Clipper: Enhancing Time Based Media for Research

A collaboration between The City of Glasgow College, The Open University and  Reachwill Ltd. Funded by jisc-logo

The project team is composed of:

  • John Casey at the City of Glasgow College (Project Management and System Design)
  • Trevor Collins – at the Knowledge Media Institute at the Open University (System Design & Pilot trials)
  • Will Gregory – at Reachwill Ltd. (System Design & Software Development)


The aim is to produce an easy to use toolset to enhance and extend the use of online time-based media by researchers and create new opportunities for data use, reuse and collaboration in a wide range of research scenarios. The creation and use of video and audio recordings is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in our digital society and is playing a growing role in academic research across all disciplines. Clipper aims to make it as easy for researchers to find, cite, quote and share online time-based media, as it is to use text-based data.

Users will be able to specify what parts of a video or audio recording to select and share in the form of ‘virtual clips’, by indicating a source, start and end time. In addition, they can associate descriptive textual annotations with each clip that are used as a basis for exploratory search across clip collections. Clips from the same, or different, video and audio files, can be combined to create a clip playlist – which we call ‘cliplists’ – that enable researchers to structure and view the data according to their coding themes. Rather than just embedding an online video or linking to one, Clipper opens up new possibilities for research data service development using time-based media.


  • Widening access to online archives and collections.
  • Support researchers’ interactions with time-based media data in dynamic new ways and create their own content based on the original data.
  • A new source of data analytics for media collections based on user activity and content.
    Provides a platform for user innovation.
  • Empower ‘citizen research’.
  • Choosing HTML as the native file format avoids any future technical and commercial lock-in. HTML is the most widely used and documented electronic communication standard in human history, without any legal or technical restrictions on its use. Thus, all Clipper content is accessible into the future for reuse and editing, making it ideal for long term access and archiving.


Clipper builds on the rapid advances in HTML5 to create a powerful toolset for researchers to interact with and share online time-based media. The virtual clips, annotations and clip lists are accessible as HTML documents. Clipper is designed with these important features:

  • Safe and secure:
    • Non-destructive editing – leaves original files unaltered.
    • Access to the media is under the control of the originating provider. The only material that is shared via Clipper is the metadata (i.e. not the original media) which is good for bandwidth and security (i.e. Clipper users and collaborators only see what they have online permission to access).
  • Scalable and sustainable
    • Fast to use – the system only accesses the server to retrieve and save the data
    • Responsive i.e. viewable on different devices and screen sizes
    • Clipper HTML documents are well formed and semantically meaningful – works well with assistive technologies and provides a rich data source for analytics.
    • Data is stored in json format for performance gains and can be converted to other formats (e.g. xml) and styled as needed.
    • Clipper documents are not ‘trapped’ in a database, but stored in a directory structure, which makes data migration relatively straight forward.
  • Open source
    • Open data and architecture makes for easy integration with the social web.
    • Free and Open Source Software – no purchase or license fee and can be adapted without restriction.



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