is used with the filename to construct the URL that will be used to stream the file.

The five video themes contained in the all have two additional directories. The first is the jwplayer directory. This directory will need to have the jwplayer.js javascript file and the player.swf file that are both used for flash and html5 playback in the default configuration of the plugin. If you choose not to use jwplayer, you will need to modifiy the code in items/browse.php and items/show.php in the video theme you plan to use. The second directory is the videos directory. I use this directory to hold video files that will be used for http streaming if the device doesn't support flash, like an iPad for instance. The default setup for jwplayer tries to play the video as a streaming flash file and if that is not supported, uses the html5 video tag for video playback.

The plugin for embedding the video player in any theme adds an element set called Streaming Video. This set contains the elements used by the player to determine the location of the video streaming server, the video filename, setup for different streaming protocols, etc. In addition, the plugin configuration allows the administrator to choose whether to display just a specific segment of a video, display the entire video or as the video plays, display the current segment that is playing. And the administrator can limit the available protocols for playback. The three supported protocols are Flash, HTTP Streaming and HLS Streaming. HTTP streaming is used by some browsers that do not support Flash and HLS streaming is used by iPad and iPhone. HLS streaming requires special preparation of the files using tools from Apple for HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) or using ffmpeg.

See the tools section for more information on configuration and other tools you can download.


The burgeoning of collections containing still images and audio and video recordings has led to a shift in humanities research, directing focus increasingly toward the use of multimedia resources in scholarly activity. Some humanists see potential for non-textual resources to stimulate new directions in humanistic research. In recent years, this trend has extended beyond the ethnographic disciplines, which have long conducted research using multimedia materials, into other areas of the humanities such as history, literature, and philosophy. The advent of technologies to digitize these multimedia products and the explosion of born-digital recording have significantly enhanced the potential of scholars who use these resources to share their research via Web-based platforms.

With scholars advocating for both a “visual turn” and an “auditory turn” in the humanities and with the increased availability of cultural resources in digitized form, humanists need tools to manage their collections and to combine aural, textual, and visual data in their research and analysis. Yet there are surprisingly few integrated tools with which humanities scholars may organize, analyze, search, and disseminate multimedia materials within scholarly contexts. The ability of scholars to interact with and disseminate their images and audio and video recordings is often limited to playback or editing for documentary presentation.

In 2001, a group of scholars, technologists, and librarians based at IUB began working together to tackle the challenge of developing integrated technologies and tools to organize, segment, and annotate digitized videos of ethnographic field recordings in the Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis (EVIA) project ( As part of this project, IUB built a tool called the Annotator’s Workbench (AWB) that would enable these ethnographers to assemble a collection of their digitized (or born digital) field videos, segment the videos at various levels, and annotate the segments with detailed scholarly commentary. The work undertaken on the collection prepares it for ingestion into a digital repository on the IU campus, and the video segments and their accompanying annotations are made accessible on a scholarly Web site. Download the Annotator's Workbench for Windows or Macs at AWB Downloads

Over the years, the AWB has gained functionality as groups from a variety of disciplines on the IUB campus have adopted it for use with their digital video databases. However, AWB does not give scholars a way of placing their videos on the Web unless they deposit their video collections into a digital repository. Omeka, the open source Web publishing platform developed and distributed by George Mason University, offers the opportunity for IUB to enable institutions and scholars to publish annotated videos and video segments on the Web easily. Omeka is a free, flexible, open source Web-publishing platform for the display of scholarly collections and exhibitions by libraries, museums, archives, and individuals. The plugin architecture for the platform permits a broad community of developers to extend Omeka’s capabilities. IUB will build a plugin for free distribution on the Omeka Web site that will facilitate the incorporation of annotated videos into a Web site. The plugin will be designed to work with AWB, which is client-based, and the Annotation Management System, a Web-based version of AWB.

IUB has extensive experience using AWB to segment and annotate digital video in several other campus projects besides EVIA. One of the chief problems facing these projects is that once the annotation is complete, making the video segments and annotations available on the Web requires significant technological expertise and institutional infrastructure. Currently, when scholars segment and annotate their videos using AWB, only when they deposit the videos in a repository or database can the annotations be indexed, enabling users to browse, search, and retrieve the video segments online.

In an attempt to provide AWB users with an easy, flexible way to make their annotated videos available on the Web, IUB has looked for ways to generate Web sites automatically from AWB files. AWB generates an XML file – .awx – when a user creates an annotated video project. As an XML document, the .awx file can be parsed and used to generate different kinds of Web sites. The IDAH team has experimented with automatically parsing .awx files to build HTML using XSLT, but this automatic parsing has resulted in several problems: 1) Such parsing is not straightforward and requires several external files to work most effectively. 2) This method generates a single page, and creating a Web site from a number of these single-page files is labor-intensive. 3) The AWB allows multiple video files to be included in a project, and employing XSLT to function with multiple video files in a single AWB project file presents a number of difficulties.

Given the challenges presented by automatic Web site generation, IDAH has turned to a solution from the other side – the embedding of AWB-generated, annotated video segments into a Web site. The advent of Omeka makes this possible. Its ability to display digital objects and their metadata in an exhibit with relatively little work makes Omeka a good match for creating a Web site that includes segmented video and annotation metadata.

During the grant period, IUB will develop an annotated video plugin for Omeka that will import an .awx file, parse that file into corresponding metadata fields for Omeka, and perhaps define additional fields. Either this plugin or another would then be used to parse and display the Omeka metadata fields and generate a page that would contain the video segment and the associated annotation. Because the .awx file is METS compatible, it can be readily transferred into other standard XML schemas such as METS and MODS, in keeping with Omeka’s use of standard metadata schemas to ensure interoperability.

Omeka is becoming established as a significant tool for libraries and researchers to present their digital objects on the Web. At the same time, AWB is gaining ground in institutions outside IU such as the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and it is being evaluated by The Randforce Associates, which provides digital audio and video tools for oral history recordings. Omeka offers some video plugins, but for the most part these plugins do not provide the rich metadata for videos or video segments that the AWB allows. By building an annotated video plugin to Omeka, IUB will broaden its use and capabilities. At the same time, the plugin will significantly expand the capabilities of the AWB to add segmented and annotated video to the Web easily.