Multimedia Formats What are the Issues?
At the start of the workshop Anne Mumford suggested there were many questions which needed to be addressed during the workshop:
Steve Morgan then suggested that it was important to:
- what are the range of file formats for multimedia?
- where do these these fit together?
- how do people use them?
- do people need to know and understand file formats?
- how do we get from this format to that one?
- what software deals are there?
- what public domain software is available?
and that the workshop should:
- concentrate on file formats that are used
- encourage de jure standards where possible but not at the expense of de fact standards
- recognise the importance of PC/Windows
- not forget the outside world
Julian Gallop looked at the background against which we were having discussions:
- identify the formats that are used successfully
- initiate the evaluation of tools which will encourage their use (i.e. make it easy and inexpensive)
- try to recommend community site licence agreements if at all possible this may involve central funding
- technology (networking, discs, processors, compression) has removed many of the barriers to using media that were previously considered to be exotic
- there is a spread and awareness of world wide hyperlinks
- in the UK HE community there are heterogeneous platforms even within a single discipline
- the formats used are numerous
- at present, the pattern in the academic community is usage of multimedia produced by others plus development by multimedia experts the development of multimedia documents by non-experts is likely to increase
- multimedia has wide application for education and courseware with many communities being distributed
Julian suggested that we should be considering the following:
- we need to distinguish between the "glue" (hyperlinks) and the objects to be stuck together (images, graphics, text, sound, video)
- we need to address the formal and the de facto standards and to consider platform issues
- we need to address the properties of the data captured:
- information content how much information is preserved?
- different types of media (graphics, text, images, video, sound)
- do we understand what an image is?
- distinguish between different methods of delivery network, CD-ROM? For CD-ROM, proprietary standards are often used for a particular target platform. However many scientific communities have diverse machine architectures. Could the same document structure be used whether using a CD-ROM or network?
- different standards for use in a single stream (MIME for electronic mail) or in a web
- there is little attention paid to graphics rather than raster images. The use of vectors can reduce file size and increase information. What is the role of PostScript or CGM?
- we need to look at the differences between the standards (what is the difference between HTML and HyTime, between HyTime and MHEG?)
- we need to identify problems which are critical to the UK HE community e.g. what are the limitations of HTML and how can we set about changing these?
- a guide on formats would be useful but we need to address how this can be maintained
- when we are "recommending" formats, what does this mean:
- that the rest of the world is going that way?
- telling people how to convert to/from that recommended set?
- the UK community will encourage the development of tools to support the preferred formats?
- etc etc what do we want?
The following points emerged from discussions:
- there is a needs to get tools and utilities to handle the different formats we need to ensure that we get free runtime viewers (or free at point of use)
- there is a need for WYSIWYG authoring tools more HTML authoring and editing tools would be useful
- there is a real need to transfer between platforms
- there can be difficulties in dealing with images when we want to retain some application level information associated with it, e.g. medical images
- it would be useful to have a table to include which packages and utilities will read/write which formats
- we need to be able to put pressure on industry to make the formats "open" some of this could be carried out through the Interactive Multimedia Association which has 300 members this is US based with no European equivalent
- there is a need for skills development in the use of multimedia novice guides, templates, style guides etc
- we need encouragement from the HEFC's Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) on recommendations on standards and encouragement from them to use these this could be by adopting (and developing if necessary) tools which use mainstream standards
- we need to think about using databases for our information
- we need to remember that documents are often required on paper as well as online there is often a mismatch
- conversion tools are important
- the amount of effort involved in getting materials online is high and will only (in practice) happen once it is important to keep the content and hyperlinking/structure separate
Virtual Environments Visualisation