Video Annotation and Reference System

The Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS) is a software interface and database system that provides tools for describing, cataloging, retrieving, and viewing the visual, descriptive, and quantitative data associated with MBARI’s deep-sea video archives. Information about VARS is available on the pages listed below (or from the navigation bar at right).

Publications that use VARS data

The VARS database provides invaluable qualitative and quantitative data that have been used in hundreds of peer-reviewed publications. Some examples can be viewed here: VARS Publications

VARS software release

The VARS system software was made available to users outside of MBARI in November 2005. MBARI continually updates and releases improvements to VARS. Researchers and institutions can use VARS for cataloging and analyzing large or complex observation data sets. The software is available as open source code that can be adapted and improved for specific research needs. Downloads and associated information are available at this web site:

MBARI provides software “as is”, with no warranty, express or implied, of the software quality or consistency. Software is provided without support and without obligation on the part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to assist in its use, correction, modification, or enhancement.


For help with using the VARS Query, email the video lab administrators or call (831) 775-1829.
For help with technical issues, email software engineer Brian Schlining.