Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Multimedia and the Web


Multimedia and the Web

The Web is constantly changing. Just as the world started to realize what the Internet was, the WWW transformed from a primarily text-based platform into a full-fledged multimedia platform that includes audio, video, and 3D graphics. And that’s just the beginning.
That’s one point of view, but considers this
The Web isn’t changing at all, despite some people’s claims to the contrary. While every pundit proclaims the glories of the Internet as a “new medium”, the basic rules till haven’t changed – lousy content is lousy content, no matter how it is presented. The much ballyhooed “15 minutes of fame” applies to the Web as much as anything else.

Elements of Web Multimedia

Like other form of multimedia (such as CD-ROM and DVD), Web-based multimedia involves the creation of content from several different media types. The most common of these are animation, audio, video, 3D modeling and computer code. In this section we explore each of these media types and their significance to the Web, including many of the features of each of these media types.

Animation
The ability to create animation for the Web has been around for a while, but because of the complexities of handling animation through traditional means that require intensive (and slow) trading of data between the Web site and the user, animated content for the Web hasn’t been explored much by the Web developers until recently.

Three types of animation tools have made animation on the Web a viable reality:
1)      Macromedia shockwave, which is a navigator 2.0 (or above) plug-in that allows a Director movie to be compressed and shown on the Web
2)      Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) animation, which uses the presentation feature of the GIF87/89 specification to create animations that, can be stored and referenced as GIF files.
3)      Java and other VRML-based animation tools, which allow you to create advanced level animated content with little, or no, programming.

Audio

Audio for the Web comes into two flavors:-
1)      Real time (streaming) audio, which takes a digital audio file and compresses it, trading quality of sound for file size. This includes both tools for voice only content and voice and instrumental content.
2)      Digital audio files, which are record at a variety of resolutions from low resolution, up to CD-quality. Such files can require an enormous amount of space, for example, one minute of stereo CD- quality audio takes up to 10M
Real-time digital audio, a third type of Web based audio, won’t be a realistic option until bandwidth capabilities significantly increase for the majority of users through such technologies as Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) or cable modems.
Streaming Audio
Streaming audio on the Web is a relatively new phenomenon. The first wide spread implementation of real-time audio on the web came in 1995, with the release of real audio 1.0. The first version of real audio provided a real-time audio within a highly compressed format. This compression is done with an encoding utility.

Digital Audio
Digital audio provides better sound quality than streaming audio, at the expense of file size and thus the amount of time that it takes to download a file. For e.g., a one-minute CD quality stereo digital audio clip takes up 10M. This translates to at least two hours of downloading time on a 14.4 Kips modem connection, assuming a transfer rate of 1K/second- not exactly the most desirable of online experiences. For this reason, Web-based digital audio is only practical for small (5-10 seconds clips) that are designed for downloading, not playing in real time for example, a one second CD quality stereo clip is around 170K, and takes about three minutes to download on a 14.4 kpbs modem.
The good news is that the current generation of Web audio tools provide better quality than the previous generation of tools (most of which were first-generation) while still keeping the relatively small file sizes of Real Audio. A new product that promises to make high quality, low bandwidth audio available across the Web are Macromedia’s Shockwave for Audio, as it is capable of substantial compression of digital audio files, who still maintaining an acceptable level of quality.

Video
The use of video for corporate presentation, independent features, and televised broadcast has become standard in the past few decades. For creating preseantions or original dramatic content, video is a cost effective alternative to film.
Video is a new addition to the Web designer’s repertoire. The use of video based multimedia content has been rising slowly, due to the significant storage space that video requires. Recent breakthrough in online compression technologies promise to make display of real-time video at 15 to 20 of 28.8 kpbs analog modems. In all likelihood, video on the Web is going to become even more widely used as high speed communication devices become commonplace. The possibility of receiving Web-based video in real-time as opposed to the higher costs of receiving video via high capacity storage media ensures that a large degree of attention will be paid to Web-based video in the next several years.
In the meantime, if you use video n your Web sites, understand that most people won’t be able to access your video clips, either because their connection is too slow or they don’t have streamed video plug-ins as part of their web browser setup.

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