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The VARS annotation interface is currently available only on MBARI ships and inside MBARI. Instructions and documentation are presented on these pages for those who might be using the interface on a cruise or doing research in the MBARI video lab.
A user guide has been created that describes each GUI: Video Tape, Video File, and Still Images. The Annotation Glossary below names and describes the parts of the interface and also defines associated terms. An animated demonstration of the interface is also available.
Software for the interface is now available to researchers and institutions outside MBARI. See the Open Source project for more information.
This guide gives basic instructions for starting and using the VARS annotation interface. Useful definitions and descriptions can be found in the Glossary below. If you need extra help or information, please contact us.
If you have not created a user account previously, select the Create a new user account. In the Create new user window choose an appropriate user login name and password. Also fill in your personal details including affiliations/organization. Once completed, select OK. Note: Do NOT use your network or any other secure password as it will be viewable by the VARS administrators.
When in the lab: RS422 as the timecode source and choose /dev/tty.RS422 deck control under the RS422 port selector.
When at sea: ‘Select timecode source’ should be set to UDP and server host and port numbers should already be entered and you should not need to alter these settings.
The interface screen now appears as below, note that the user and video connection boxes should now appear as green checks instead of red X’s.
Annotation mode: At the lower left of the VARS annotation screen, choose an annotation mode (style of annotation). The default mode is Outline mode and is used for at-sea annotations.
Camera direction: At lower right of screen describes the direction of ROV travel. The default direction is descend, but the direction should be updated as ROV direction changes throughout the dive.
These are basic directions for creating and modifying annotations. Definitions or descriptions of the various parts of the interface can be found in the Glossary below. Some keyboard shortcuts are included in the instructions. NOTE: We use the terms observation and annotation interchangeably in the documentation below.
An association is a structured descriptor that provides additional information about an annotation. For example, color of the item, behavior such as swimming or eating, resting on some substrate, etc.
NOTE: VARS has undo/redo buttons on the toolbar in case you delete observations you meant to keep. You can undo the last 25 operations in VARS.
If you do a lot of annotations, setting up a custom icon tab (in the panel area across the bottom of the interface) allows adding new observations quickly. For this panel, each icon is really a word—specifically the name of a concept. For efficient annotation, you can create separate tabs for different types of dives, such as Geology or Midwater, and populate each with the names of commonly observed objects in those categories.
Under video player, you may choose to play videos using the built in player or the Quicktime component. The video player you select will depend upon the video container and codec that you are using.
These are basic directions for creating and modifying annotations. Definitions or descriptions of the various parts of the interface can be found in the Glossary. Some keyboard shortcuts are included in the instructions. NOTE: We use the terms observation and annotation interchangeably in the documentation below.
Instructions coming soon.
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.
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.
associationDescriptor(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
columns See Observation Table Columnsconcept 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
Copy Anno (button) Creates a new row in the observation table with the sameconcept (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 denseDelete (button) Delete observation row.Edit
Drop-down menu with these selections:
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 ExitFrame-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 informationkeyboard 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 observationCtrl + d = Copy TC: Create a new observation with a selected timecodeCtrl + 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
Observation table columns
The observation table is the large area in the upper left of the window. The various columns are:
Old # Allows you to choose a previously assigned identity reference for an observationOpen 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
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.
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
Video Set (View>Video Set) See View.