Use-a-Thon Dividends: Generating Thumbnails for Audio

It's time to take a look at another awesome outcome from our Islandoracon Use-a-Thon: Waveform thumbnails for audio files, a handy addition to audio support in Islandora 8 that has the distinction of having become a standard part of the stack since the Use-a-Thon.

The idea came about from a collaboration between Renee Chalut from Vancouver Public Library and Jonathan Hunt from Catalyst. Renee shared a VPL collection of audio files that looks a little uniform, as the thumbnails were all the same:

This Vancouver West End Stories screenshot

FFmpeg to the rescue! FFmpeg is quite capable of using the waveform of an audio file to generate an image. With a few tweaks to Homarus to allow PNG thumbnails and generate the png, Islandora 8 can present distinct thumbnails for audio that actually reflect the content of the resource node:

Before and after screenshots of This Vancouver and a new Islandora 8 site with generated audio thumbnails

This is such a simple, but useful tweak that this pull request has made it standard in Islandora 8. Work continues to expand this tool to generate animated gifs as thumbnails (an improvement that could have application for video as well).