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Back Next Contents Digital Video for Multimedia: Considerations for Capture, Use and Delivery

Section 1: Video and Learning

Alternatives to Digital Video

Digital video offers powerful and instant representational and communication opportunities, not always offered by other forms of media . When addressing the production of educational material it is important to be aware of alternative, more educationally appropriate, ways of presenting the content, even if this means challenging user assumptions. Defining the constraints of time and resource also helps to determine a 'correct' medium. Even though technological innovation offers endless potential and challenges for education, we must not forget the power of the inanimate, or traditional. Some questions to consider when planning the production stages of a project are "What does each medium contribute to the representation of information?" and "What does it offer in this context, that other media cannot ?"

When defining the appropriate medium to use it is vital to 'know' your audience and the technical specification of users' machines. There may be technical reasons for choosing which multimedia element will best communicate certain concepts.

What evermedium is chosen, to apply a principle mentioned above to all digital media elements, visuals must be congruent, relevant, and consistent with other information presented in order to be effective. Whatever the latest technological advance, instructional design principles apply.

Still images

We only have to look at the power of advertising in our society to see that still images can be an extremely powerful mode of communication. Still images can prove a useful alternative to a video sequence if there are technical reasons why video is not possible. A series of images run through quickly in a sequence can show the effects of the passage of time or be combined with text to make a presentation.


With the use of such literary devices as metaphors to remind us, the visual word can be a powerful and creative component to communication. However, in particular instances, the inanimate can become restricting, and concepts which can be too wordy to explain in text form can be conveyed simply using animation. Animation, by definition, provides the illusion of movement. However, there is a more subtle character of animation, which distinguishes it from other visual elements; trajectory, or the path of travel by the animated or moving object. Using animation, learning must depend on understanding either changes in an object over time (motion) or changes in the direction of motion in which the object is moving (trajectory), or both. If there is no case for the second requirement, then there is no reason why animated visuals would aid learning anymore than static visuals. Again it could be argued that these additional effects of motion and trajectory could be distracting. Static visuals would be sufficient for tasks that only require learners to visualise information. However, if a task demands that learners understand changes over time or in a certain direction, then static visuals can only hope to prompt learners to mentally construct these attributes on their own. Animation makes this cognitive task more concrete and spontaneous by providing the motion and trajectory attributes directly to the learner (Reiber, 1994). This should increase the potential for successful and accurate encoding into long-term memory. Preliminary research has shown that animation displayed with accompanying narration produces greater retention and recall than when either are presented separately or when verbal descriptions are presented before or after the animation (Meyer and Anderson, 1991)

QTVR - Quicktime Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) describes a range of experiences that enable a person to interact with, and explore, a spatial environment through a computer. These environments are typically artistic renderings of real or imagined spaces, generated on the computer. To achieve the desired effect, most VR applications require specialised hardware or accessories, a high-end graphics workstations, stereo displays, 3-D goggles, or gloves. Apple's QTVR offers an alternative by using video techniques to depict real-world scenes. QTVR is a technique whereby still images are combined into a navigable, pseudo-3D environment, in which can be embedded other interactive objects such as video sequences, sound files, still images, other QTVR sequences, etc. Being created from still images, it currently lacks the temporal element normally associated with video sequences. The resulting files are extremely small when compared with their equivalent video counterparts.


This medium is often misused in computer enhanced learning environments and is often used as audio feedback to an action, or as a warning. Used creatively, however, it can become a stimulus to the imagination; used inappropriately it can become a hindrance or an annoyance. A script, some still images and a sound track, allow users to utilise their own power of imagination without being biased and influenced by the inappropriate use of video footage. A book is often spoilt by first watching its recreation on film.


The fusion of all types of media in a digital world captures the ethos of the new technological age. Multimedia: a combination of video, text, still images and sound, etc, can provide an effective learning aid. With such a hybrid form of communication it is important to understand the capabilities possessed by each medium, the knowledge of which allows choices to be made relating to the most effective way of conveying information. Each medium is a potential channel to the content and should not be fighting for representational prominence.
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