I want to geotag something besides photographs!

Cornelia - Queen of the Snow!For no particular reason, here is a picture of The Dog in her natural habitat. This picture really has nothing to do with today’s blog post, but since this is supposed to be a happy time of year, I suppose a happy picture is in order.

In case anyone is wondering if I’ve forgotten the supposed microbiological emphasis on this blog, the answer is no. In fact, I’ve got a post on amateur yeast culture brewing, but I’m still researching it a bit.

Meanwhile, it seems reasonable to post about geolocation, which after all is an important and useful trick for associating information with its place in The Big Room.

Geolocation of photographs is well established, at least for JPEG images. There are standard ways of tagging a JPEG file with an ICBM address, and I’ve been having a lot of fun doing this with my own pictures. (If you’re bored, you can browse them on Panoramio, and perhaps in a few weeks may stumble on some of them in Google Earth.)

There doesn’t appear to be any standard way of tagging other forms of media files, though. What if I want to geotag an .mp3 or OGG/Vorbis audio file recorded at a particular spot? Or a “DivX/Xvid” or OGG/Theora video?

Irritatingly, it seems as though a few people have mused about it, but nobody seems to have addressed it. There are projects like The Freesound Project which does geolocate sounds, but the geographic information is not actually embedded into the sound files in any way. As far as I can tell, the location is tracked in their own server’s database only. A Google search turned up a post on the “Random Connections” Blog musing about this, but the only application mentioned is adding georss tags to the RSS for a podcast feed, not to the podcast’s audio file itself. Even the otherwise excellent Mapping Hacks book (written before O’Reilly’s current decline into yet another “Proprietary Product® How-To Guides” publisher over the last couple of years) mentions the topic in Hack #59, but disappointingly appears to have really had nothing to do with tagging files so much as “interpolating a position from a GPS track, given a timestamp”.

This all comes up because we’re about to go on a roadtrip to check out a part of the country where we seem likely to end up living next year. I’ve been told I’ve got a pretty good voice, so I was considering generating a travelogue series along the way. It appears to be relatively easy to generate a “narrated picture” as a standard mp3 file, the picture being loaded as though it were “album art”. The only aspect of the whole thing that’s missing is geolocation. For now, just being able to easily obtain the ICBM address associated with the file while playing it so that one could plug the coordinates into Google Maps to see where the recording was done, but ideally I’d like to do it in a way that could be considered standardized, so that later on people might be encouraged to add geolocalization plugins to their media-playing software.

Sure, I can just generate a .kml file with a track of where we were, with markers containing picture and audio links. In fact, I probably will, but I don’t want people to have to use Google Maps or Google Earth to make use of the geolocation information associated with the audio.

Any suggestions, anyone?

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The Author is (currently) an autodidactic student of Industrial and Environmental microbiology, who is sick of people assuming all microbiology should be medical in nature, and who would really like to be allowed to go to graduate school one of these days now that he's finished his BS in Microbiology (with a bonus AS in Chemistry). He also enjoys exploring the Big Room (the one with the really high blue ceiling and big light that tracks from one side to the other every day) and looking at its contents from unusual mental angles.

7 thoughts on “I want to geotag something besides photographs!”

  1. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there is a place in the ID3 tags for MP3 files to contain geodata. If enough people like us complain about it, maybe someone would add it 😉

    The GeoRSS method works well enough if you’re going to be keeping your data in the same location, such as website like Flickr or Panoramio. If you’re wanting true portability, it just won’t hold up. Frustrating, isn’t it?

  2. She’s so fluffy and adorable…I can’t wait to spin her gorgeous fur. 🙂 If I get enough, I’ll knit you a Cornelia hat to go with your Ling sweater and scarf (or was Ling also knit into a hat and not a scarf? Let me know). I’ll have to start looking up methods for getting rid of the Wet Dog Smell for spun dog fur…

    I’d say use a .kml file FOR NOW with a note that it’s only temporary. And in the meantime, try to figure out another method. This way you can start making those files now but people will know that the .kml method isn’t the only method you’re going to use. What does your photo site use?

    I wonder if there’s a way I could use your mp3s on my SL gallery to put something interesting in…

    Oh, and nice title bar. 😉 I’m not totally happy with how it looks with that little tiny font size your title uses, so I may do some tweaking and send you a new one. I may add the line about where expire Jello and Applied Empirical Naturalism go for beer to the top, where your title won’t run over it. I have more business card stock (I bought it to use for xmas tags) so I may have to print out more of your business cards for me and start handing them out.

  3. We mentioned geolocating arbitrary material in more than just hack 59…

    When we were working on the book there were no free/open source tools to write exif headers (or at least, we couldn’t find them), so at the time I decided that the important thing was to have the location information, not to embed it in the file.

    It seems like that is the same challenge you are facing.

    I was working on geolocating audio for a bit. It turns out to be both trivially easy and frustratingly deep.

    During the mapping hacks writing time I was trying to sync my audio with my track logs to be able to move the geocoded audio from being a single point to being a line. I am often moving when I record audio, so I want to capture that movement in the display.

    There are elements in KML that really annoy me – well, maybe just the major one that you can’t attach time to the points in a line geometry.

    In my world view it isn’t really possible to properly geotag a media object without a fairly rich grammer. Just poking an ICBM coordinate into an MP3 is sort of weak 🙂

    Email me if you want more of a brain dump on the subject.

  4. I’m currently working on a small section on the website to track my ideas (and those of any other interested people I manage to locate) on this. Anybody know what’s involved in doing a formal RFC?

  5. I told her she was going to be on the Internet, so she made a funny face. I think she was annoyed with me for interrupting her while she was reading Slashdot and working on her RinTinTin fanfic.

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