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									                  VIVA Task Force on Multimedia Collections – Briefing Paper

                      VIVA Task Force on Multimedia Collections
                                 Briefing Paper, March 20, 2006
                      Prepared by Ralph Alberico, James Madison University

This document outlines assumptions, potential action items and key questions to be considered
by the VIVA Task Force on Multimedia Collections.

VIVA Multimedia Collections Project Goal
Provide secure, reliable online access to VIVA multimedia collections for VIVA member

Task Force Charge
      Serve as a forum for exchanging information about technical issues related to multimedia
      Develop expertise among VIVA members about the technologies, non-textual
       information content, evolving markets and distribution channels for multimedia
      Develop recommendations on technical specifications and technical support for
       multimedia content licensed by VIVA
      Develop recommendations on cataloging, organizing and preserving digital, multimedia
       collections licensed by VIVA
      Develop recommendations on distribution models and access control for VIVA
       multimedia collections
      Identify human resources, technology investments and organizational structures within
       VIVA institutions that will be needed to support streaming media
      Develop recommendations for user support including minimum technical requirements,
       training and documentation
      Consider service integration issues; develop recommendations on how to integrate
       multimedia content from VIVA with existing library services and with campus learning

Key Issues
    Key issues for the task force to consider fall into the following categories: File
       management & distribution, Encoding, Server management, Authentication & access
       control, Cataloging and User Interface.

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                  VIVA Task Force on Multimedia Collections – Briefing Paper


VIVA has licensed a collection of titles from PBS and we will use that collection as a test case to
resolve collection management, technical support, user support and content distribution issues.
The consensus opinion of the VIVA Steering Committee is that it is too soon to establish
collection development policies or guidelines – that will come later and be handled through the
Resources for Users Committee. The PBS collection consists of around 500 hours of video in
MPEG-4 format. The collection was delivered on DVD media. Many of the titles in the
collection are multi-episode series. In most cases each episode in a series has its own file on its
own DVD but there are a few cases in which more than one episode in a series were delivered
within a single file. The license terms prohibit offering the PBS videos for downloading but
allow any VIVA institution or group of institutions to stream video content. The license also
requires that individual users enter an id and password before initiating a stream. And the license
prohibits us from mixing, mashing and developing derivative works from PBS media files.
Even though some re-use of this content might be considered to be fair use, we should still make
a good faith effort to prevent users from capturing streams when download is restricted by
contract. The storage estimate for the files comprising the collection is 1 to 2Tb. This assumes
an MPEG-4 master file, and two files encoded for streaming, one at 300Kbs and one at 500Kbs.

Project Timetable
    The task force is projected to disband at some time in the future; we will need to establish
       a sunset provision which could be a specific date or which could be tied to completion of
       some milestone(s). The timetable for initiating a streaming service is likely to vary from
       campus to campus as will the way in which a streaming service is implemented. The task
       force will need to establish a timetable for developing recommendations on specifications
       and best practices and for making PBS files available to VIVA institutions that are ready
       to make them available.

Project Communication & Documentation
    The PBS videos licensed by VIVA are available to all members so the task force will
       need to develop a method for sharing information, recommendations and documentation
       with all appropriate representatives of all VIVA schools. The task force will also require
       a mechanism for exchanging information related to our work and for documenting our

File Management & Distribution
      DVD masters from PBS have been shipped to JMU. Among the options for distributing
       those files are mass duplication and distribution of DVDs, FTP, peer-to-peer distribution,
       and shipping files on portable hard drives. The task force will need to determine the most
       feasible, cost effective and efficient method for distributing the files. Other issues to
       consider include preservation of the media on which the files were originally distributed,

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                  VIVA Task Force on Multimedia Collections – Briefing Paper

       maintaining backups and file integrity and developing a plan for future re-encoding and
       re-distribution of files.

      Key Questions: Does each school get a digital master of each file? What is the most
       efficient and cost effective method for distributing media files? How do we establish a
       timetable for distributing the files and what should that timetable be – i.e. Do we
       distribute the files on an on-demand as-needed basis or do we send them out all at once?
       Where do the authoritative versions of the files in different formats reside and how do we
       back them up and insure that they do not get corrupted?


Selection of encoding format
     We will need to specify a preferred encoding scheme. Using PBS as our starting point
       will make this easier since the content is already encoded in MPEG-4 format but we will
       need to encode those files into one or more streaming file formats for each episode.
       MPEG-4 will be our default encoding scheme, at least for the first project, but we need to
       consider all of our options, keeping in mind the convenience to our users, availability of
       media players and efficiency of serving up different types of streams. Eventually we may
       need to decide whether we will need to support more than one encoding format. One
       decision we need to make is whether it will be necessary to encode the same files for
       streaming with multiple bit streams. For the longer term, we will need to review all
       options, including Flash before settling on a codec, and if necessary possible VIVA
       workflow and infrastructure needed to encode multimedia content in multiple formats.
       Further complicating these issues are the multiple “flavors” available within a particular
       encoding format and the often complex relationships between encoded media files, media
       server software and media players. At the current time the primary formats to consider
       include Windows Media, Real Media, QuickTime and Flash. Each has its own
       advantages and disadvantages which we will need to consider.
     Key Questions: What is the preferred encoding scheme for VIVA? Does VIVA want to
       support multiple encoding schemes? Do we factor that scheme and other technical
       recommendations from the task force into future license negotiations? For collections
       that require encoding, how might we manage that effort to maximize efficiency?

Media player recommendations and desktop specifications
   The task force should identify minimum desktop specifications, browser
      recommendations, and media player recommendations. Depending on which media
      player(s) we support we may need to prepare documentation on configuration and use of
      that player in order to support VIVA multimedia content. We may also need to develop
      recommendations for specific campus applications (e.g. classroom use) that require the
      professional (need to pay for it) version of a player. And, if we support Flash, we will
      need to develop design specs and then actually build a Flash player that enables use of
      VIVA multimedia content within a browser.

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                  VIVA Task Force on Multimedia Collections – Briefing Paper

      Key Questions: How much flexibility do we want to provide in terms of specifying
       which browsers and media players students and faculty need to use? In general, should
       we prefer media content delivered through a player or through a browser? Do we want to
       limit the number of players or browsers we support? Are there specific players or
       browsers that we want to avoid? How do we support multiple browsers and players?

Server Management
      The task force will need to recommend a minimum of at least one streaming server
       solution for VIVA member campuses. The recommendation should include hardware,
       operating system, streaming software and storage specifications. Recommendations will
       be determined to some extent by the encoding formats that we choose to
       recommend/support. At least one of our server recommendations should be as close to a
       turnkey option as we can possibly get. And we should do the research that would enable
       a VIVA member school to understand the budget implications and procurement options
       for the streaming server. We may also need to develop server configuration
       recommendations needed to optimize video streaming. In addition to at least one
       streaming server recommendation, we may also need to consider recommendations for a
       separate server to handle the user interface, collection meta-data and authentication
       processes associated with a streaming service. Finally, since this was a one-time
       acquisition it may not be as important to collect usage data but we should at least
       consider whether to capture usage data and whether we need to define the data that we
       want to capture and mechanisms for capturing and reporting those data.
      Key Questions: If we look at each individual server spec as a recipe, how many recipes
       do we need to include in our VIVA streaming service cookbook? How detailed do we
       need to be in our specifications? Is it feasible to expect that we will be able to develop a
       relatively small number of server options that would be useful to a large number of
       institutions with varying infrastructures, technological capabilities and budgets? How
       much influence should the results of our survey have on which and how many server
       specs we need to develop? What kind of advice, if any, can we offer to schools who want
       to use existing infrastructure to serve the VIVA PBS videos? How close can we get to
       recommending something that approximates a cost effective, turnkey solution? What
       kind of documentation and support can VIVA provide to its members in this arena?

Access control/authentication
      If we cannot use IP authentication as we currently do for most VIVA resources, the task
       force will need to make recommendations on how authentication should be handled.
       While the possibility of using public key infrastructure or some other authentication
       mechanism that supports more centralized approaches to media streaming is appealing
       for the long term, it does not seem feasible for the short term – at least for schools that do
       not have shared authentication technologies and policy agreements already in place.
       Any advice that we provide on authentication is likely to be a “black box”
       recommendation that discusses the points at which an authentication process might be
       launched while leaving it up to individual schools to fill in the box with their own

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                  VIVA Task Force on Multimedia Collections – Briefing Paper

       approach to authentication. We may need to consider proxy server or VPN client issues
       as well. Alternatively, we could leave each institution to its own devices on this.
      Key Questions: If centralized authentication and shared streaming services are not
       feasible what kinds of recommendations and technical support is VIVA able to offer to
       our members? What is the best approach to supporting each school in serving content to
       its own users? For the mid to longer term future is it reasonable to assume that it will be
       possible to serve VIVA media content from a subset of our schools or from a single
       school to all schools? If so, are there steps that we need to take now in order to support
       future efforts? What support and other considerations should VIVA offer to schools that
       are able to serve content to other schools? Is it feasible to centralize online distribution of
       video content licensed by VIVA? If so, what might the distribution channel(s) look like
       and how might we ensure that access to those channels is restricted to authorized people?
       What can we learn from the VCCS and any other sub-groups within VIVA that plan to
       offer a centralized streaming service?

Cataloging, database management and resource discovery

      The task force will need to make recommendations about file structure, data structure and
       descriptive meta-data for media programming. We should also make recommendations
       about how our libraries describe media content. And we should recommend strategies
       for developing, importing, exporting and sharing metadata and cataloging information in
       order to avoid duplication of effort in VIVA libraries. One of the issues that we will need
       to consider is whether VIVA schools will want to have a single access point to VIVA
       media collections and what that access point should be, for example, the library OPAC or
       a separate database for the collection. As is the case for many digital collections it is
       likely that many schools will want to integrate catalog data with their OPAC while also
       maintaining a separate database that provides descriptive meta-data and access options
       that are tailored to the unique characteristics of a streaming video collection. Other
       issues to consider with the PBS Video collection center on how to catalog individual
       episodes within multi-episode series and whether and how to include links to associated
       web sites maintained by PBS. Finally, we will need to consider best practices for
       indexing, browsing, searching and presenting information about media files and methods
       for enabling users to move from descriptions of media content to video streams.
      Key Questions: Does VIVA maintain a single searchable catalog of all licensed media
       titles? If so, where does that list live? What is the best way to acquire, manage and share
       MARC records for titles/episodes? Does the task force make recommendations about
       integrating this content with OPACS or library managed databases and, if so, how
       specific do those recommendations need to be? What is the best way to share notes,
       analytics and other non-MARC descriptive meta-data for separately maintained
       databases? If we use non-MARC meta-data do we want to standardize our keywords and
       subject categories?

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                  VIVA Task Force on Multimedia Collections – Briefing Paper

Future Considerations

Over the long haul we may need a system of distributed servers and/or a central server. The
VIVA model emphasizes online services hosted by vendors and that may be our priority for
multimedia content. However multimedia content and the current market may not always lend
themselves to vendor-hosted solutions. And those solutions may not always be the most cost
effective approach for VIVA. In keeping with VIVA’s emphasis on developing virtual rather
than physical collections, the VIVA Steering Committee has agreed that it is neither feasible nor
cost effective to ensure that some libraries get physical copies in order to achieve access parity.

It is likely that we will need to authenticate users before opening multimedia streams; initially
each campus will need to authenticate its own users, eventually we may be able to pass
information to trusted users across institution boundaries but that would be a much larger project.
For the short term it will be useful to understand how our various campuses and libraries are
handling access to restricted resources, especially with regard to directory services and identity

This project will require close collaboration between libraries and IT departments on VIVA
campuses. We need to work with IT/network services departments on each campus to ensure
that bandwidth is adequate to support streaming services from VIVA and that streams from
VIVA media server(s) are not blocked by Packeteer or other network traffic control applications.
We may also need to work with IT departments on security and authentication issues; we really
need to start planning for the day when access based on IP address is no longer the norm; we
need to consider how to respond/prepare for this especially with regard to contracts that allow
walk-up access.


The scenarios below describe a number of different possible outcomes related to VIVA
multimedia collections. VIVA should be mindful of these scenarios as we explore options for
acquiring and providing access to media collections.

VIVA licenses, vendor hosts
After a few years of startup experience with VIVA-hosted content, the majority of multimedia
titles licensed by VIVA on behalf of non-profit higher education in Virginia will be hosted on
vendor computers. VIVA will continue to support titles it has purchased by serving that content
from computers at member schools.

VIVA purchases and centrally hosts its own content
VIVA develops a centralized multimedia distribution service, along with a database of
descriptive metadata about VIVA titles; metadata are also made available for import by members
who wish to integrate with their own web site or ILS. Whenever possible, VIVA opts to
purchase rather than license multimedia content. And VIVA establishes download rights as an
essential term in its multimedia licenses. This is the model currently in place at OhioLink.

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                  VIVA Task Force on Multimedia Collections – Briefing Paper

VIVA out sources hosting to our members
VIVA contracts with one or more of its members to provide multimedia distribution and file
management services for the portion of multimedia titles that are not hosted by vendors. VIVA
develops a distributed system for providing access to multimedia content. A few of the member
schools provide services which insure that no member is without access. Members also share
responsibility for cataloging.

Each school hosts on its own; VIVA provides technical support and training
This is the most likely short term scenario. VIVA develops multimedia specifications and
provides training and a support network to all of its members. VIVA also promulgates
information about best practices perhaps including detailed specifications on hardware, software
and authentication mechanisms needed to support a streaming service. Each school is
responsible for hosting, cataloging and managing its own VIVA audio, video and image

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