VIVA PBS streaming video collection includes 498 full-length
documentaries representing over 500 hours of video. Titles
include documentaries by Ken Burns and series such as American
Experience and Frontline. The collection covers a
broad range of disciplines in the humanities, arts, social sciences
and sciences. The collection is particularly strong in
American history and American studies. A list of titles with
brief descriptions may be found at VIVA
PBS Streaming Video Title List (Excel file)
This is the first major multimedia collection licensed by
The VIVA PBS video collection is available to all
current students, faculty and staff at VIVA public and independent
non-profit higher education institutions who were VIVA members when
the contract with Public
Broadcasting Service Films
(JMU3469) was finalized in November 2005.
A password-protected copy of the contract is available to VIVA
The VIVA PBS license
limits access to current students, faculty and staff at schools
which were VIVA members in November 2005. The license also requires
that authorized users provide a user id and password before being
allowed to view the video programs. These terms are different
from those of most other VIVA licenses which typically do not
require authentication and authorization with a user id and
password. The license also stipulates that PBS video titles
may not be downloaded, edited or used to create derivative
Transcripts are available for some but not all of the
videos. If available, transcripts may be found on PBS
companion web sites. The location of transcripts on PBS
companion web sites varies so it may be necessary to do some
searching in order to determine whether a transcript is available
for the video program in which you are interested. URLs for
PBS companion web sites are included in the cataloging records
developed for the VIVA/PBS project.
of the video programs have resource guides, instructional
activities, references to supplementary materials, time lines,
interviews, transcripts etc. on companion web sites developed and
maintained by PBS. When available, URLs for those web sites
are included in the cataloging records developed for the
Streaming is a method for sending video over
the Internet as a continuous stream. When video is streamed
the person receiving the video does not need to wait for the whole
file to download before viewing. The information in a source
video is compressed and encoded before being sent as a stream.
Player software at the receiving end is used to decode the
compressed and encoded stream at the time of playback. Players
such as QuickTime,RealPlayer, and Windows Media Player are designed
to work with specific video codecs. Streaming requires continuous
access to enough bandwidth to accommodate uninterrupted
The video quality is excellent. But the
quality of the viewing experience may be affected by several
factors. Each title is available in a high resolution version
suitable for classroom viewing (high bandwidth network connection
required) and a low resolution suitable for viewing on a computer.
The low resolution version plays in a smaller window on the screen
by default. However the size of the viewing window may be
expanded and it is even possible to do full screen playback at
acceptable quality for the low resolution streams.
The first thing to note is
that the quality of a streaming video is only as good as the quality
of the source video used to encode the stream. Typically, when
source videos are encoded some information and thus some quality is
lost when the source file is compressed to make it easier to
transmit over a network. Factors influencing video quality include
the codec, or compression scheme used to encode the original content
so that it can be streamed. The H.264 codec used for the VIVA
PBS project is noted for its efficiency and for the high quality of
video playback. Another factor influencing video quality
is the bit rate or the number of bits per second at which the video
is transmitted; the higher the bit rate, the better the quality. Bit
rate is typically measured in kilobits per second (kbps) A related
quality factor is the number of frames per second (fps); 30 fps is
the highest quality standard for streaming video. The frame
size (the size of the window in which the video is displayed) also
influences quality. The smaller the frame, the sharper the
image. Aspect ratio (length vs. width) is also important to
the viewing experience. Video quality is also affected by
factors which are unrelated to the way in which the source video is
encoded -- those factors include the quality of the computer and
monitor or projector used to display the video and, most
importantly, the network bandwidth available to the viewer.
Since video streaming differs from most Internet
services by requiring network bandwidth to be allocated to a
continuous stream of bits, network bandwidth is the single most
important factor in determining the quality of the viewing
experience. If the bandwidth available to allocate to a video
stream is not adequate, information in the video will be lost or
delayed. This can result in an unacceptable viewing
experience. The availability of network bandwidth is a
function of the network's capacity and the amount of traffic on the
network. To use a highway analogy, a multi-lane freeway
provides a lot of capacity but if there are too many cars using that
highway at the same time, the driving experience may be less than
optimal. Similarly, the viewing experience will depend on the
amount of traffic on the network as well as the bandwidth of the
pipes through which the traffic flows.
What do I need to know about the network architecture and streaming media infrastructure on my campus?
The most important things to
know are the capacity of your school's connection to the Internet at
the edge of your campus and the capacity of your campus internal
network to and within the buildings where the videos will be used.
Other important things to know are whether your campus is already
doing video streaming and which streaming formats are being
supported. That information is most useful if you are planning
to host the videos on your own campus network. Another useful
piece of information relates to the method(s) the IT department on
your campus uses to control inbound video traffic. In order to
manage network traffic, many schools place limits on the amount of
inbound video. In order to receive the video streams it may be
necessary for those limits to be modified in order to give priority
to video streaming requests associated with the VIVA PBS
Any video player which can handle MPEG 4 files and the H.264 codec can play the video files. The default video player for the project is QuickTime. The most recent version of QuickTime is available for free download at: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/. Even though it is distributed by Apple, QuickTime player will work on both Apple and Windows computers. A number of other commercial video players, open source players and browser plug-ins are also capable of playing MP4, H.264 streaming video files but there is no guarantee that players or plug-ins other than QuickTime will work with the VIVA PBS streaming videos. It is also important to note that video players and plug-ins will need to be updated on a recurring basis to ensure that you are not exposed to security vulnerabilities associated with out-of-date video software.
You should have a basic
understanding of how streaming works. You need to know about
network capacity on your campus and to the edge of your campus.
Your campus network administrator can probably tell you whether
there is adequate bandwidth on your campus to support video.
You need to know what it takes to use the directory service on your
campus to authorize access as required by the license. You need to
know what kinds of streaming services are being provided and what
kind of hardware and software is available on your campus, if any.
You'll need a sense of which computers, browsers and media players
are being used on your campus. And you'll need to understand
potential demand for the collection and how it might be used to
support the curriculum on your campus.
is the most likely scenario for use on your campus? Will most use be
by off-campus students? by on-campus? via your course management
system? in classrooms? You'll need to know which interfaces and
discovery tool you plan to use to link to and present the videos and
how you plan to launch the videos. Before you join the InCommon
Federation (a requirement for the VIVA streaming service hosted at UVa)
you'll need to know whether your IT department is willing to install
required software which interacts with the identity management service
on your campus and to support a small server dedicated to that
software. You need to know whether your IT department is able to
certify by completing a survey that they follow best practices before
your institution can join InCommon? For the hosted service, you'll
need to know whether your budget can handle the $700 application fee
and $1,000 annual fee for InCommon. If you plan to host your own video
you'll need to factor in the cost of servers, storage and software, as
well as maintenance. And you will need to know who in your procurement
or legal departments need to sign-off on InCommon contract.
There are two options for accessing the video: 1. joining the InCommon federation and installing Shibboleth software to use the VIVA streaming service 2. setting up a secure server on a VIVA member campus and hosting the video under the terms of the license.
to consider include the amount of network bandwidth available and the
availability of staff to install and maintain Shibboleth software for
the central service or your own streaming servers for a local service.
If you are interested in hosting the video streams locally, factors to consider include the level of experience your campus has with streaming media, which
streaming media platforms are supported and how much file storage is
available The most important factors to consider for the central service are
bandwidth to the edge of campus and ability to participate in a
making a decision about whether to host the videos on your campus or to
take advantage of the centrally hosted service, you will need to talk
to IT staff on your campus, in particular, the people responsible for
campus network administration and for managing any existing streaming
services. Regardless of whether you plan to host the videos on your
own or to use the VIVA streaming service, you should consult with the
IT organization on your campus.
first phase of this project emphasized resolving technical issues
related to hosting video streams and cataloging video programs. Once
the service is widely available in the Commonwealth, attention will
shift to developing and documenting use of the video collections to
support teaching and learning.
What do I need to know about student and faculty behavior and access to technology and bandwidth at my school?
is useful to understand how many of your students and faculty use
campus network services to access the video versus how many use
Internet service providers. It is also useful to have an idea of how
often the videos might be shown in classrooms and other spaces on the
campus. Support needs and options will vary between a residential
campus where a large amount of use involves the campus network and a
commuter campus where many students and faculty rely on third party
service providers. Another important consideration involves the extent
to which faculty want to place the videos on e-reserve or link to them
from within learning systems such as Blackboard and whether faculty
expect students to view the entire videos or clips.
VIVA will provide a a centrally hosted streaming service for
members. The streaming service will be restricted to currently
enrolled students and faculty at VIVA schools in a manner consistent
with the terms and conditions of the contract between VIVA and PBS.
The VIVA PBS Streaming Video Service is hosted by the University of
Virginia. The service has already been implemented and is
being tested by a pilot group of 10 VIVA member institutions
(College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison
University, Sweet Briar College, University of Mary Washington,
University of Richmond, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech)
VIVA members who wish to take advantage of the central streaming
service must join the InCommon Federation and install Shibboleth
Identity Provider software on their campuses. Details on those
requirements are addressed elsewhere in this FAQ. The Shibboleth and InCommon web sites are recommended to those who want to explore participation requirements in greater depth.
When VIVA licensed the PBS video
collection we knew that we would have to resolve numerous technical
and procedural issues before the collection would be available to
all VIVA members who are allowed access under the contract. We
also knew that technical resources and access to bandwidth varied
across VIVA institutions and that it would take some schools longer
than others to implement technical solutions needed to provide
access on their campuses. The VIVA
Task Force on Multimedia Collections
was formed to resolve issues related to encoding, hosting,
cataloging and authorizing access to the collection. Since the
videos are not likely to become dated, the VIVA Steering Committee
approved the license while realizing that it would take time before
all of the technical and procedural issues could be resolved on
every campus. One important way the libraries can help is by
talking to their IT colleagues about the project.
PBS video files have been encoded to a format suitable for streaming
and are available to VIVA members who are able to stream the videos
on their own campus in a manner which complies with the license
terms and conditions. Many VIVA schools are already streaming the
files on their own campuses. MARC catalog records have also
been developed for each title and are also available to VIVA members
who participate in OCLC. The University of Virginia has agreed
to host the videos centrally and has developed a technical solution
that will enable VIVA members to access the videos within a
federation (see also FAQ items related to Shibboleth and InCommon).
In order to take advantage of the VIVA PBS streaming service at UVa,
VIVA members will need to join the InCommon federation and install
software known as Shibboleth Identity Provider (IdP) software on
their campuses. A pilot group of 10 VIVA members have joined
InCommon and a handful of those schools have successfully installed
the Shibboleth software. It is anticipated that testing of the
service will begin in the summer of 2008. Goals of the testing
include determining how well the service performs under different
network circumstances, assessing video quality, identifying issues
associated with different video players and browsers, and
identifying user and technical support issues. Once the
testing has been completed VIVA will sponsor a Shibboleth
InstallFest for members who have joined InCommon and wish to take
advantage of the VIVA PBS streaming video service at UVa.
Schools in the pilot test group include: College of William
and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Sweet
Briar College, University of Mary Washington, University of
Richmond, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. While
implementing the centrally hosted VIVA PBS streaming service is our
highest priority, VIVA is also developing hardware and software
recommendations and informal advice on implementation for members
who are interested in hosted the video streams on their own
in online library catalog records or course management systems will
point to a secure video streaming server at the University of
Virginia. The streaming service uses a technology called
Shibboleth. People requesting videos will be asked to identify
their home school. If the school is a VIVA member who has
joined the InCommon federation the person requesting the video will
be asked for a user id and password by their home campus. If
that checks out the streaming service receives an assertion that the
requestor is a current student, faculty member or employee at a VIVA
school. Once it receives the assertion the stream is launched and
the video begins to play.
Yes, each video stream has a unique URL based on a
naming convention for each video program. Those URLs are included in
MARC records developed for the project. URLs can also be used
in course management systems, placed in web pages or bookmarked in a
Yes, each video can be
linked to from its base URL. The base URL can be expanded to
specify bit rate and to include start and stop times.
is possible to reference a clip within a longer video by specifying its
start and stop time as parameters in the URL. In the example below the
a video clip on Lincoln's Gettysburg Address from a longer video on
Lincoln during the war years will begin playing at minute 27, second 9
and end playing at minute 31, second 50.
Your campus must join the InCommon federation, and install and
maintain Shibboleth Identity Provider software on a dedicated server
which communicates with the campus identity management service. For
more information about InCommon and Shibboleth see the section of this
FAQ which discusses those organizations.
Paying the annual InCommon
membership fee is likely to be less expensive than managing one's
own streaming service. The software needed to participate is
free, well supported and relatively easy to install and use.
The hardware required for that software is much less expensive and
easier to manage than the hardware needed to run a local streaming
service. As more schools adopt the service and gain experience
working with an online video collection, there will be greater
potential for developing and sharing value-added services like play listing or internal bookmarking. And an added benefit of
joining InCommon is the ability to take advantage of other services
which use the trust infrastructure supported by the federation and
Will VIVA be sponsoring events to support members who need help getting started with video streaming?
will sponsor an InstallFest to help schools which have determined
they want to use the VIVA streaming service install the Shibboleth
Identity Provider software. Joining the InCommon federation is
a prerequisite for installing that software.
Yes, each file
has meta-data embedded in the file container using iTunes atoms.
That is the information about a video or a song which is displayed
when the item is played. Meta-data include titles and brief
descriptions as well as technical information. This basic
information about the video files can be displayed on most video
players as the files are being played. In addition to the
meta-data embedded within the individual files, MARC records have
been created for each individual program title.
Cataloging records have been created for each of the individual
program episodes. Catalog records are in MARC format and were
designed to represent items in streaming media format. Catalog
records comply with OCLC guidelines on cataloging streaming media.
Catalog records include basic bibliographic information, production information and credits, a persistent URL, a brief description of the video program, notes on access restrictions & requirements and when available, a link to sources of additional information on the PBS web site. For an example of catalog displays in the JMU online catalog for the video, point your browser to the persistent URLs below:
If you have Shibboleth enabled, click on the link (Online Video VIVA Users) to test the service.
Cataloging records are available via FTP download by
authorized VIVA members in a password-protected server at GMU
<http://library.gmu.edu/vivasafe/pbs_marc.html >. Records
are also distributed along with the streaming media files themselves
from JMU. Streaming files may be used only in a manner which
is compliant with terms & conditions of the PBS Contract and
MARC records are only available to VIVA members who also participate
links to the video are activated for the first time, a user is
typically redirected to an authentication dialog. The ways in which
URLs are constructed will vary but the URLs are typically stable,
meaning they can be referenced by any Internet browser or application
which accepts URLs. Links to the videos typically include the path to
the server on which the streaming file is stored, a file root name
derived from the file name supplied by PBS and parameters which specify
things like the bit rate for transmission of the video and start and
will vary but each incorporates a root file name. Here is an example
of a URL from the VIVA streaming service at UVa with the elements of
the URL color-coded.
your course management system is set up to accommodate URLs and links
and your web browser can work with QuickTime player or plug-in, videos
can easily be referenced. The Blackboard system will handle links to
the streaming videos.
The contents of the videos are not completely indexed but meta data and catalog records for each title are available.
A federation is a group of organizations which have established a trust relationship and agreed to share resources and services under the terms of that relationship. The trust relationship is governed by a policies, practices and protocols. In the case of this project the federation of VIVA institutions is governed by policies and practices that members agree to when they join InCommon, the organization which manages transactions within the federation and serves as a clearinghouse for making resources and services available to federation members. Within the federation there are Service Providers and Identity Providers. For the VIVA project, schools who join InCommon to take advantage of the central VIVA streaming service are known as Identity Providers and the University of Virginia, which provides the video streaming service is a Service Provider. Streaming services are provided on the basis of user attributes at member institutions. Policies within the federation restrict access to the videos to current students, faculty members and staff at VIVA schools which have joined InCommon.
The UK based Joint Information Services Committee (JISC) has developed a 5-minute video which covers the most important concepts associated with federated identity management.
Shibboleth is an Internet2 technology for providing secure, private,
single sign-on access to federated resources and services. Identity
Providers within a Shibboleth-enabled federation provide assertions
about user attributes to Service Providers. If the attributes of users
requesting services are compatible with policy agreements within the
federation, Service Providers release services to those people.
Shibboleth uses open source software to authenticate and authorize
access to services for institutions that have joined a federation and
developed policy agreements regarding access to services. It offers the
promise of enabling sharing among schools that have diverse approaches
to identity management and varying levels and types of technical
infrastructure and expertise. People who request services needn't keep
track of multiple user ids and passwords; authentication is handled by
the identity management system on each user's own campus. Shibboleth
offers the added benefit of protecting the privacy of individuals who
request services; the only information passed to Service Providers is
assertions about user attributes. A good source of additional
information about Shibboleth is Federated Security: The Shibboleth Approach, which appeared in the November 4, 2004 Educause Quarterly. A brief animated demonstration of Shibboleth may be found on the Internet2 Shibboleth web site.
InCommon is the primary federation supporting single sign-on federated
access to research and educational resources and services in the US.
More detailed information about InCommon may be found in the InCommon FAQ.
InCommon membership is open to accredited higher education
institutions in the US and sponsored partners. Institutions wishing to
join InCommon must send an InCommon
Participation Agreement, and names of local contacts, and post a Participant
Operational Practices (POP)
document on their web site The POP is designed to ensure that members
follow information security. There is a one-time application fee of
$700 and an annual membership fee of $1,000 which runs on a calendar
year basis. Additional details and required forms may be found on the Join InCommon page on the InCommon web site.
JMU has developed an InCommon contract which may be used by any public
higher education institution in Virginia. It may also be used as a
template for contracts with independent non-profit institutions who
are VIVA members. The JMU InCommon contract is available in the Project Documents page on this site.
Yes InCommon is used to support single-sign-on for access to library
databases available from vendors such as JSTOR, EBSCO, ProQuest and
Elsevier. Federated access may also be enabled for programs such as the Microsoft DreamSpark program which makes MS Developer software available at no cost to students at participating schools. In addition there are a number of collaborative projects among higher education institutions which require InCommon membership. Visit the InCommon web site for more details.
This is a simplified non-technical explanation. For technical details consult the Shibboleth web site.
For the VIVA project, access to Shibboleth-enabled federated resources
is managed by Shibboleth software and the InCommon Federation which
maintains information about trust relationships between federation
members. Participating campuses must join InCommon and install
Shibboleth Identity Provider (IdP) software on their networks. The IdP
software is then configured to interact with the campus identity
management and directory service (e.g. LDAP). Campuses which provide
services (in this case, the University of Virginia) must install
Shibboleth Service Provider (SP) software on their campuses. Current
students, faculty members and staff at participating schools initiate a
request for a video stream by clicking on a URL associated with that
stream, typically from within their online library catalog. Once a
request is received by the Service Provider it is re-directed to the
WAYF (Where are you From?) service managed by InCommon. The requester
is then asked to identify their home institution. The IdP software on
their campus then launches an authentication dialog involving the local
identity management system. Once the requester has identified herself
an assertion about her attributes is passed to the Service Provider.
If the attributes match those which are required to use the service,
the service provider releases the service, in this case playing the