What is Clipper?

Contents: Clipper Is | What Clipper Does VideosA Simple Idea – Virtual ClipsInnovative DesignBenefitsWhat Clipper Is NotOpen Source Code

Clipper Is: A web annotation toolkit specialising in audio-visual resources, part of the rapidly developing field of web technology that is supported by the work of the internet standards body, The World Wide Web Consortium and their specialist working groups.

What Clipper Does Videos: The best place to start is here, by first watching this short (1:33) video demonstrating the The Clipper Basic Editor that anyone can use without registering to create and share single clips.

The Clipper Basic Editor


After that you can watch this longer (8:33) video that demonstrates demonstrates a user creating clips, giving them titles,  adding annotations, organising clips into a Cliplist and sharing them as individual clips or complete Cliplists.

The Clipper Pro Editor: Clip | Organise | Share


For more information about how Clipper works please see the ‘How it works‘ section. We also have a YouTube channel that shows the evolution of the Clipper toolkit prototypes and new features. To get started using Clipper please go the the Training Resources section of this website.

A Simple Idea – Virtual Clips: Clipper aims to help overcome some long standing obstacles to using and sharing online audio-visual resources and is based on a simple idea. Instead of just linking to a whole file, Clipper lets the user specify a section of a file’s timeline that they want to share, with a start and stop time, and add textual annotations and tags. They then save this information as a ‘virtual clip’.

A Clipper user can easily share their clips with others via a simple web link. This is where the power of Clipper becomes clear. When a user views a clip it opens in the timeline ready to play from the specified start point and when played it stops at the chosen end-point, any annotations and tags are also displayed. In addition, because the clips are ‘virtual’ the original media files remain in one place and are unaltered and still under the control of the owners. This simple idea is the foundation of the Clipper toolkit and makes possible  new ways of using online video and audio, as we describe in this section.

These virtual clips can be stored, edited and rearranged into collections of clips that we call ‘cliplists’ (just like traditional playlists – but in our case they contain the virtual clips together with their annotations and tags). These cliplists can, in turn,  be grouped into collections of cliplists that we call projects. For more detailed guidance about using Clipper, please see the ‘Training’ section.

Innovative Design: Clipper offers some significant technical innovations, to solve the practical problems involved in the more effective use of online video and audio – by using the concept of virtual clips.  Users create their clips without altering, or copying the source files or using any video / audio editing software tools. The clips just refer to the original media file and its location. This has some important benefits: In all cases access to the original video / audio content is controlled by the owner; enabling secure collaboration when sharing the virtual clips – i.e. only those with the correct permissions can access the clips. In this way those who generate and manage their own video / audio content can continue to control who they share it with, without creating duplicates.

Another innovation in the Clipper toolkit is that it only records and stores the user generated data about the media source files (also known as ‘metadata‘) and not copies of the media files themselves. When shared, this data is then rendered into a webpage that contains and controls the playback of the chosen online media. In practice, what this means is that Clipper data is very small in memory terms and therefore of low cost to store online making the system economical to operate with low running costs. For more information about how Clipper actually works please see the ‘How it Works’ section’

Benefits: The innovative design of Clipper has important benefits for content owners and users, it means they retain complete control over access to their content, which can be important for copyright, commercial and data protections reasons. But, it also means they can offer powerful new ways for people to use and collaborate with these kinds of online media. This, in turn, opens up new opportunities for the content owners to benefit from making their media available in this way. It can provide a means for attracting and sustaining audiences that would otherwise not interact  with such content (see the ‘Uses’ section). A major benefit is a new rich source of user analytics, this collection of data about users behaviour is increasingly valuable to organisations.

What Clipper Is Not: Clipper is not really intended as an online video / editing tool, it is a web annotation tool specialising in audio-visual media, for more details please see the ‘Technical’ section. It is understandable that people might think this is what Clipper does as there are many online editing tools available and at our early workshops participants often asked for features like transitions and special effects. The main difference is that Clipper does not alter existing media files or create new files – it just references sections of existing files and adds notes and tags when the section is played back in the Clipper player. A Clipper cliplist will play back the contents of the clips either singly or in sequence. Because the clips may come from different files, from different parts of the web, over different network connections the user experience is not like, say, that of viewing or listening to single edited file over a streaming connection. So, perhaps the best way to distinguish Clipper from an online editor or streaming service is that it allows users to inspect, annotate and share parts of existing audio-visual resources on the web.

Open Source Code: The toolkit is released under a Free and Open Source Software licence for community use to encourage adoption (please see the ‘Code’ section). The toolkit is also planned to operate as a cloud based lo-cost subscription service for individual users in the near future. We also plan an optional commercial licence available for those users who not want to go down the open source road.