Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS)

VARS Annotation Glossary

This is a list of the various entry items and buttons on the VARS Annotation interface. Details on how to use these features are in the VARS Annotation User Guide.

Definitions and descriptions

The type of item and/or the window where it appears is noted in parentheses.

? (annotation button)
Use to indicate that the identity is uncertain.

Annotation Mode (main window, bottom left)
Select the mode—Outline or Detail.

Outline annotations include animals discernible at approximately 2x real-time tape speed. The level (species, genus, family, etc.) and certainty of identification depends on current knowledge of deep-sea organisms and physical factors, such as ROV speed, camera setting, or visibility. Outline annotation also includes characterization of major habitats, such as seep or canyon wall, and geological features such as rock outcrop, sand, or fault. The characterization is usually annotated at a regular intervals (approximately five minutes), at identification of samples and equipment, and at the start and end of transects.

Detailed annotations include all discernible organisms, behaviors, and habitats possible at real-time speed.

Descriptor(s) for physical object in observation. The descriptor must match an association entered in the knowledge base, or it will not be recognized by VARS.

buttonsThe buttons in the middle of the interface have various purposes. Some are action buttons and some are annotation buttons.

C (double C button)Indicates a close-up view.

Camera Data tab

  • Direction
    Choose the direction that the ROV is moving (launch, descend, cruise, stationary, starttransect, transect, endtransect, ascend). Default value when starting a new video set is descend.
  • Name
    Enter the name of the camera that recorded the observation—Ventana or Tiburon.
  • Zoom
    Displays the value to which the camera is currently zoomed.
  • Focus
    Displays the value to which the camera is focused.
  • Iris
    Displays the setting for the aperture (iris), which controls the light and depth of field.
  • FieldWidth
    This is the width of the field visible in the frame and varies with the Zoom value.
  • StlllImage
    Displays the directory in which the frame grab (still image) is stored.

columns See Observation Table Columns
concept Name of physical object in observation. Must match a concept entered in the knowledge base or will not be recognized by VARS.
Connect (File>Connect)  File menu option that allows the user to log in to the VARS database and to connect to the video recorder through the VARS interface (VCR control feature is read-only aboard the ships). User must choose COM1 or COM2 (usually COM1) and specify VCR type (default is Sony).
Custom (concept) icon tab

A user’s custom panel of one-click icon buttons for most commonly-used concepts, located at the bottom of the interface with the user ID on a tab.. To create a custom panel, see the detailed instructions in the User Guide

  • New tab
    Add a new concept icon tab
  • Remove
    Remove a concept icon tab

Copy Anno (button) Creates a new row in the observation table with the same
concept (and associations) as the highlighted row but a new time code.
Copy TC (button)Creates a new row in the observation table with the same time code and concept as the highlighted row. You can then change the concept. Useful for situations with more than one object in a frame (grab).
D (button) Population quantity dense
Delete (button) Delete observation row.

Drop-down menu with these selections:

  • Reload Knowledge Base
  • Update with info from camera-logs and EXPD
    Select this to link the camera log and ROV nav data to the annotations after annotating an archive set.

Exit File menu option. Quits the program.
F (button) Creates a new row in the observation table with physical-object’concept and a frame grab. A green F will appear in the FG/S column for that observation.
File A drop-down menu with three options: Connect, Open Archive, and Exit
Frame-grab tab Displays a frame grab of the observation that is highlighted, if it is available.
Good (button) Image quality is good. green checkmarks (bottom of the screen)Displays the current user name (should be updated as annotator changes), the status of connections to the VCR and the VARS database, and the video archive currently in use (camera platform, dive number, and tape number).
Help (Coming soon)
User support documentation.
About and Version information
keyboard shortcuts The following shortcuts may be used, instead of clicking buttons, to create new or multiple annotations. (Using keyboard shortcuts reduces the risk of repetitive strain injury from excessive mouse clicking.)
Ctrl + n = New: Create a new observation
Ctrl + d
= Copy TC: Create a new observation with a selected timecode
Ctrl + f
= Copy Anno: Copy an observation to a new timecode

knowledge base A dictionary of objects referenced by the annotation interface and the VARS query to maintain the entry of consistent annotations. The doctionary covers the enormous variety of animate and inanimate objects commonly (or rarely) observed in Monterey Bay and other regions by MBARI ROVs.
Some of the main categories are Behavior, Ocean-zone, and Physical-object. Physical object—the largest category—includes marine organisms, biological structure, behavior, geological features, and equipment attached to or deployed by ROVs. Miscellany (under Physical-object) includes items not covered by the other categories, such as equipment attached to the ROVs or deployed by the ROVs during research missions. It even specifies several categories of trash. Annotators can use all of these items to describe an organism, geological feature, or piece of equipment in detail.

Knowledge Base tab Displays the entire knowledge base as a searchable tree so users can navigate through the hierarchy and view the parents and children of a concept of interest.
N (button) Population quantity 999 (3 or more individual objects observed in a frame)
New (button) Creates a new row in the observation table with the  object concept.
New # (button) Adds a new identity reference to the observation (auto-increments throughout annotation session)
Observation tab

  • TimeCode
  • Concept
  • RecordedDate
  • ObservationDate
  • Observer

Observation table columns

The observation table is the large area in the upper left of the window. The various columns are:

  • Time Code 
    Digital Betacam video record time at which the observation occurred.
  • Concept
    The concept name of the object that was observed.
  • Association
    Contains associations describing an observation.
  • FG/S
    The F button is green when a frame grab is associated with the observation. The S button is blue when a sample is associated.
  • Observer
    Displays the user name that was logged in when annotations were created.
  • Camera Direction 
    Displays the ROV direction (ascend, descend, etc.) for each line of annotation.
  • Tape ID
    Displays the camera platform, dive number, and tape number for each line of annotation. Example: T684-01 means  Tiburon dive #684, Tape 01.
  • Notes
    Displays any notes added to a line of annotation.

Old # Allows you to choose a previously assigned identity reference for an observation
Open Archive Allows user to select the camera platform (e.g, Tiburon or Ventana), dive number and tape number they wish to annotate or edit. If tape has been previously annotated, those annotations will appear in the observation table.
Physical Data tab

  • Latitude
  • Longitude
  • Depth
  • Temperature
  • Salinity
  • Oxygen
  • Light

Reload KnowledgeBase Edit menu item. Select to update to the most current version of the Knowledge base (e.g., just after a new concept has been added).
S (button)Sample. A blue S will appear in the FG/S column for that observation.
Update with info from camera-logs and EXPD See Edit definition. Select this at the end of annotating an archive set to link the camera log and ROV nav data to your annotations.
VCR control panel The interface includes a VCR control panel for use in onshore annotation. The controls are identified below.
NOTE: These controls are NOT usable on the ships.annot_VCRcontrol

View (menu bar, top)A drop down menu with one selection, Video Set, which opens another window, showing the annotations from all the tapes in the current tape set.
Video Archive tab

  • redcordedDate
  • videoArchiveName
  • shipName
  • platformName
  • formatCode
  • startDate
  • endDate
  • chiefScientist
    Displays the name of the chief scientist of the expedition.
  • diveNumber
  • trackingNumber

Video Set  (View>Video Set) See View.


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