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This documentation is for Release 3.0.0, which is not yet available. For the Release 1 version of this page, see v.124. For the Release 2 version of this page, see v.221.


This guide is for Avalon 3.0.

The Avalon Collections Guide for Avalon Media System explains Avalon features, functionality, and how to navigate the system. It is designed for the collection Manager, Editor, or Depositor, whomever is responsible for uploading content, editing content, or providing content for playback through Avalon. See your system administrator for issues that relate to configuring Avalon "under the hood."   


  • Authenticated users - A user who can access Avalon using a valid identifier and authentication combination supported by your institution.  Publicly accessibly items do not require authentication for access.
  • Collection - A collection is a grouping of items for administrative and discovery purposes. Items belong to one and only one collection. 
  • Collection Staff - Collection staff refers to individuals that have been assigned specific roles for a collection: managers, editors and depositors. Administrators are also considered collection staff although they are not listed per collection. Collection staff have set permissions to edit, delete, publish items based on their assigned roles.
  • File - A single media file (i.e., sound recording, moving image) that is part of an item; one or more files can exist for a single item (for example, 3 .mp4 files combined to form an entire movie, 6 .wav files together make up the recording of an entire orchestra concert, or a sound file and a moving image file together represent a video with accompanying lecture commentary).
  • Item - A single item (media object) accessible through one Avalon page; consists of one or more content files and metadata describing the content file(s).
  • Unit - A unit is a grouping of collections for administrative and discovery purposes. Usually, a unit will map to an administrative unit. Collections belong to one and only one unit. A collection's unit is just a label: there are no privileges associated with units.

Logging In

  1. On the Avalon home page, click "Sign in>>" (upper right)

  2. At the Login page, enter your username and password, click Login/Sign In Button.

If you log in and do not have editing rights, you will need to be added to at least one collection as a manager, editor or depositor. You may also be able to use the "Contact Us" form linked in the footer of the Avalon site to request access or contact your system administrator. 

Browsing and Searching

Browsing and searching is powered by Blacklight and Solr indexing. Flexible search features include Unicode support; Advanced Full-Text Search Capabilities; faceted searching to help end users and collection members refine their search results.  Avalon also auto-generates search suggestions.  Avalon provides multiple sorting options for search results, including relevancy sorting, and allows the user to set the number of results shown per page.  Once items are added to Avalon, Near Real-time indexing occurs.  No additional steps are needed to index newly added or changed items.  

Labels for sections are not searchable.

Boolean Commands (AND, OR, NOT) and Truncation are not supported by Avalon at this time.

By default, Avalon uses Solr's DisMax Query Parser (or dismax), which is designed to process simple phrases without a need for any complex syntax. There is support for + (required) and - (excluded) words, as well as the use of quotes for phrase searching.

Solr also comes with an Extended DisMax Query Parser (edismax), which supports everything dismax does, with the addition of:

  • Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT in addition to + and -
  • Parenthesis groupings for complex queries
  • Wildcards
  • Range queries on Numeric and Date fields (e.g., 1963 TO 1971)
  • Better "proximity boost" matching
  • Smart partial escaping

Avalon does not use edismax by default.  Contact your system administrator to make changes in the Solr configuration.  

Player and Controls

Avalon uses the MediaElement.js player for playback of both audio and video files. 

Player controls - When viewing the Avalon player in the browser window, player controls can be found below the video. When in fullscreen mode, hover your mouse over the bottom area of the picture and you will see player controls appear.

    • To start and pause the player, click the center Play button (for video) or the Play button in the bottom left corner.
    • To advance quickly through the audio or video, click on the timeline bar to the desired part, or scrub forward by holding and dragging the timeline arrow.
    • To adjust volume within the player, click on the desired level in the speaker loudness icon. To mute, click the speaker icon.
    • To go to full screen for video playback, click on the square icon located in the bottom right corner of the player.  
    • To switch between playback quality tiers, click on the gear icon located on the bottom right corner of the player. 

To view a specific section when multiple sections are available, click the desired file for playback under the Section heading below the player.

To share the recording, you can

  • Share the permanent URL for the item, or for one of the sections if the item contains more than one file.
  • Embed the player in another web page by clicking on the Embed tab under the player and then copying the embed code. Pasting the code into the HTML of another web page will embed the media. If the video is access-restricted, authorized users will be prompted to authenticate before being able to access the media. Note: Embedding does not work in all environments (see Known Issues for Player Embedding).

Mobile viewing:  Avalon works on iOS and Android devices. 

 See Known Issues for Player & Controls

Creating Units

In Avalon, Units are used to define ownership and responsibility of collections and their items.  Each collection needs to belong to a unit and collections can only belong to one unit. Each item within a collection can be discovered using Avalon's search or by browsing using the Unit facet. 

In order to create or update unit names, the unit configuration file will need to be updated.  Please contact your system administrator for assistance (see Managing Units).

Creating a Collection

If you are creating a collection for real use, as a pilot or in production, review the advice in Managing Collections Efficiently before deciding on your workflow.

  1. You must be logged in as a manager in Avalon to create a collection. If you are not a manager, request to be added to the Manager group by an Avalon Administrator (see Collection Members Roles).  
    1. A note on manager access: Manager access will not automatically give access to view or edit other collections within that unit.  To gain access to other collections in a unit, a manager for those other collections will need to add you in a staff role (manager, editor, or depositor).
  2. Log in to Avalon.
  3. Click the Manage Content button to access the My Collection(s) page.
  4. Click the Create Collection button.
  5. An inset window will appear containing the New Collection form.  Enter a Name and Description for the collection and select the Unit to contain the collection from the drop-down menu.  If the Unit you wish to use does not appear in the drop-down list, contact your system administrator to add the Unit to Avalon.
  6. Click the Create Collection button on the New Collection form.
  7. You will be automatically assigned as Manager of this new collection. 

Collection Members Roles

You can refer to the Avalon Media System blog post, "Understanding Avalon Roles and Permissions," for information on which role best fits your needs.

Avalon has 4 default roles:  

  • Administrator - Administrators are a select few who have responsibility for providing an Avalon-based service. The administrators assign people to the manager role and maintain the list of units. Administrators are the only ones who can see and modify items in any collection. This role is typically limited to System Administrators and Administrative Unit Managers.  Administrators do not need to be added to individual collections as they can view, edit and delete all items in Avalon.
  • Manager - Managers are those within a given unit who have overall accountability for the collection building within Avalon. Managers create collections and assign editor and depositor roles for those collections. They set the default access controls for items added to the collection and they also step in when a published item needs to be revised or deleted. 
  • Editor - Editors have supervisory responsibility for collection building--the ingest and description process. They can assign depositor roles, change the name or description of the collection, and modify the access controls for individual items in the collection.
  • Depositor - Depositors add media to the collection and describe it with metadata. They can publish items but not unpublish. They can only modify or delete unpublished items.

Permissions are also a hierarchy--an editor can do anything a depositor can do; a manager can do anything editors and depositors can do; an administrator can do anything. 

Assigning/Removing Collection Members

  1. Once a collection has been created, you must be logged in as a Manager or Editor in order to assign roles to that collection.  
    1. Managers can assign Editors and Depositors.  Editors can only assign Depositors. 
  2. Log in to Avalon.
  3. Click the Manage Content button to access the My Collection(s) page.
  4. Click the name of the collection to be edited.
  5. Under the members section, add email addresses under Managers, Editors or Depositors of users to be assigned those roles.  There is no limit to the number of email addresses listed under each role. 
    1. If you are in the Manager group, you can only be assigned under Managers.  Avalon will automatically list you under Manager. 
  6. Click Add.
  7. To remove an email from a role, click on the "X" following the email address.
    1. Each collection must have at least 1 manager.  You will see an error message if you attempt to delete the only listed manager and Avalon will prevent that deletion from occurring. Collections do not need to have any editors or depositors assigned.

Editing a Collection

  1. You must be logged in as a Manager or Editor in Avalon to edit a collection.
  2. Log in to Avalon.
  3. Click the Manage Content button to access the My Collection(s) page.
  4. Click the name of the collection to be edited.
  5. Click the Edit Collection button from the collection page.
  6. Edit the Name, Description, and/or Unit on the Edit Collection Info form.
  7. Click the Update Collection button on the Edit Collection form.

Deleting a Collection

At this time, Avalon does allow deletion of the contents of a collection in a single procedure. The content in a collection must be moved to a different collection.  If items need to be deleted from Avalon, each item must be deleted at the item level.  Collections that do not contain any items can be deleted without any additional steps. 

  1. You must be logged in as a Manager in Avalon to delete a collection.
  2. Log in to Avalon.
  3. Click the Manage Content button to access the My Collection(s) page.
  4. Click the Delete button next to the collection to be deleted.
  5. You will be asked to confirm before the collection is deleted.  If there are items in the collection, you will have to select another collection from the drop-down menu to which the items in the current collection can be moved before proceeding to delete the current collection If you do not have another collection into which the items can be moved, you will not be allowed to delete the collection. 

Creating a Single Item

  1. You must be logged in as at least a Depositor in Avalon to create an item.
  2. Log in to Avalon.
  3. Click the Manage Content button to access the My Collection(s) page.  Choose the collection to which you want to add content, then click the Create An Item button from that collection page.
  4. In Manage file(s), files may be uploaded through the web using the Select button, or by importing from a dropbox using the Open Dropbox button.
  5. If uploading through the web, use the Select button to browse to one or more files and click Open to load. When the file name appears in the box under the label "Upload through the web", click Upload, Change or Remove. Then click Save or Save and continue; note that the Upload button must be clicked before saving or no file will be uploaded. If multiple files are selected, only the first file name will appear in the box.
  6. If using the Open Dropbox button, choose files from the file dropbox location and click Attach Selected Files. 
  7. Multiple files may be uploaded at once or by repeatedly using the Select or Open Dropbox button to upload one file at a time. However attaching files from multiple pages of the dropbox is not possible. You must attach files on separate pages in the dialog box at different times. 
  8. After clicking Upload, a Section label may be entered; click Save to save this label. This step is not necessary for items with only one media file. "Sections" only appears if there are multiple files for one item.
  9. If one or more files for the new item are video files, use the Thumbnail box to change the thumbnail that will be used for the static display of the video file.  The default setting is 2 seconds.  Audio files do not have an editable thumbnail offset and display defaults to an illustration of headphones. 
  10. After uploading and labeling files has been completed, click Save and continue to move to the next step.

 See Known Issues for Creating Single Item

Editing an Item

When viewing an item, if you have access to edit the item you will see an Edit button above the audio or video player.  Clicking the Edit button allows users with access to manage files by assigning labels, to upload additional files, add or change metadata about the item in the Resource Description page, reorder multiple files in the Structure page, edit who can access the item in the Access Control page, and Preview how the item will appear.

Changing the Thumbnail and Poster Images for a Video

Original media file must still be in place

To change a thumbnail or poster image after an item has completed initial processing, you must ensure that the original file is still in its original location. If Avalon doesn't find the original file, it will silently fail to create a new thumbnail.

For video, the default setting for poster image and thumbnail is 2 seconds into playback. There are two ways to change the thumbnail and poster images for a video. One way is to edit the item, go to Manage file(s), change the Thumbnail (seconds) for the first file. Once changed, click Save or Save and Continue. The Thumbnail (seconds) can also be set for the other video sections but they will not appear in search results. 

The other method for setting a custom thumbnail and poster image is on the Preview page.  Start playback.  Select an image during playback or while video is paused by clicking on the camera icon in the lower right corner of the player window at the point in the video you wish to use for the new thumbnail/poster image.  Avalon will confirm that that is the correct image.  Poster image should reload automatically. 

  See Known Issues for Thumbnail/Poster Images

Deleting an Item

  • Items can be deleted by Collection Managers at any time during the Edit process or by accessing the item using Browse, search, or via a URL. Details of how derivatives and associated metadata are handled for deleted Avalon items or single media files that are part of an Avalon item are described in the File Management section.
  • To delete an Avalon item, click the red button marked "Delete" on the playback page or "Delete this item" under the editing menu. You will be asked to confirm before the item is deleted.
  • To delete a media file from a multi-file Avalon item, access the file and click Edit, then go to Manage file(s), associated bitstreams. Click the Delete button in the right column next to the file or files to be deleted, then click on Save or Save and continue.
  • Note that clicking on the file in the playback or Preview pages and then clicking Delete will delete the entire Avalon item.

File Management

If you are creating a collection for real use, as a pilot or in production, review the advice in Managing Collections Efficiently before deciding on your workflow.

  • Types of files, size of files, etc

    • Avalon uses FFmpeg for transcoding. For a list of source file formats and codecs that are supported, see the FFmpeg Supported Source Formats and Codecs documentation on our wiki.

    • There is an individual file size limit of 250MB when uploading files manually through the Avalon Web interface.

    • There is no practical limit on the maximum file size of a source file uploaded to the system through the Avalon Dropbox or through the Batch Upload feature. 

    • File names cannot include the following characters: [   ]   <   >   |   &

  • Thumbnails

    • Thumbnails are captured at the 2 second mark of video files by default.  To change this, see Changing the Thumbnail and Poster Images for a Video. If the item is audio, the thumbnail is an illustration of headphones. If the item contains audio and video, the thumbnail is headphones and a screen.  

  • Encoding profiles
    • Avalon Media System utilizes a component called Opencast Matterhorn to process files uploaded to the system. The types of files that the system produces for streaming are determined by encoding profiles specified in Matterhorn. Users will notice that when their files are processed, they have the option of three tiers of video playback ("Low Quality"; "Medium Quality"; High Quality") and two tiers of audio playback ("Medium Quality"; "High Quality"). Having different tiers of playback allows your end user to get the best playback experience given their playback context (combined factors of software, hardware, internet bandwidth, etc.)
    • Opencast Matterhorn utilizes the encoding software FFmpeg to create derivatives of source files. Each encoding profile designates FFmpeg settings for derivative file creation. These settings are customizable in the encoding profiles.
    • If you wish to edit encoding profiles by changing their titles or FFmpeg encoding options, creating a new encoding profile requires creating a configuration file and placing it in the encoding profiles watch folder of Matterhorn. Contact your system administrator to edit encoding profiles.
  • Skip Transcoding
    • Users may designate the Skip Transcoding option so that Avalon does not create derivatives from the video or audio file that is being uploaded. This is useful for uploaders who already have encoded content that may be served to users without further processing. Users may choose the Skip Transcoding option for all three ways of uploading files to Avalon - web upload, file dropbox upload, and batch upload. Refer to documentation provided by Adobe Media Server and Red 5 Media Server to find a list of supported file formats and codecs.
  • Troubleshooting

    • To correct errors with one or more content files within an Avalon item:

      • Place corrected content files for that item in the top level of the dropbox directory (contact your system administrator for dropbox location and connection information). Once processed, the corrected content files will be available in Edit mode for the Avalon item from the Manage file(s) > Import from a dropbox feature. Delete the incorrect content files from the item in the Manage file(s) step of the Avalon item Edit mode, add the corrected files in the Associated file(s) section, then Save at the bottom of the Manage file(s) form. 

    • To correct errors with the information about an Avalon item:

      • From the Edit mode for the Avalon item, use the Resource Description form to correct metadata about the item.  Click Save at the bottom of the form to save your changes.
  • Deleting Items
    • Deleting a single Avalon item deletes the record from the database and the derivatives created for each media file.  
    • Deleting a specific media file/section - To replace a specific file in any Avalon item, navigate to the Manage File(s) step for that item.  Delete the specific file or files and replace the file with a new one.  Processing for that file will begin again.  
    • Deleting File(s)/Batch(es) from the dropbox.  A delete from dropbox function exists in the dropbox interface so that collection managers can make space in the dropbox or keep it organized.  Avalon does not keep the original files nor does it keep references to where that original file is located.  Files and metadata for batch operations do not display in the dropbox view via the interface, so deleting batches needs to happen directly in the dropbox directory.

Uploading via Web

  • Web ingest is used for manual upload of one or more media items.  

    • There is an individual file size limit of 250MB when uploading a file manually through the Avalon Web interface.

    • The Avalon Web interface allows for labels to be added to individual sections of a multipart Avalon item.  

    • Avalon items can be created without associating media.  Metadata and access control information can be created first which allows for collection managers to come back to that Avalon item and associate the correct media at a later time.  You must click "Save and continue" to progress through the steps even if no changes are made. 

    • Deleting files -

      • Deleting a single Avalon item deletes the record from the database and the derivatives created for each media file.  

      • Deleting a content file of an Avalon item does not automatically delete that content file and its derivatives.  If you would like those items deleted, follow the prompt “Several clean up jobs have been sent out. Their statuses can be viewed by your sysadmin at /var/www/avalon/shared/log/matterhorn_cleanup.log”  

See Known Issues for Creating Single Item

Uploading via a file dropbox

  • Avalon’s dropbox is used to import large files over 250MB (this has no association to 

    • Uploading files - Large media files are placed in a dedicated Avalon dropbox (a file server usually connected via SFTP or a mapped network drive).  Contact your system administrator for dropbox location and connection information.

    • Once files are mounted into the dropbox, collection members can go to the Create an Item option or Edit option for an item within a collection to open the dropbox and attach selected files to an Avalon item.  File processing begins once media is attached from the dropbox. 

    • When creating a new item, you go through the workflow in order of adding resource descriptions, ordering structure and access control. 
    • Deleting files from the Avalon dropbox - You can delete files from the Avalon Dropbox through the web interface or directly on the server the dropbox is located:

      • Through the Avalon dropbox - Choose the Create an Item option or Edit option for an item within a collection. From within Manage file(s), click the Open dropbox button. Checkmark the files you want to delete and click Remove Selected Files. Deleted files will be permanently removed from your Avalon Dropbox folder on the server where it is hosted.
      • Through the dropbox folder on a server - Connect to your Avalon dropbox folder directly on the server where it is hosted. Delete files manually. Deleted files will be permanently removed from your Avalon dropbox.

Uploading via Batch

  • Avalon's Batch Ingest feature provides a method of building one or more media items at a time from uploaded content and metadata outside the user interface. A batch ingest is started by uploading an Ingest Package (the combination of content and metadata) consisting of one Manifest File and one or more Content Files to the Avalon dropbox.

  • Formatting the xls - See Batch Ingest Package Format for a batch spreadsheet template and instructions on the metadata fields that can be included in a batch ingest.

  • Formatting the batch - All content and metadata files are placed in a dedicated collection-specific Avalon dropbox (a file server usually connected via SFTP or a mapped network drive).  Contact your system administrator for dropbox location and connection information.

  • Upon loading the batch in the dropbox, Avalon checks to see if the spreadsheet is formatted properly and if all the files are copied to the server.  Avalon sends an email (to the address listed in the spreadsheet) either confirming that all is well and the batch is processing OR a report of problems with the batch (such as missing files or incorrect formatting).  Upon completion of the batch, Avalon sends an email of success or failure.

  • Handling errors for Avalon items within a batch

    • Sometimes a batch ingest will result in an exception, with one or more content files failing to ingest.  You will receive this information through an email message after your batch ingest processes.  If a content file failure occurs, the following steps can be tried to ingest the content again:

      • Avalon form: To re-ingest a single Avalon item (one row of the batch ingest spreadsheet), place all content files for that item in the collection's dropbox directory.  Once processed, the content files will be available from the Manage file(s) > Import from a dropbox feature in Avalon and the item can be created using Avalon’s form.

      • Reload spreadsheet: Another option to re-ingest a single Avalon item or set of items is to reduce the batch spreadsheet to only those failed items and reload the spreadsheet to the same location as before.  This will run the batch again but only for the failed content files.  

      • If a single Avalon item with multiple content files has one or some of those files fail (but not all), either delete that item from Avalon and use the Reload spreadsheet method to load the entire item again or use the Avalon form method to add those failed content files to the dropbox and append them to the appropriate item in Avalon.   

Resource Description

  • Metadata
    • Avalon Media System currently utilizes Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS) for organizing descriptive metadata.
    • When creating a new Avalon item in Avalon Media System, the Resource Description form is used to gather basic metadata about the item.  Each form field contains contextual help.  Clicking on the question mark image next to the form field name will expand with instructions.  In some cases, those instructions will recommend controlled vocabularies to use (see help for Genre and Subject for examples).  Other times, the instructions contain formatting recommendations (such as Publication Date and Creation Date).  Please be sure to verify that metadata is being entered properly so that Avalon Media System can make the best use of the information you provide about your items for search and discovery.
    • Authorized users can edit the metadata at any time by clicking the Edit button on the item page and editing metadata in the Resource Description section.
    • Three metadata elements are required for each Avalon item: Title, Creator, and Publication Date. These elements are identified with an asterisk (*).
  • Suggestions for controlled vocabulary use

    • Some fields in Avalon have recommended controlled vocabularies.  Genre, all types of Subjects (Location, Time Period) and, if possible, names of Creators and Contributors should come from a controlled vocabulary.  The contextual help accompanying the fields in the Resource Description form contains links to the recommended vocabularies.  Additionally, the Batch Ingest Package Format specifies controlled vocabularies for those same fields.


  • If a single Avalon item is made up of multiple content files, those content files can be uploaded separately to the item, labeled individually, given different thumbnails (for video files only) and reordered at any time. If there is more than one content file, each content file will be listed on the Avalon item’s page and can be selected for individual playback. Labels specific to these content files can be helpful for users to better understand the content of the item.  If no label is provided for a content file, the file name will be listed.  You must click Save or Save and continue at the bottom of the Manage file(s) page for labels to persist.

Access Control

  • Avalon provides stream-level protection for desktop and mobile streams through session token validation.  Tokens are passed between Avalon and the streaming server (Adobe Media Server or Red5) when a valid Avalon session exists.  These tokens last for 20 minutes.
  • Access control options must be adjusted manually in the Avalon user interface. Batch uploaded items that are designated to be Published automatically default to the Collection member only access control option.
    • Available to general public:  Anyone can view items with this setting without being logged in.
    • Authenticated users only:  Only users that can log in to Avalon can view these items.
    • Collection members only:  Only collection members (Managers, Editors, and Depositors) can view these items
    • Limit access to:  Only specified individuals with Avalon logins or existing Avalon groups can view these items.  Note: users in the Collection members group can always see these items.
    • Hide from search results:  This option exists for items you wish to keep available via URL only.  Items with this setting cannot be discovered via search or browse.
    • Published vs Unpublished:  Unpublished items are only viewable to Collection members. To make Avalon items viewable to other users, you must publish the item. Publishing an item occurs in the Preview section of the process.
    • Class provides a way to deliver course-specific content through a Learning Management System (LMS).
  • A user can share a unique URL to an Avalon item. The URL can be found on the resource page underneath the video where it says "Share this resource." The item will be accessible only to users who are authorized to have access through the access control options.
  • To set up temporary access for a user who is unaffiliated with your institution, contact your system administrator.


  • Previewing an item allows the Collection members to see the item in the media player and test playback before allowing anyone else to view the item.  The media player shows with the same controls that end users will see and the playback will reflect the playback experience for end users.
  • After previewing an item, the collection Manager can choose to "Publish" the item, making it available to end users based on the Access Control settings for the item.  If an item is already published, the collection Manager can choose to "Unpublish" the item, removing it from end user access.

Managing Groups

Avalon utilizes 2 categories of groups: System and Ad Hoc Groups

  • System Groups - System groups are configured by a System Administrator. 

    • administrator - users listed under the administrator group have the ability to do anything in Avalon including viewing all items, creating and editing items and creating and editing collections.  Adminstrators also have automatic access to the group_manager group so they can add any user to the other system groups.  
      • Only administrators can add other administrators to administrator group.
    • manager - users listed under Manager group are able to create and manage collections.  They have the ability to assign collection member roles to their collections. They can edit, publish and unpublish all items under their collections. 
      • Only administrators and group_manager members can add to manager group.
    • group_manager - group_managers members can create ad hoc groups, add or remove members to existing ad hoc groups, create or remove groups in order to share specific collections or items with a group of users.  group_manager members can add members to the manager group.
      • Administrators are the only members that can add members to group_managers. 
  • Adhoc Groups - Group Managers can create new groups for the purpose of sharing specific items with groups of users.  These groups will have view access only. 

    • No ability exists in the interface to edit policies for groups. To add users to a group, enter their Avalon username as displayed in the upper right corner upon logging in. This is usually an email address. 

    • Ad hoc groups can be edited and deleted by other Group Managers or Administrators. 
    • Group names should not include blank spaces.  Avalon is not case-sensitive so it will not allow a group named "test" and "TEST."

 See Known Issues for Group Management

Sharing via URL

  • Items can be easily shared by copying the URL provided on the item and preview page.  Access will be determined by access control level on the item. 

See Known Issues for Sharing via Link

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