Boston UniversityAmerican Sign Language Lingustic Research Project

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SignStream project
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Below is a video showing what it looks like to the user when displaying an utterance within SignStream, demonstrating playback synchronization. Choose the apropriate format for your viewing platform. You may wish to download the file (generally by Option- or right-clicking the link) before viewing, as the videos may be larger than your browser window. Note that the appearance of the media alignment indicator is slightly fragmented; this is an artifact of the capture process.

Quicktime movie (3.6 MB, Quicktime video codec)
AVI movie (4.2 MB, Intel codec)
Flash movie (4.2 MB, requires the Flash player)

Click the images below for full-sized versions.

SignStream 2 screenshot

SignStream allows for up to 4 synchronized video files to be displayed per open utterance. In addition, it is possible to associate a synchronized audio file and access a visual display of the wave form in another window.

Windows can be positioned independently and resized. During playback, the media alignment indicator in the Gloss window, all media files remain in synch. The media alignment indicator in the gloss window and audio display window shows the current frame position of all media files and can be dragged to advance the media files.

SignStream provides specialized capabilities for manipulating the video in relation to the linguistic units defined within any data field. For example, the user can select an item within the gloss window and then perform any of the following actions: establish its beginning and end frames, position the video at its beginning frame, position the video at its end frame, or play the video clip associated with the item.

Video window

The video window provides standard Quicktime controls including frame-by-frame advance and rewind, as well as a scroll bar, to aid in positioning the video at any point. The user can change the speed at which media play. Media controls appear in both the video and gloss windows, depending on which window is active.

Media controller window


Gloss window

The gloss window provides the core functionality for manipulating transcriptions. SignStream provides a variety of predefined fields specifically designed for transcribing sign language data. In addition to the gloss fields (text-based fields for rerpesentation of the signs), pre-defined fields are available for both anatomical desciptions of positions and movements of the head and upper body (such as the eyes, eyebrows, etc.) and functional interpretive fields (marking, e.g., question status, topics, negation, part-of-speech, etc.). There are also free text fields available, e.g., for English translation. Users can also define new fields and values of all types. It is also possible to associate notes with each utterance.

Annotations in different fields are linked to frames in the video, and they are vertically aligned to reflect their temporal relations.

The gloss window's display can be tailored in a number of ways. For example, the user can select which fields should be displayed, can rearrange the fields' ordering, and can change the color that is used to display each field.

Multiple participants

Multiple discourse participants may be coded in separate viewing areas in the gloss window, called "participant panes." One or more participant panes may be open at a time, and all panes are aligned to each other and synched to the video. Each participant pane has available a complete set of fields for coding the events associated with that participant. Each participant has a profile, providing important background information about that participant.

Complex searches

SignStream allows sophisticated searches of transcripts. To build a search query, the user first selects the database file over which the search is to be conducted. The fields and values contained in that database file is displayed to facilitate the construction of the search query, which is then constructed by either typing or selecting from menus. Wildcards and standard Boolean combinatorial operations (AND, OR, and NOT) are available; SignStream also provides a number of operators that are relevant to the particular type of data represented in the transcripts. For example, the WITH operator can be used to search for combinations of data that are co-extensive, permitting a user to search for utterances containing, e.g., an index sign co-occurring with eye gaze.

Refined searches

Searches can be conducted in a number of sequential stages, where subsequent stages search over the results found in a previous stage. This allows the user to easily refine a search to narrow in on the data of interest. Searches (both queries and results) can be saved to a file for later use.


Script window

Scripts allow for viewing subsets of utterances in sequence. Scripts can be saved.