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2 minutes to read Posted on Friday June 12, 2020

Updated on Friday June 12, 2020

portrait of Erwin Verbruggen

Erwin Verbruggen

Technical Projectleader , Q42

portrait of Jonathan Blok

Jonathan Blok

Technical Project Officer , Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Europeana Media: rolling out the new audiovisual player

In the recently finalised  Europeana Media project, co-funded under the European Commission’s CEF Generic Services scheme, partners Istituto LUCE, Sound and Vision, the Europeana Foundation, TIB, Noterik and ATiT worked together to provide a novel, open source universal audiovisual player on Europeana collections. 

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As part of the project, development focused primarily on the user experience for audio and video content. Europeana aggregates material from a huge variety of collections and organisations across the European continent. The way you encounter video on the site can therefore differ enormously. You could move from looking at a high-resolution video embedded from YouTube or Vimeo to looking at a stamp-sized Flash video item uploaded more than a decade ago. We aimed to improve this situation.

Building on the EUscreen player

We did! Back in 2015 we launched the current EUscreen portal, which offers free online access to thousands of items of audiovisual heritage and was fully HTML5 based. The previous portal, which had innovative virtual exhibition features and provided the metadata of the videos as linked data, was built on Flash, a technology which has since become outdated. 

At the  request of the content partners in the network, we developed the player with an anti-download system. This innovation expanded on the standards set by HTML5 and W3C, and was freely available as open-source code. In 2018 we made sure that the player would be embeddable on the Europeana collections website via oEmbed, improving the playout experience for the 25 broadcasters and audiovisual archives whose materials you can access via EUscreen.eu. But we wanted more!

Engaging with audiovisual sources

The year is 2020. Media players are all around us and we expect them all to work flawlessly, no matter where content is served from or how old it is. We decided that for a media player to be used on a cultural heritage focused platform, engagement would be key. We held multiple sessions with users to explore how they would use video during research, in the classroom, or for personal use.

Teachers want to be able to embed videos they encounter in course materials. Perhaps even provide some remarks on it, or provide a translation of a short piece that’s in a different language. You may want to create a playlist of materials to keep on watching all the wonders of 20th Century European history sources.

Interoperable, too?

When we started the Europeana Media project, we wanted to build on strong, existing, modern technologies. One of those was the International Image Interoperability Framework, or IIIF for short. IIIF is a set of standards that provide your browser with information to better handle a multitude of source materials. Originally developed for museum or library images (scanned books, newspapers, or massive resolution photos of paintings, for example), the standard branched out into audiovisual  territory in 2016. The development of the IIIF Presentation 3.0 API standard is expected to be finalised in 2020. 

In order to provide advanced features such as annotations, subtitles, embedding and more on videos or audio, we use IIIF-manifests, which is a descriptive standard for presentation metadata (information required to generate a viewing experience). The IIIF-manifest contains information about the media, information on how it can be displayed, and links to other information associated with the item in the form of annotations (including subtitles). The manifests are generated by the Europeana APIs and this project shows them to be one of the earliest adopters and implementers of IIIFv3. Our developers committed improvements made to the IIIF AV Component (an implementation developed with funding from the British Library for its Universal Viewer) back to its code base.

What player, where?

On Europeana, video and audio materials that are provided by content partners can now also be experienced in even higher resolution via this new player (see an example). As Europeana does not yet have user sign-in services, some of the features are not yet available. Our newly instated Task Force on Media Playout in Europeana will continue advocating for this development!

You can experience the full feature set of the player on the EUscreen portal. When you go to our content partner Istituto LUCE’s video collection, and log in with your MyEUscreen account, you’ll be able to use all the features described above. See the video below for a handy walkthrough. We will be rolling out the new player’s features to all collections that grant their permission. 

If you’re curious about the insides of the player, take a look at its code base over on the Europeana GitHub. If you would like to comment, know more or have suggestions, please get in touch via info@euscreen.eu!

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