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The Multimedia Revolution
An Interview with Tay Vaughan
The Computing Magazine (Issue 4)
McGraw-Hill Book Company Europe
Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 2QL
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How would you define multimedia?
Multimedia is any combination of text, graphic art, sound, animation, and video delivered by computer or other electronic means. When you weave together the sensual elements of multimedia - dazzling pictures and animations, engaging sounds, compelling video clips, and raw textual information - you can electrify the thought and action centres of most people's minds. When you also give them interactive control of the process, they can be enchanted. This is what the multimedia revolution is all about.
The way humans access and learn information, and the swiftly-changing way that information is packaged, have kindled an electronic revolution far more complex and powerful than the liberation of the printed word that occurred 500 years ago in middle Europe. That last revolution, led by Gutenberg, Grolier, Aldus Mautius, and others who built and used printing presses, yielded potent and long-lasting transformations to the human condition that far exceeded the imaginations of that day. Among us now may be more than one Gutenberg creative, intellectual, or engineering talents - who will truly alter the human condition.
What are the main problems faced when producing multimedia today?
Weaving good multimedia tapestries can be complicated. Not only do you need to understand how to make each multimedia element stand up and dance, but you also need to know how to use computer tools and technologies, and the learning curves can be steep. Thankfully, hardware and software tools are more capable and friendly today than even a few years ago, and soon multimedia will be integrated into all computers and operating systems so that it becomes a natural part of what everybody does with computers - such as creating and editing animated and spoken e-mail messages, preparing interesting reports and presentations, and networking a video conference.
While there remain technical hurdles to be crossed (such as providing affordable transport and display of high-quality digital motion video), in my opinion the main problem that faces multimedia developers today lies in the creative arena: inventing new and compelling ways to deliver information, learning experiences, and entertainment is a serious intellectual challenge!
When many people think of multimedia, it immediately conjures up certain images making it appear beyond their grasp. Are there ways that multimedia can be applied very simply and cost-effectively?
As I have said, in another few years most personal computers sold will be multimedia-capable. Today's software for word processing, spreadsheets, database management, graphing, drawing, and presentation already works with sounds, images, video and animation. You can call a voice annotation, picture, or video from most word processing applications. You can click a cell in a spreadsheet to enhance its content with graphic images, sounds, and annotated bar charts. A database can include pictures, audio clips, and movies. Presentation software can easily generate interesting titles, visual effects, and animated illustrations.
There is no reason to buy a dedicated multimedia authoring package if your current software (or an inexpensive upgrade) can do the job. Indeed. not only can you save money by making multimedia with tools that are familiar and already at hand, but you also save the time spent on the arduous and sometimes lengthy learning curves involved in mastering many dedicated authoring systems. You can make your multimedia elements from scratch, or you can import them from collections of clip media.
For someone just considering multimedia, could you offer three things they should bear in mind?
Well, the good news is that costs are coming down and learning curves are becoming easier. The bad news, however. is that you still need to learn technical things about each of the multimedia elements if you want to do more than import into your projects ready-made clips created by others. And I would offer a warning: if you are a creative spirit, you may be seduced by the sheer power of your multi-media tools as you learn them. Be prepared to spend many hours in front of your computer.
You will be happiest with the best tools and the most powerful hardware, but you don't need to over-do it. Proven products that lie in the calm water slightly behind the leading edge of the technology wave will be comfortably adequate and less costly.
Read as much as you can about multimedia, talk to others who are doing it, and always make considered decisions about hardware and software. Avoid the disappointment of expensive tools that do not quite measure up to your expectations!
Imagine it's the year 2004. What lessons do think we might have learned about multimedia in the last ten years?
I spoke earlier of a revolution in the way humans access and learn information. It's underway now. Significant learning will take place in the design and testing of the multimedia-based human interfaces that will be used to view the unimaginably varied types of data located on the international broad-band data highway currently under construction. How people will navigate through this massive 'library' (and how they will pay for it) is yet to be determined.
During the coming years there will also be significant contributions to a 'new literature' made possible by interactive multimedia. One of my own personal interests is in creating multimedia projects that provide the vibrancy and depth of a Hermann Hesse novel, a Brahms concerto, and a DaVinci painting. Works that can enthrall the end user. So far, it is usually mechanical failure that causes users to weep at their keyboards, not immersion in a well-conceived interactive love story or other more literary venture.
Simply transcribing books and movies to text files fails to take advantage of the power of multimedia. So we will see a new genre of multimedia literature emerge during the next decade as more and more creative people experiment with multimedia tools and platforms. These projects will be designed and built from scratch, and will provide the foundation for innovative and inventive techniques and styles that may endure for many centuries in the new digital world.
Tay Vaughan is a recognized authority and pioneer in multimedia. He has designed and produced award-winning projects for clients such as Apple Computer, Lotus, Tandy, Sun and Novell. He is the president of Timestream Inc., a multimedia production company in Oakland, California.
Multimedia, Making It Work, Second Edition is a complete revision of Tay Vaughan's bestseller. It is a sweeping exploration, unequalled in scope and detail, of multimedia's diverse and technically intricate topics. Documenting the latest changes in multimedia development tools and techniques, and peppered with numerous case studies and first person accounts, this guide leads you through the maze of multimedia technology. You will find detailed information on all aspects of multimedia applications, from using elemental authoring tools to planning projects and delivering polished presentations.
With the inclusion of Macromedia's Product Showcase on CD-ROM, readers get a very special bonus: demonstration versions of a selection of Macromedia products.
ISBN: 0078 820359 Paperback/CD-ROM
For details of other multimedia books ask your local bookshop for your free copy of Computer Bookbase - a complete guide to McGraw-Hill computer books on a 3.5" disk.