The Multimedia Industry

Apple MacBook Pro keyboard with back lighting. An example of a multimedia type. ImageOutcomes:

This material on this page addresses aspects of the following syllabus outcomes:

A student:

H1.1 applies and explains an understanding of the nature and function of information technologies to a specific practical situation.
H2.2 develops and explains solutions for an identified need which addresses all of the information processes.
H4.1 proposes and justifies ways in which information systems will meet emerging needs.

Source: Board of Studies NSW, Stage 6 Information Processes and Technology,Preliminary and HSC Courses (2007)

The area of multimedia has grown rapidly over the past 10 years. As hardware and software have become more available for usage, even for everyday users, the needs of industry have continued to demand more and more processing speed and higher amounts of RAM to achieve the end goal.

People involved in the multimedia industry have a variety of roles and require particular skills that enable the production of multimedia systems.

Major uses of multimedia systems

  • Education and training
  • Leisure and entertainment
  • Information provision
  • Virtual reality and simulations
  • Combined areas

The influence of advances in technology on multimedia

Advances in technology including increased disk storage capacity, greater bandwidth capacities, improved resolution of capture devices and the increasing processing power of CPUs have influenced the development of multimedia systems.

Increased disk storage capacity as well as advanced codecs for compressing data have enabled the creation of high quality interactive multimedia products that can be stored with ease.

The speed and capacity of Internet connections have allowed large organisations, for example, to use online multimedia tutorials for computer based training (CBT). Home users interact with a multimedia websites for education purposes but more and more people now regard the net as a source of multimedia leisure and entertainment – online games, for example. Even traditional information providers such as newspapers and magazines are now creating Web-specific multimedia content.

The increased use of DVDs over the past few years has brought about a significant change in the way we look at multimedia. Not only do we see a video as it was meant to be, but we can also interact with DVDs and have more control of the content that is displayed.

The ever increasing speed and power of CPUs has had a tremendous influence on the ability of computers to create and display multimedia. High quality musical and video programs can be easily handled by modern CPUs, with the added benefit of being able to jump to any point in a program instantaneously.

How are multimedia systems displayed?

There is a variety of hardware that can be used to display and create multimedia, including:

  • Screens – CRT, LCD, plasma screens or touch screens
  • Digital projection devices
  • Speakers and sound systems
  • CD, DVD and video tape players
  • Head-up displays and headsets

How do we create a multimedia system using these display devices?

There are several methods that enable us to create a multimedia system using these display devices. The methods include the use of:

  • Presentation software
  • Software for video processing
  • Authoring software
  • Animation software
  • Web browsers and HTML editors.

Information processes in multimedia systems

Collecting When collecting data, we need to consider what data needs to be collected and how to collect such data.

Processing Multimedia systems need to process data for presentation. This covers the aspects of how text, number, audio, image, animation and video are integrated into the system.

Organising In order to organise a presentation from a multimedia system, we need to look at using a storyboard to show the flow of the screens. A storyboard can be in one of three main formats or a combination of all three together.

The three main formats are:

  • Linear
  • Hierarchical
  • Non-linear

Storing and retrieving There are various file formats used in multimedia systems that enable data to be stored and retrieved. Some of these formats are:

  • JPEG, GIF, PNG and BMP for images
  • Quicktime, MPG, AVI and WMV for video and animations
  • MP3, Wav, WMA and MIDI for audio
  • SWF for animations

What is a multimedia system?

In your studies so far, you have looked at many information systems and you have produced projects either as an individual or in groups. We will now look at multimedia systems. Before we can create a multimedia system from an information system, we need to look at what a multimedia system is and how it is made up.

What is a multimedia system?

The term multimedia refers to a variety of differing characteristics that make up a presentation of some type. These presentations will use all the characteristics in order to made a multimedia system.

Text, hypertext and numbers

In order to achieve any multimedia system, the following characteristics are important.

  • Text, hypertext and numbers are the building blocks of any multimedia system.
  • Text and numbers are the word-processed words that aid and begin communication in any information system.
  • Hypertext is the associations of these words into hot links that enable conections to other sections of text or other characteristics within a multimedia system. This begins a process of making the information system into a multimedia system through the linkages created and the content on the other side of the link.
  • The information contained is in static form to enable the reader to develop a written understanding rather than audio or visual communication.
  • Information technology that is required for text, hypertext and numbers consists of word processors that are capable of completing the links and are effective text converters, as some data may need to be changed from ASCII code in order to be used within the multimedia system.


This is the sound that has been captured and converted from a sound wave (analog) into a digital form. Consideration needs to be given as to the use of audio, as the file is usually very large and will need to be compressed. Information technology required for audio is varied, but audio can be captured mainly through a microphone and recorded onto the hard drive of your PC. Once there, the audio is modified and added into the multimedia system.

To find out more:

Images and/or animations

Images are either vector or bit-mapped images. Vector graphics use reference points that draw lines between two points. This enables memory to save the images much more effectively, as the frame buffer has to hold the information for only 2 sets of coordinates. Bit-mapped graphics take up more space in memory however; a more detailed shape can be drawn in this form of graphic. File compression will be needed in order to store the images in bit-mapped graphics. These images, which could include a photo, are said to be “static” or motionless.

Animations are images that appear to move. There are two types of animation.

  • Cell-based animation where each cell is reproduced and variations are made to the next cell. This continues until there is a series of cells. Each cell is slightly different from the An excellent example of cell-based animation is to watch any of the Disney movies especially Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. All cells were hand drawn and painted.
  • Path-based animation where the first (original) cell or frame is drawn and the last cell or frame is drawn. The software then fills in the gaps between (tweening) these two frames, giving the appearance of movement. An example of path-based animation is the ballroom scene from the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast.


Using video in multimedia systems enables moving images in real-time to be displayed to enhance the text, audio and other graphics images. Video is used to add extra meaning to the other characteristics. An example of this is in encyclopaedias, where video clips are inserted that reflect the content of the other features of the section displayed.


Hyperlinks and buttons are frequently employed to activate video within the presentation or navigate to another page or site.

Why is a multimedia system interactive?

A multimedia system enables the participants to create a realistic display and the ability to interact with the system. Tools such as buttons and hot spots created in applications enable the user to interact with the multimedia system. There is a need to ensure that the interactivity does not take away the meaning of the multimedia system.

What demands can be made on hardware in multimedia systems?

In developing a multimedia system, the participants need to consider the type of hardware as well as software used. The hardware must be capable of supplying the needs of the multimedia system. These needs are:

  • Primary and secondary storage capabilities – which will enable bit depth and colour to be represented and also enabling the audio data to be sampled.
  • Processing speed – which will enable video data and frames rates to be maintained, the processing of images such as morphing and distorting as well as animation.
  • Display devices – which are capable of displaying good pixel and resolution quality.

In order for hardware to cope with this demand, several components need to be installed. Such items as additional memory, both VRAM and RAM, as well as additional hard disk space. The hardware itself must have a high processing speed to enable the number crunching involved in processing the data, which can range from video and audio back to word processing. The monitor or VDU should be capable of displaying a large resolution capacity to enable it to display the digital data accurately.

Social and ethical issues related to multimedia systems


Copyright refers to the legal protection for people who express ideas and information in a variety of forms. The most common forms resemble the data types that are used in multimedia system: writing, visual images, music and moving images. Computer software is also protected by copyright laws. It is important that when you use data that is not your own it is acknowledged correctly and the author recognised and/or compensated.

Appropriate use of the Internet

Appropriate use of the Internet is an issue of concern throughout society. Many organisations monitor online activity by users and have guidelines that users are expected to follow. Now that multimedia content is so easily available online, there is even more unease about whether people are being responsible while, for example, at work or school. Many organisations, therefore, have guidelines regarding, for example, the creation, transmission, downloading of any offensive or obscene material.

The merging of radio, television, communications and the Internet

Increasing improvements in digital technology is blurring the lines between the traditional formats of radio, television and the Internet. Digital broadcasting is the catalyst for a new media delivering more diversity in content and a crossover between television, radio and online content.

The integrity of original source data

The quality of a multimedia system will depend significantly on the integrity of the data it contains. It is important to cross-reference material; – particularly if it is sourced from the Internet.; Unlike books, which must generally comply with the editorial policy of the publisher, there are few barriers to publishing on the web. As a rule, government and educational sites (particularly universities) are reliable whereas online documents that have unverifiable information are more likely to have questionable integrity.

Current and emerging trends in multimedia

An example of a current and/or emerging trend in multimedia is the increasing development of virtual worlds for entertainment and training.

Review questions

  1. Describe the characteristics of multimedia systems?
  2. Identify three hardware devices used for displaying multimedia.
  3. Identify three types of software used for creating multimedia.
    • Identify two file formats for each of the following data types:
    • audio
    • video
    • images
    • animation
  4. Describe the differences between print media and multimedia?
    • education and training
    • leisure and entertainment
    • information provision
    • virtual reality and simulations
    • combined areasFor each of the following areas, identify a situation where multimedia is used:
  5. Using the situations you have identified above, list the participants and information technology required for each of the multimedia systems.
  6. Briefly describe how improvements in bandwidth, increased storage capacity and powerful CPUs have influenced the development of multimedia?
    • presentation software
    • authoring software
    • animation software
    • web browsers/HTML editors
    • video processing softwareExplain how the types of software below can be used in multimedia systems:
  7. Explain the purpose of storyboards in terms of organising multimedia.
  8. Describe the three main layouts of a storyboard; use diagrams to illustrate your answer.
  9. Describe one method of audio data compression.
  10. Describe one method of video data compression.
  11. Outline the significance of codecs in terms of multimedia systems.
  12. Explain the process of morphing as it applies to digital images.
  13. Outline the role of content providers in the development of multimedia applications.
  14. Outline the role of project managers in the development of multimedia applications.
  15. Define the term ‘hypermedia’.
  16. Research a virtual world and and explain why this computer-based environment is an example of a multimedia system.
  17. Research the emerging technology of digital radio and outline the features it offers as compared to traditional analog radio.

Review questions (Sample answers)