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The first decade of the new milennium can easily be labeled the "age of multimedia." Advances in computer hardware and software, coupled with advances in communication systems and devices from the Internet to wireless personal assistants, are becoming part of the everyday lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Central to these rapid advances is the use of "multiple media," more specifically digital interactive multimedia, such as sound, computer graphics, animation, text, and video, as tools for communication.
Multimedia are first and foremost a means of communication between humans. In the past 15 years the development of user-friendly software has been aimed specifically at eliminating the need for computer users to know how to write computer code and programs. However, it is clear that a fundamental understanding of how a computer functions is a great advantage in maximizing its potential as a tool. This is also true for multimedia communications. To take full advantage of the potential for a wide array of multimedia applications, it is important to have a broad understanding of the principles of various media.
Introduction to Multimedia Systems has been developed to be the first place to turn, as an introductory textbook or as a professional reference, for anyone diving into multimedia preparation. A full survey of multimedia capabilities is covered in this book.
Website Feature: Learning by doing! The editors have developed this book in combination with a wide array of sample software and Web links for the reader to learn how to build by example. Each part of the book has a direct link to a publicly accessibly Web site that maintains these available software tools. The Web links will be updated as software versions advance, and most of the software involves demo or scaled-down versions of commercially available multimedia design software/editing tools. The Web site can be accessed at http://www.academicpress.com/multimedia.
Audience: Computer science and information technology professionals and students in colleges, universities, vocational technical schools, and high schools.
Digital multimedia is defined as any combination of graphics (2-D and/or 3-D), audio, text, animation and real-life video delivered through the computer. In addition, the notion of interactivity differentiates digital multimedia from the traditional forms of media and is an integral part of multimedia.
Since we are dealing with digital multimedia, all of the above-mentioned elements have to be stored in a digital or discrete format, as opposed to the largely analog formats used by traditional mass media. Thus the multimedia expert will have to be able to do the following, for each media:
Convert analog media into a suitable discrete format.
For example, a photograph may have to be scanned and stored on the hard drive of the computer. Or a video may have to be "grabbed" or digitized.
Since data in digital format is discrete, a decision needs to be made about how to sample the analog data. For example, theoretically, the straight line that you draw on paper has an
infinite number of points. But when drawn on the monitor, only a finite number of points can be drawn. How close should the points be so that our eyes cannot tell the difference? Similarly, when using a printer to print a line, how many dots of ink per inch should the printer throw on the paper, for our eyes to perceive it as a straight line? Obviously, the more data that you keep to describe the analog media, the better quality you will get. However, a large amount of data may be impossible to store given the restrictions of your
hard disk. Thus the multimedia programmer should be able to:
Decide the "resolution" to be used when storing the data, based on the application, the quality of the desired output, and the restrictions of the storage medium.
Obviously, if possible, we would like to have the highest quality possible. Using appropriate compression technologies, it is possible to compress digital data and reduce the file size but still keep adequate quality. For example, on the Internet, currently two graphics file formats are very popular and supported widely. These are the GIF and JPEG formats. While GIFs give good quality for cartoons and animated characters, JPEG is used for putting photographs on the Internet. A graphics expert in a Web-development team is able
to use the right format, and adjusts the file size using these compression technologies. In general, the multimedia programmer should be able to:
Use appropriate compression technologies and file formats for storing the media elements.
Once the file is stored in a particular file format, you may require a special player or an
editor to view and/or edit the files. For example, MP3 is a popular format for CD quality music files on the Internet. When such a song is downloaded on your PC, you will need a special MP3 player to play the song. As another example, consider Paint Shop Pro, a popular graphics software. Using this package you can edit various graphics files and save them in JPEG or GIF formats as required. You may also be able to give "special effects" to previously made or scanned graphics. You can make screen grabs. And you can do all this, regardless of whether you took any art classes in school! In general, for any media element, a multimedia expert should be able to:
Edit a given media element using an appropriate editor.
Finally, the multimedia expert should be able to:
Integrate all the media elements into one multimedia system using a programming language or an authoring package.
In this book we cover these topics for each media element.
We believe that people learn much more by experimenting with software packages and talking to friends, rather than by reading any large tomes or by messing with the complicated manuals written for practicing professionals. Our book gives exercises to encourage these constructionist learning mechanisms. A Web page containing links to many of these free software packages www.academicpress.com/multimedia. There are also links to sample images, sounds, etc., that the students can use for educational purposes.
Each chapter tries to highlight the main features of software packages, without referring to any commercial (and expensive) software. The philosophy is that multimedia experts should not be software dependent, since a specific software package may not be available at a given time. We enable our readers to become self-educated when where it comes to learning software packages, by showing them the principles behind their central features. All the software packages that are referred to in this book are freeware or have evaluation versions freely available on the Internet.
As far as the Internet is concerned, we discuss the concerns of the Web developer in terms of file formats and bandwidth restrictions. Since this is a very fast growing area, the emphasis is on fundamentals and how developers can keep in touch with the changing trends and technologies in this area.
We prepared this book using a process analogous to multimedia production. Experts in the R&D Centre of NIIT Ltd. wrote the various sections. Later, the various elements of this book were stitched together by its editors. Their role was similar to the role played by the designers and programmers in a multimedia production. A preliminary version of this book was used in one of NIIT's centers, for a 10-week course on multimedia.
This book should be suitable for young adults in high school or college who have some programming background and have worked on the Windows platform, and who are keen to learn how to make multimedia systems. If students already know some programming language like Visual Basic or Java, they will be able to make their own stand-alone or Web-based multimedia systems. If not, they can still use MS-PowerPoint and make interesting
Prelude to Multimedia
1. Overview of Multimedia Systems
Prelude to Audio
2. The Nature of Sound
3. Introduction to Digital Audio
4. Audio Editing
5. Music and Speech
An Interlude: Free for All
6. Audio: From CD to the Web
7. The WAV File Format
Prelude to Graphics
8. The Paint Shop Pro Interface
An Interlude: The Properties of Light
10. File Formats and Web Graphics
11. Layers and Filters
An Interlude: Vision
12. Process of Animation
An Interlude: The Term Dimension
14. 3-D Graphics
15. Text in Multimedia and the Internet
An Interlude: Meaning in Binary Strings
16. Art and Design
17. Cognitive User Interfaces
An Interlude: Development of Cognitive Systems
18. Authoring Multimedia in Visual Basic