Data and video: formats and specifics


Lonny Lundsten annotates ROV dive video using the Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS)

External scientists purchasing MBARI research vessel/ROV time can arrange for the following:

Video tapes, camera log, video annotation, frame grabs, navigation, CTDO, non-core data or data specific to new instrumentation, and samples.


Follow the cruise planning procedures. After the cruise, the scientist must submit a postcruise report for data to be released. In addition, the scientist must submit an external request for data and video tapes to Lonny Lundsten (831-775-1762), MBARI’s primary contact for external users of ROV video and data. In the request, the scientist should specify the formats and data types they would like from their expeditions, and if they would like them made available on an ftp site or a CD. After this request is received, data will be placed on MBARI’s anonymous ftp site (under /pub/ShipData/Scientist’s name/Yearday) within a week or two, and remain available there for seven days. Copies of dive video will be mailed to the scientist within 30 days of the request date. Data burned onto a CD will be mailed along with the video tapes. Detailed information for each data type and the data policy are below.


see example of overlay

Betacam™ frame code superimposed on video image.

Within 30 days of the request date, the scientist will receive one copy of the dive video in the format of their choice. In the case of digital files, they can either be placed on MBARI’s ftp server and available for download or they can be copied onto a USB hard disk drive and mailed to you. Please specify if you would like the drive formatted for Mac, Windows, or Linux computers. The formats available are DVD, MiniDV, Digital Betacam™, D5 HD tapes or h.264, WMV, or ProRes video files. Sony Digital Betacam™, D5 HD, and ProRes are the only formats in which the video timecodes can be encoded with video and, therefore, synced with frame grab filenames and logged data. For other formats it is recommended that the timecode be superimposed on the video images (see sample image at right). Please indicate to Lonny if this overlay should be continuous, displayed only at the beginning of each tape, or not displayed at all. Original Digital Betacam or high-definition video footage will remain at MBARI.

Camera log

Files of video frame code with corresponding UTC time and camera settings are available via MBARI’s anonymous ftp site or CD. These enable comparison of video with UTC time-stamped data sets and calculations of depth of field.

Filenames like 2001001videologr.dat.gz are the raw log files.

Filenames like 2001-001t.log are the “cleaned up” camera log files.

Video annotations

If the scientist annotates the incoming video while on board the MBARI research vessel, those annotations can be made available in text format on the anonymous ftp site or CD. Training in the use of the VARS annotation software should be arranged before the cruise with video lab staff. The scientist can request Video Lab Technician time to annotate their videos. A charge of $60/hr will be added for these services. Completion of these annotations will be dependent on the number of dives and the number of tapes per dive, and will be determined at the time of the request.

Frame grabs

Still images taken from the video feed during the cruise are available in the following file types: jpg, png, and tiff. The filenames correspond with the source video frame code. In your request, please indicate which format you would like to have available on the ftp site or data CD.

Filenames like 00_00_00_00.jpg are JPEG versions of the images, converted to PC-friendly filenames. These will be provided by default on the ftp site. View in browser or image processing software on any platform.

Logged data

Various data sources that are recorded while conducting at sea research are logged and stored as gzipped dat format files. These files include data probe, pan and tilt camera, pilots, rov ctd, sample, ships nav, video tape, and winfrog.

As an example, for each year day the ship is at sea the following files are available to scientists:









The UTC time-stamped data acquired by the ROV and ship are processed automatically during ship to shore transfer following the cruise. The UTC time-stamped conductivity, temperature, depth, and oxygen (CTDO) acquired by the ROV or profiling CTD rosettes are processed automatically during ship to shore transfer. If requested, these data can be made available via MBARI’s anonymous ftp site or CD.

Filenames like 2015005rovctdlogr.dat.gz are comma-delimited ASCII files of navigation and CTD data from the vehicle.

Filenames like 2015005shipnavlogr.dat.gz are the navigation data from the ship.

Other data

All other, project-specific data are not handled automatically.

Contact the MBARI PI or ROV pilots to:

  • Access data already logged on the ship (e.g., vehicle status data).
  • Work out strategies for mechanically and electrically integrating new instrumentation with the ROV and logging the resulting data. Depending on the strategy developed for the instrument, the data might be logged directly by the external scientist or downloaded to floppy disk aboard the ship. This data will not be permanently archived at MBARI and must be archived and processed by the external scientist.


All samples collected during the cruise shall be the responsibility of the external scientist, and will not be stored in the MBARI Sample Archive (alternate arrangements must be approved by MBARI and specified in writing). Additional information can be found on the MBARI Sample Archive web pages.


Data, including video, frame grabs, navigation, and CTDO data provided to the chief scientist are protected under MBARI’s policy during the scientist’s two-year exclusive-use embargo period. The chief scientist is responsible for providing copies of any of those data to scientific collaborators. Unless an extension is granted by MBARI’s President, these data will become available for general use when the two-year embargo expires. Non-MBARI scientists who collect other data and samples retain possession and responsibility for those data and samples.

Scientists who wish to contract for additional MBARI resources or obtain additional data must submit a separate request to Heidi Cullen, Director of Information and Technology Dissemination at MBARI. These requests are fulfilled only as resources are available. Alternatively, MBARI researchers may sponsor collaborators and assign a portion of their allocated MBARI resources through a Collaboration Agreement.