Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter



Navigating Multimedia

BC faculty and students have a wealth of audio and video information available to them through the Media Center and the BC Libraries.  Our physical collection of music and moving images continues to grow with CDs and DVDs, while the Libraries’ Digital Initiatives have fostered the Streamed Film Collection.   A portion of the physical collection is available to the entire BC community for circulation, while the Media Center and subject specialists work with faculty to create a diverse instructional collection.  The library also subscribes to databases such as Smithsonian Global Sound, Naxos Music Library, Poets on Screen (Literature Online), and the Vanderbilt Television News Archive to provide licensed multimedia content to the BC community.  Over the near future, the BC community will see resources like this increase to reflect the demand for multimedia content by students and faculty.


In addition to resources provided by the library, the multimedia search engines I’ve included in this article will help you locate sound, image and video files -- as well as radio and television programs.  The web is a great resource for finding instructional, entertaining, and/or enriching aural and visual materials.   The sites I’ve listed below incorporate all of these aspects. 


Some things to keep in mind:

  • Some of these websites are corporate, while others are library, archive, and educational initiatives.  Most of these sites are free, but will include advertising or additional fees for subscription service.
  • As search engines develop and become more advanced, we will see the search functions become more intuitive and streamlined.  Until then, it is best to be as specific as possible when adding a term to the search box.  Also, look for “Advanced Search” capabilities; they will include additional fields to narrow your search. 
  • Some sites give an option for a “Family Filter” or “Safe Search” to weed out adult content, others do not.
  • Make sure the Internet browser you are using (Firefox, Safari, AOL, Internet Explorer, etc.) permits pop-up windows. 
  • Most sites that allow you to upload video content are protected by the On-Line Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA), a provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Section 512.  These provisions are designed to shelter service providers from the infringing activities of their customers.  The internet service is required to delete any infringing content, if notified and requested to do so by the copyright holder.  If you are interested in the legal side of these sites, I highly recommend the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which keeps a very close watch on lawsuits and legislation surrounding the Internet.
  • Certain requirements can affect how well you can view or listen to content on your computer.  Operating systems, file formats, software requirements, browser limitations, and broadband speed, can all affect the quality of the sound or image.  Most likely, an error message will appear on your screen, if there is an issue.  It is also a good idea to check “About” or “FAQ” of the website to read about multimedia technical requirements.


blinkx -- blinkx is a very large and advanced search engine for free audio, video, and podcast content. The search engine is fed by automatic spiders that crawl the web for multimedia content.  blinkx has developed content partnerships with over 100 leading content and media companies (CNN, Forbes, BBC News, HBO – to name a few) and boasts that is has over 7 million hours of multimedia content.  Unlike other search engines, which use closed captioning transcripts, blinkx uses visual analysis and speech recognition to better understand rich media content. Users can search for content, create personal TV channels that automatically splice relevant content together and even use a download feature to automatically download content to mobile devices.  I highly recommend using the “Advanced Search” function, which allows the user to search by channel or narrow a general search.

Google Video --  Google Video is the multimedia portal of the massive search engine.  It relies on closed captioning and transcripts for its keyword searches.  Google Video is an open online video marketplace, where you can search for, watch and even buy an ever-growing collection of TV shows, movies, music videos, documentaries, personal productions and more.  Google offers free video content, but also provides an option to rent or purchase multimedia content.  Purchased content requires a Google account and a downloadable Google player.  Google account holders are also able to upload video content they created.   The uploaded video does not have to be shown publicly, users are able to set access preferences.  Google has partnered with NARA (The National Archives and Records Administration) to include a National Archives Video section of historical movies, documentaries and other films.

Pandora -- Pandora’s interface is available to music lovers so they can use this musical system to discover new music based on songs or artists they already know.  Once you set up a personal, free account, the system will ask for you to name a favorite musician or song.  The interactive interface will then play songs based on the musical components of that suggestion.  Also, like an interactive radio, you can tell the database if you liked the song it played, or disliked it.   Seven years in the making, the project started as the Music Genome Project.  Pandora’s team of fifty musician-analysts have been listening to music, one song at a time, studying and collecting literally hundreds of musical details (over 400 attributes) on every song.  It takes an average of 20-30 minutes per song to capture all of the details that give each recording its sound - melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics, etc. 

Open Video Project -- The purpose of the Open Video Project is to collect and make available a repository of digitized video content for the digital video, multimedia retrieval, digital library, and other research communities.  The Open Video Project began in 1998 with the development of a basic framework and the digitization of the initial content, about 195 video segments. Additional video was also contributed by the CMU Informedia Project, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Prelinger Archives. This first stage of the project also included entering metadata for each segment into a database, and creating the Web site to enable researchers to access the available video.  Users are able to browse by genre, color, sound, duration, and collection.

Moving Image Collection -- The Moving Image Collection is a union catalog and film preservation initiative started by the partnership between the Library of Congress and the Association for Moving Image Archivists (AMIA).  It lists the holdings of many film and video archives across the world.  It also has a new function which allows the user to search for digital video content.  To search the holdings go to the 'Collections Explore' menu.  MIC is a key access program of the Library of Congress’ National Audio Visual Conservation Center and is working to develop industry standards on moving image collecting and digital video.

Folkstreams -- According to the website, Folkstreams has two goals; to build a national preserve of hard-to-find, independent documentary films about American folk or roots cultures, and to give them new life by streaming them on the internet.  The films are streamed with essays about the traditions and the filmmaking process. The films, which were produced between the 1960s and the present, focus on the culture, challenges, and arts of unnoticed Americans from a range of different regions and communities.  The site includes transcriptions, study and teaching guides, suggested readings, and links to related websites. 

LibriVox -- LibriVox volunteer readers record chapters of books in the public domain.  The recordings and audio files are then released onto the net.  Users have several different options to listen, from your workstation or downloaded onto a mobile device. The site is a totally volunteer, open source, free content, public domain project and anyone can volunteer to be a reader.  LibriVox gets most of the texts from Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive hosts their audio files. 

People’s Archive -- From the website, “Peoples Archive is dedicated to collecting for posterity the stories of the great thinkers, creators, and achievers of our time. The people whose stories you see on this site are leaders of their field, whose work has influenced and changed our world.”  The site includes videos from successful people in a range of careers (scientists, writers, filmmakers, and cinematographers), and documents how they got to where they are today – in their own words.  All content is free, but they request a subscription, if you need to view the videos at a higher resolution.

Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum -- This online catalog provides access to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive.  The Archive serves as a comprehensive informational and archival resource worldwide for moving image materials pertaining to the Holocaust and related aspects of World War II.  Their staff continue to locate, acquire, preserve, and document archival film footage from sources throughout the United States and abroad.  Some of these films are intensely personal and were gifted by families and individual donors.


Expert Village -- Expert Village provides thousands of how-to videos by acknowledged experts in a wide variety of fields.  The video topics range from pet training, home repairs, cooking, and miscellaneous instruction topics. The company pairs freelance videographers with experts in their areas.  An expert is described as someone with professional credentials, training, or established work experience. 


American Presidency Project -- The American Presidency Project is the only online resource that has consolidated, coded, and organized into a single searchable database the presidential documents, papers, and an audio/video archive of Presidential speeches.


I hope you discover something interesting in the sites I’ve mentioned. I am trying to learn more about these sites, as well as new ones, but they are very dense and the amount of multimedia content on the Internet is growing quickly! To learn more about the resources available at the Media Center or if you have questions about these resources I’ve mentioned, please feel free to contact me. I am always looking for interesting sites to review and welcome suggestions. I am especially interested in how faculty and students are using sites like these in their assignments and coursework.


Julie DeCesareJulie DeCesare
Digital Media Reference Librarian

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