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Report on the 2nd ACM International Conference on Multimedia

15-20 October 1994
San Francisco, California, USA


This conference is the first time the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) have held a multimedia conference as a stand-alone event Multimedia '93 was held in conjunction with SIGGRAPH. There were around 1000 attendees including participants from the UK, Switzerland, France, Holland, Canada, Japan and the US. Papers were presented by authors from both academia and industry. The conference was preceded by two days of courses, covering a variety of topics from Game Design for Marketing and Training to Singularity Modeling for Abstracting Multimedia Data. The conference itself consisted of two parallel tracks of sessions in which 50 papers were presented and a separate track of panel discussions. There were a number of demonstrations during the conference, including a demonstration of Multimedia Teleconferencing on the Internet Multicast Backbone (MBONE). Several sessions, including the opening plenary panel, were broadcast over MBONE to the World Wide Web conference in Chicago. There was a small exhibition area where companies including IBM and Kaleida were showing their latest products. The Ubiquitous Art Zone allowed multimedia artists to display their creations ranging from "immersive environments" interactive CD ROMs.

Selected Courses

Designing a Senior Level or Graduate Course in Interactive Multimedia: Rachelle Heller, George Washington University Linda Kieffer, Eastern Washington University

This half day course was aimed mainly at people who would be teaching a course about multimedia to undergraduates from a range of disciplines. The speakers presented ideas based on their own syllabi and provided sample syllabi from other universities. They felt the best way to organize a course on multimedia was to look at the separate components individually i.e. text, graphics, sound and video before letting the students try to combine them into a multimedia presentation. They stressed that unless the students had a good grasp of each component, what it can be used for, how it is generated, stored etc., they would be unable to make good use of it. In their courses other departments also contribute, for example a lecturer from the Music Department talks about the evocative value of sound. Much of the work in their courses, including the final projects to produce a multimedia presentation, is done in groups. This allows students to exchange ideas and is particularly useful with a mixed group of students, where some may be good programmers and other good artists, for example.

In the final part of the course they described the kind of multimedia labs they had setup (PC and Mac), and explained the trade-offs they made between the hardware they wanted and what they could afford. They felt one of the most important considerations was memory. Finally, ancillary topics such as copyright law and marketing and distribution were mentioned, and the authors gave descriptions of some text books they had found useful.

Selected Papers

Towards Usability Guidelines for Multimedia Systems: M Bearne, S Jones, J Sapsford-Francis, School of Information Sciences, University of Hertfordshire.

This paper aimed to provide some guidelines to help designers produce better multimedia applications by examining the users' attentional capabilities. The main points they found were:

Currently multimedia designers must make decisions about usability largely based on intuition and common sense. The authors' future aim is to make these decisions easier by investigating toolbased support for usability guidelines.

PREMO: An ISO Standard for Presentation Environment for Multimedia Objects: I Herman, G S Carson, J Davy, DA Duce, PJW ten Hagen, W T Hewitt, K Kansy, B J Lurvey, R Puk, G J Reynolds, H Stenzel

This paper gave an overview of PREMO and was presented by W T Hewitt, University of Manchester. The PREMO project was started in October 1992 and the work was approved by ISO/IEC JTC1 in February 1994. PREMO differs from other multimedia standards in that it concentrates on presentation techniques.

PREMO uses object-oriented techniques, as they have already proven their values in using inheritance as a tool for extensibility. Distributed environments are now widespread and multimedia applications often exploit their advantages. Since defining complete object-oriented systems for use in a distributed environment would go far beyond the scope of the PREMO working group, the PREMO specification will make use of techniques already developed elsewhere.

The conceptual framework for PREMO consists of an abstract object model and the notion of components which contain and organise the PREMO functionality needed to address specific problem areas. The object model is based on subtyping and inheritance. The notion of non-objects is also included, of which events are a special category. A component is a collection of objects and non-object types. All components inherit from a Foundation Component.

The initial PREMO standard will: define the exact conceptual framework for multimedia presentation; define rules for components, their interrelationships, inheritance, conformance rules, etc; include the specification of the Foundation Component; include the specification of some other components, namely:

More components will be added in the future.

PREMO is expected to become a Draft International Standard in June 1996, and an International Standard in June 1997.

The Influence of Multimedia on Learning: A Cognitive Study A Large, J Beheshti, A Breuleux, A Renaud McGill Univeristy, Canada.

This paper looked at the assumption that the addition of still images, animation and sound to text will enhance any information product. The researchers tested the understanding of grade-six primary (11 years) school children on articles presented to them as printed text, text on a computer screen, and text animation and images. They used the commercial available CD-ROM Compton's Multimedia Encyclopaedia and specially generated multimedia sequences.

They found that multimedia did improve some types of learning. If the students were merely required to memorise the text, then text alone worked as well as multimedia. However, multimedia seemed to help the children understand the underlying principles and deeper comprehension. Multimedia seemed to be best suited to procedural articles or where the children were asked to extract the main themes of an article.

Conference Proceedings

The proceedings of this conference are available in both hard copy and on CD-ROM. The CD-ROM also contains movie clips in Quicktime and MPEG formats. Some of the clips are supporting papers, some from the conference video and other clips from exhibits in the Ubiquitous Art Zone. The conference video is available in NTSC format only. The proceedings are available as follows:

Non ACM Members
Addison-Wesley Publishers Ltd Finchampstead Rd
Wokingham, Berkshire, RG11 2NZ

ACM Members
ACM European Service Centre
Avenue Marcel Thiry 204, 1200 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +44 734 794000
Fax: +44 734 794035
order number 433940

Sue Cunningham
Multimedia Support Officer, Computer Graphics Unit
University of Manchester, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PL UK
Tel: +44 61 275 6095