See J. Burger, Multimedia for Decision Making (1994); P. M. Dillon and D. C. Leonard, Multimedia Technology from A-Z (1995) and Multimedia and the Web from A-Z (1998); J. Keyes, The Ultimate Multimedia Handbook (1996).
Multimedia is media and content that utilizes a combination of different content forms. The term can be used as a noun (a medium with multiple content forms) or as an adjective describing a medium as having multiple content forms. The term is used in contrast to media which only utilize traditional forms of printed or hand-produced general, multimedia includes a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video, and 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 performance. Multimedia (as an adjective) also describes electronic media devices used to store and experience multimedia content. Multimedia is similar to traditional mixed media in fine art, but with a broader scope. The term "rich media" is synonymous for interactive multimedia. Hypermedia can be considered one particular multimedia application.
Multimedia contains a combination of content forms:
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Multimedia may be broadly divided into linear and non-linear categories. Linear active content progresses without any navigation control for the viewer such as a cinema presentation. Non-linear content offers user interactivity to control progress as used with a computer game or used in 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.
Multimedia presentations may be viewed in person on stage, projected, transmitted, or played locally with a media player. A broadcast may be a live or recorded multimedia presentation. Broadcasts and recordings can be either analog or digital electronic media technology. Digital online multimedia may be downloaded or streamed. Streaming multimedia may be live or on-demand.
The various formats of technological or digital multimedia may be intended to enhance the users' experience, for example to make it easier and faster to convey information. Or in entertainment or art, to transcend everyday experience.
Enhanced levels of interactivity are made possible by combining multiple forms of media content. Online multimedia is increasingly becoming object-oriented and data-driven, enabling applications with collaborative end-user innovation and personalization on multiple forms of content over time. Examples of these range from multiple forms of content on Web sites like photo galleries with both images (pictures) and title (text) user-updated, to simulations whose co-efficients, events, illustrations, animations or videos are modifiable, allowing the multimedia "experience" to be altered without reprogramming. In addition to seeing and hearing, Haptic technology enables virtual objects to be felt. Emerging technology involving illusions of taste and smell may also enhance the multimedia experience.
In the intervening forty years the word has taken on different meanings. In the late 1970s the term was used to describe presentations consisting of multi-projector slide shows timed to an audio track. In the 1990s it took on its current meaning. In common usage the term 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.
The term "multimedia" is also ambiguous. Static content (such as a paper book) may be considered multimedia if it contains both pictures and text or may be considered interactive if the user interacts by turning pages at will. Books may also be considered non-linear if the pages are accessed non-sequentially. The term "video", if not used exclusively to describe motion photography, is ambiguous in multimedia terminology. Video is often used to describe the file format, delivery format, or presentation format instead of "footage" which is used to distinguish motion photography from "animation", motion illustrations. Multiple forms of information content are often not considered multimedia if they don't contain modern forms of presentation such as audio or video. Likewise, single forms of information content with single methods of information processing (e.g. non-interactive audio) are often called multimedia, perhaps to distinguish static media from active media.
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:
Learning theory in the past decade has expanded dramatically because of the introduction of multimedia. Several lines of research have evolved (e.g. Cognitive load, Multimedia learning, and the list goes on). The possibilities for learning and instruction are nearly endless.
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 a collaboration between creative professionals and software engineers.
Multimedia and the Internet require a completely new approach to writing. The style of writing that is appropriate for the 'on-line world' is highly optimized and designed to be able to be quickly scanned by readers.
A good site must be made with a specific purpose in mind and a site with good interactivity and new technology can also be useful for attracting visitors. The site must be attractive and innovative in its design, function in terms of its purpose, easy to navigate, frequently updated and fast to download.
When users view a page, they can only view one page at a time. As a result, multimedia users must create a ‘mental model of information structure’.
Patrick Lynch, author of the Yale University Web Style Manual, states that users need predictability and structure, with clear functional and graphical continuity between the various components and subsections of the multimedia production. In this way, the home page of any multimedia production should always be a landmark, able to be accessed from anywhere within a multimedia piece.