Recording a Seadragon session?

July 23, 2009

I’ve just been chatting with Kent Sullivan, a member of the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, and he’s got a cool Seadragon idea that requires some dev help. Basically he’s looking to record a user’s movements in realtime as they pan and zoom around an extremely large image, so that those movements can then be played back synchronized to the audio of that person talking about the contents of the image.

This sort of technology would be useful for a lot of scenarios. In Kent’s case, it’s part of a multi-year project, in partnership with the Great Northern Railway Historical Society, to digitize and make available thousands of different documents and photos that help describe the history of these two important railroads (now part of the BNSF).

One of the projects he’s working on involves train sheets, the sheets upon which dispatchers recorded the movement of every train across a given geographical area during a 24-hour period. There is a treasure trove of information in these sheets because it helps historians (and railfans, and modelers) understand how a network of trains interacted to move passengers and freight – and what the volumes were, and who was doing the work. Each sheet is about 6’ long x 2’ high.

They’re just beginning the process of scanning the sheets that were been saved by the NPRR, a sample of the thousands that were created down through the years. These sheets take some explanation in order to understand them, however, as they are very densely populated and many abbreviations are used. Fortunately, a few dispatchers who created the sheets are still with us, and one of them has volunteered to describe a sample sheet for recording purposes during his trip to Seattle on August 5.

Kent and I both think that Seadragon would be a fabulous way for this dispatcher to give an interactive tour of the sample sheet. What Kent needs help with is creating a mechanism to record the dispatcher’s movements with Seadragon and a way to synchronize the audio narration that he provides. Could someone in Seadragon community help? Maybe there are some railfans out there? Leave a note in the comments or email igilman@microsoft.com.

Ian Gilman



  1. Ian, we’re building out a collaboration control over at http://deepearth.codeplex.com that could do this and more, what time frame are you looking at? This is a September project for us.
    We’re looking at providing a group experience over the MSI control powered by the Messenger API, the idea is you can see what each person is looking at on the surface and “follow the leader”. We’re almost finsihed our digizer controls that will let you markup the image with lines, points and polygons. We had been discussing adding a “record” function.
    This could solve your needs, only difference is we’re showing a map as the DeepZoom image and therefore converting all the logical points to Latitude,Longitude. I will keep in mind when we build it that it would be useful for this in any image as well.

  2. Hi John. Thanks for the response! I will follow up with you offline.

  3. I wonder how readily such a tool would be able to be mashed up with Photosynth. That sounds extremely similar to several features that people have been asking for since the first public release.

  4. Nate, that sounds great! We just need the Photosynth folks to open up an API…

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