Multimedia refers to content that uses a combination of different content forms. This contrasts
with media that use only rudimentary computer displays such as text-only or traditional forms
of printed or hand-produced material. Multimedia includes a combination of text, audio, still
images, animation, video, or interactivity content forms.
Multimedia is usually recorded and played, displayed, or accessed by information content
processing devices, such as computerized and electronic devices, but can also be part of a live
Multimedia devices are electronic media devices used to store and experience multimedia
Multimedia is distinguished from mixed media in fine art; by including audio, for example, it has
a broader scope.
The term "rich media" is synonymous for interactive multimedia.
Hypermedia can be considered one particular multimedia application.
Classification of Multimedia
Multimedia may be broadly divided into linear and non-linear categories.
a. Linear active content progresses often without any navigational control for the viewer
such as a cinema presentation.
b. Non-linear uses interactivity to control progress as with a video game or self-paced
computer based training. Hypermedia is an example of non-linear content.
Multimedia presentations can be live or recorded. A recorded presentation may allow
interactivity via a navigation system. A live multimedia presentation may allow interactivity via
an interaction with the presenter or performer.
Major characteristics of multimedia
Characteristics of Multimedia System
A multimedia system has four basic characteristics:
1. Computer is an intrinsic part of the multimedia system. As a result, multimedia has
become interactive. In multimedia, computer allows the user to interact with the media
and thus manipulate it by controlling what is to be communicated and when.
Multimedia has resulted in the creation of many new possibilities—(1) the
computational power of computer is utilized for multimedia applications, (2) the
telecommunication network (Internet, WWW) along with the computer enables
transmission and distribution of information, and, (3) the use of computer facilitates
design and creation of a variety of new applications.
2. The different elements of multimedia are combined and integrated into a single
multimedia system. Special software is required for the integration of different media
3. The use of computer in multimedia requires all elements of multimedia to be in digital
format. In a digital multimedia system, the media streams are digital and are produced,
processed, stored, represented and transmitted using computers. The digital nature of
multimedia requires special treatment of the multimedia elements. The hardware and
software are needed to convert multimedia elements from analog to digital format and
vice versa. There is a need to decide about the resolution versus quality of output
required, during storing of data in the computer. Storing multimedia files on computer
hard disk takes large amount of disk space, so compression technologies and file
formats for storing the different media elements is required. Moreover, special
programs are required to play the compressed files. Similarly, special software is
required to edit the different media element files, and to combine and integrate the
different elements of the multimedia into a single multimedia system.
4. Multimedia system is interactive. The user is active and can manipulate whatever is
being communicated. Multimedia allows two-way communication. The user can use
devices like keyboard, trackball or joystick to interact with the multimedia system.
Interactive multimedia is non-linear. The user is able to follow the links and jump from
one part of the document to the other. Hypermedia enables a user to gain or provide
access to text, audio and video, and computer graphics using links in a non-linear way,
using computers. World Wide Web (WWW) is an example of hypermedia application.
The user is able to respond and control what to see or hear and when to do it.
History of the term
The term multimedia was coined by singer and artist Bob Goldstein.
In common usage, multimedia refers to an electronically delivered combination of media
including video, still images, audio, text in such a way that can be accessed interactively. Much
of the content on the web today falls within this definition as understood by millions. Some
computers which were marketed in the 1990s were called "multimedia" computers because
they incorporated a CD-ROM drive, which allowed for the delivery of several hundred
megabytes of video, picture, and audio data. That era saw also a boost in the production of
educational multimedia CD-ROMs.
Growth of Multimedia
Multimedia first emerged in the 1980s when desktop computers became more prevalent in
businesses, schools, and homes.
Growth in multimedia exploded significantly as technology improved, allowing animation,
complex graphics, sound files, and video clips to be included in presentations.
Since the late 1970s, desktop computers used in the home and office have evolved into
sophisticated systems that help us get our jobs done,deliver information ,and provide
entertainment. Presents a timeline of some of the key technologies that have contributed to
the evolution of multimedia computers. Do not worry if some of these terms, especially the
ones pertaining to hardware , seems unfamiliar to you right now, because they will be
discussed in detail later in this book. The main point is multimedia technology did not happen
Multimedia technology has changed the way we look at computers. The first computers were
seen as single-purpose machines that solved incredibly complex mathematical problems.
During the 1960s , mainframe computers were used to manage large corporate databases and
financial systems. The 1970s saw computer terminals throughout an organization being used
for publishing and information management. The 1980s brought the desktop computer so
everyone could have a computer at his or desk for word processing, spreadsheets, and even
games. Bringing the computer to the individual in the office, the home, and the classroom
meant looking at the computer as more than just a fancy typewriter or automated bookkeeper.
In the mid 1980s and into the 1990s, computer developers started looking at how computers
could be used a s never before. At the same time, advances in technology brought about:
1. Faster desktop computers
2. Increased working memory capacity in computers
3. Higher data storage capacity in disk drives and CD-ROMs
4. Digital audio and video
5. Graphic operating systems that worked by pointing and clicking at objects on the screen
instead of having to remember cryptic command sequences such as “dir .exe” to find a program
6. Local and wide area networks that connected users to the world
7. Thousands of applications ranging from word procesors to a myriad of multimedia products
that have changed the workplace,classroom,and the home.
Computer developers started looking to multimedia – the delivery of information using
text,pictures,audio,and video—as a way to utilize computers in a uniquely personal way.
Multimedia computers could be used to increase efficiency and productivity on the job, provide
information at our fingertips in the home, and help students learn more effectively both in and
out of the classroom. These personal gains meant that people would see computers as practical
and useful tools in their everyday lives.
Since the late 1980s, multimedia technology and applications have found many places in our
At home where a wide variety of games and reference products such as encyclopedias
and cookbooks are put to use
At the office where marketing presentations and training are essential how to get a new
At school where interactive software programs assist students in learning mathematics,
science, and new languages
In shopping malls where interactive computer terminals, called kiosks, help us to design
greeting cards or to find out where specific stores are located
As you can see, the impact of multimedia technology on our daily lives is often more than we
realize. The bottom line is that if there is a need to inform, teach, or entertain multimedia
technology can play a key role.
Usage / Application
Multimedia finds its application in various areas including, but not limited to, advertisements,
art, education, entertainment, engineering, medicine, mathematics, business, scientific
research and spatial temporal applications. Several examples are as follows:
Creative industries use multimedia for a variety of purposes ranging from fine arts, to
entertainment, to commercial art, to journalism, to media and software services provided for
any of the industries listed below. An individual multimedia designer may cover the spectrum
throughout their career.
Much of the electronic old and new media used by commercial artists is multimedia. Exciting
presentations are used to grab and keep attention in advertising. Business to business, and
interoffice communications are often developed by creative services firms for advanced
multimedia presentations beyond simple slide shows to sell ideas or liven-up training.
Multimedia is heavily used in the entertainment industry, especially to develop special effects
in movies and animations(VFX, 3D animation, etc.). Multimedia games are a popular pastime
and are software programs available either as CD-ROMs or online. Some video games also use
multimedia features. Multimedia applications that allow users to actively participate instead of
just sitting by as passive recipients of information are called Interactive Multimedia.
In Education, multimedia is used to produce computer-based training courses and reference
books like encyclopedia. A user goes through a series of presentations, text about a particular
topic, and associated illustrations in various information formats.
The idea of media convergence is also becoming a major factor in education, particularly higher
education. Defined as separate technologies such as voice (and telephony features), data (and
productivity applications) and video that now share resources and interact with each other,
synergistically creating new efficiencies, media convergence is rapidly changing the curriculum
in universities all over the world.
Multimedia teaching is more intuitive than old ways; teachers can simulate situations in real
life. In many circumstances teachers do not have to be there, students will learn by themselves
in the class. More importantly, teachers will have more approaches to stimulating students’
passion of learning.
Journalism: News reporting is not limited to traditional media outlets. Freelance journalists can
make use of different new media to produce multimedia pieces for their news stories. It
engages global audiences and tells stories with technology, which develops new
communication techniques for both media producers and consumers.
Multimedia reporters who are mobile (usually driving around a community with cameras, audio
and video recorders, and wifi-equipped laptop computers) are often referred to as Mojos, from
Engineering: Software engineers may use multimedia in Computer Simulations for anything
from entertainment to training such as military or industrial training. Multimedia for software
interfaces are often done as collaboration between creative professionals and software
Industry: In the Industrial sector, multimedia is used as a way to help present information to
shareholders, superiors and coworkers. Multimedia is also helpful for providing employee
training, advertising and selling products all over the world via virtually unlimited web-based
Mathematical and scientific research: In mathematical and scientific research, multimedia is
mainly used for modeling and simulation. For example, a scientist can look at a molecular
model of a particular substance and manipulate it to arrive at a new substance.
Medicine: In Medicine, doctors can get trained by looking at a virtual surgery or they can
simulate how the human body is affected by diseases spread by viruses and bacteria and then
develop techniques to prevent it.
Document imaging: Document imaging is a technique that takes hard copy of an
image/document and converts it into a digital format (for example, scanners).
Disabilities: Ability Media allows those with disabilities to gain qualifications in the multimedia
field so they can pursue careers that give them access to a wide array of powerful