Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Networking Moving Images

Anne Mumford summarises the meeting organised by the British Universities Film and Video Council at the National Film Theatre on 18 December 1996, which looked into the problems and issues surrounding using academic networks for multimedia applications.

The JISC Strategy [1] states: "The JISC recognises the growing importance of multimedia data and will promote measures to ensure such data is appropriately available and transmitted electronically."

As part of this consideration, a meeting was organised by the British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC) [2] which is now funded through JISC. This consultation meeting was held at the National Film Theatre on 18 December and was attended by about 220 people.

It is important to establish the user needs for any new form of technology or content provision and the meeting was addressed by a number of subject specialists and by some speakers talking about current activities. It became apparent that there is a need for a range of materials for use in teaching which include moving images. For many disciplines movement is inherently important for our understanding of change and dynamism. For some subjects the availability of clips of information would be useful for inclusion in teaching materials. For other subjects, such as the performing arts or media studies, the context may be important and thus complete packages of material may be more appropriate. Different subjects do have different needs and a subject based approach for consideration of content may be a useful way forward.

Broadcast material is a major resource for use in study, particularly within the social sciences and can support many disciplines. Recording for academic use is permitted and many sites do make recordings with the BUFVC offering a backup service for their members. The possible benefits of making broadcast material available online with overnight delivery was discussed. Consideration was also given to the potential of links with the British Film Institute and the potential benefits of long term storage in digital form.

Having material available online and being able to link this with other forms of material has a great deal of potential for both teaching and research. Examples quoted included: broadcast news material linked to propaganda material; manuscripts and parliamentary proceedings for historical study; dance clips linked with dance notation and music scores; anthropological field work video linked with photographs, spoken accounts and field notes.

The academic community is also a producer of material as well as a consumer and this needs to be remembered in any considerations. It was also noted a number of times that the use of film and video is not always seen as having the scholarly benefits which might accrue.

The speakers all recognised the importance of the metadata associated with the materials with the details stored recognising the need for access by a range of different disciplines. We need an understanding of the context and the images. The potential benefits of gaining metadata for broadcast and file material are great, even if the material itself is not available online. Finding the material in both physical and digital forms can by the greatest barrier to use.

In considering the use of moving images it is important that we do not loose site of relevant JISC and Funding Body experience to date. This experience relates to the following areas: content, infrastructure, technology and standards.


JISC and the Funding Bodies have developed a range of materials and datasets which include some still and moving images. Many packages produced through the TLTP (Teaching and Learning Technology Programme) [3] include animations. The JISC New Technologies Initiative resulted in the creation of databanks of dental and biomedical images. Further work which is focusing on the potential of virtual reality is taking place through the JTAP [4] initiative and example include virtual laboratories, design studios and field work. The Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib) [5] is producing online image content including photographic collections, cartoons, medical images and maps. The mirroring of the Visible Human is another example of the availability of image related information. The Knowledge Gallery initiative between the commercial sector and H.E. aims to provide a gateway to image related content produced within H.E. as well as international and commercially created resources. Moving images are only part of a continuum of image- related resources which range from still images through to virtual worlds.


SuperJANET is one of the leading networks in the world. The emergence of MANs is providing broadband connection within geographical areas. JISC are committed to providing a pervasive video service. Although initial interest has focused on video conferencing, clearly the network provision and gateways, for example ISDN gateways are relevant to the discussions here. JISC have also supported MPEG encoding and video capture services.

Technology and Standards

The eLib and JISC New Technologies programmes have seen the investigation of software and hardware for image servers and suitable industrial strength solutions are emerging. Standards are critical both for storage (file formats and metadata) and for search and retrieve and this is an area of wide interest for JISC in its provision of online services. Both eLib and the Arts and Humanities Data Service have worked on good practice guidelines for projects which include considerations of standards.

The JISC's Committee for Electronic Information (CEI) now has to consider the recommendations from this meeting. It seems clear that there is a need for online materials which include moving image for both teaching and research. Such materials may be from film, broadcast materials or created within higher education. In all cases teachers and researchers benefit by being able to access such resources and to link them with other online materials. The provision of moving images does present some special problems. These relate to the potential volume of data and, more especially, for the need to deliver at a specific rate. JISC need to consider, and to advise sites, on the requirements of the network provision for moving images. Are we to provide national and/or local delivery of moving images on demand? Many issues raised on the day are of a more generic nature and relate to metadata, resource discovery, authentication, copyright, good practices, acquisition strategies.

In conclusion, this was a useful workshop which will form a useful start for the JISC/CEI in its deliberations.


[1] JISC 5-year strategy,

[2] British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC),

[3] the TLTP (Teaching and Learning Technology Programme) Web site,

[4] JTAP (JISC Technology Applications Programme) information,

[5] eLib Web site,

Author Details

Dr Anne Mumford is the Co-ordinator for the Advisory Group On Computer Graphics
Email: a.m.mumford@lboro.ac.uk