Incorporating multi-Media Into Your Web Site

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Lately there has been an increasing number of folks talking about and using multimedia in their sites. A common thread exists in that most seem to think multimedia is super complicated and/or expensive to do. The answer is that it CAN be either and/or both but does not HAVE to be complicated or expensive. Simple multimedia projects can be created in minutes. The more one wants the multimedia to do, however, the more complicated and time consuming it will become. This is why many objects in this article are linked to more information. The amount of information on these subjects is staggering.
Doing multimedia on computers first became available to masses of desktop computer users with the Apple Macintosh in the 80s. These machines allowed one to build pages with graphics, even wrapping text around irregular objects. Graphs could be more easily generated from data. Sound and video capabilities soon followed with full editing and production of both. Animation was a shoe in. Science and engineering added yet another layer to all these. Today the world of multimedia is nearly as wide as the mind’s eye.
Lets take a look at what multimedia is. It is as its name says -multi and media – different kinds of files making something one can see and many times interact with. Multimedia is generally associated with movies but in reality there are many kinds of media (multi).

Multimedia is media and content that uses 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. . . . . Multimedia includes a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video, or interactivity content forms. In order to work with the various types of media effectively, it is very helpful to know about the different kinds of media and how to incorporate them into your presentation.
Multimedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There are many categories of media, among them many types of digital files are used. (Honestly, it’s a real zoo in media file types if you are a techie!) The creation and incorporation of these files into your site is different for each type of media.
Pictures/Imagery
The most simple media is the picture, the still image, usually from some type of camera. Pictures are but one type of imagery. For more types of imagery, one of the best sources is NASA. Other types of imagery include thermal, radio, sonar, infrared, digital, and various types Remote Sensingof remotely sensed data such as this water cycle observation image on the right, where once translated are presented as what we see as a “picture”. Once one adds a picture (image) to a web page the world of multimedia is opened. Pictures are the best known and most used type of media. They come in many file formats, types of graphics files. Two of the most commonly used are the jpg and gif formats.
The jpg is by far the most used and useful and versatile picture file format yet. It avails itself to being resized, having its resolution changed, edited, and much more. There are many free and premium programs available to edit these with Adobe Photoshop being the top of the list. This program has set the standard for all others since. JPEG (jpg and jpeg are used interchangeably) is the dominant file format for digital cameras, scanners, and the internet with gif second.
The gif file was the 1987 brainchild of CompuServe, was designed as a cross platform graphics interchange format that has the ability to have transparent background and limited motion capabilities. With this type of picture simple animations can be produced that can be overlaid onto other mediums still showing the medium beneath. These files are used a lot as very small motion thumbnails and buttons. Many of the buttons in this article were originally jpg files that were converted to gif formats in order to take advantage of its background transparency attributes.
There is no limit to what can be said by the content of a picture. Adam points this out in his article Are Your Images Worth A Thousand Words?. A picture plus a thousand words can rule.
One of the easiest jobs to do with a picture is have the full size image pop up from a thumbnail as with the mountain photo on the right. This is accomplished with almost no code. You see this a lot in photo shows. Another is to link a picture to another part of the page or to another page – a little more code but still not rocket science. There are many tools on most platforms to make creating these easy. Putting images to your text adds a whole new dimension to the presentation. Stories can be told by the pictures themselves while the image itself, or parts of it, serves as a method of linkage to more material/content as well as conveying a message-idea.

Web/Image Maps

Another popular tool is the web map, sometimes called an image map. This a process that makes areas of a picture active so that clicking on different areas of the image are active links. A good explanation is where one has generic box like the one on the right. Each block is active such that clicking on a block takes one to that article. The possibilities are endless. One of the most popular uses is in interactive mapping where one can click on a city or state and bring up related materials. There are many programs to facilitate creating these, some without writing any code at all. Again with most good tools, this process requires little rocket science. There’s lots freeware page editors that can build these. Image maps can be used as navigational tools and much more.
Sound

We tend not to think of sound when we think of multimedia, but sound is a very important aspect. Sound comes in many formats from many sources. Computer wise one of the most popular is the mp3. Another is the WAV type. Without going into computerese lets say that there are many many, more of these, and if you have a good converter, it doesn’t make much difference what the sound type is, it can be converted and manipulated. Today sound can even be input from a smart phone onto a computer and used in media production for web or other application. The average computer comes equipped to record sound, too – most desktop computers generally do not come with microphones. Many laptops do have a built in mic. There are lots of freeware applications for your platform – whether you are on a Mac or PC or Linux, or whatever, that allow one to edit sound. Possibilities are unlimited. Sound editing is not difficult and can be fun. Equipment needed can be minimal. Playing sound from the internet generally depends on how you have your browser set up.

 
Video
The word video is Latin for I see. The first modern video recorder was invented in 1951 and recorded images from TV cameras onto tape. By 1956 a machine could be bought for $50,000, used a tape with one hour recording time possible on reels for $300 each. Today video can be created from many sources, from cellular phones to high end video cameras, easily and cheaply. It can be imported from ready made sources, easily manipulated, and output as whatever format needed. Readily available software and hardware allow for blue screen effect as well as “Ken Burns” effects. Lets not kid ourselves, doing video can become complicated! One can spend eons just setting up scenes without ever shooting the first sequence. Editing can be quite involved. Final output often requires fast computers, sometimes dedicated to video processing.
For the person who wants to use video in their blog, the suggestion here is to keep it simple, think before you leap, be innovative, and aware of budget-time considerations.

There are a couple of easy ways to put video into your blog. One is to import it directly. The other is to link it to a YouTube video. Both work. Having them on YouTube gets you more hits but loading time may be slower depending on network traffic.
Another great video tool is the screen capture software that can capture your computer screen actions and turn them into a movie such as the one in How To Align YouTube Videos In WordPress? by Adam. This is an excellent tool for creating learning media, on line manuals, and more.

Nowadays there are repositories of predone video much in the same vein as image libraries. With video there is proportionately less free access – not as many free media libraries and the like as with 2-dimensional pictures, though.
A web capable video camera can be found from inexpensively to cheap all over. Newer smart phones come with higher resolution video cameras that give credible web results. From there are, still cameras that do video, through dedicated video cameras.
Be aware that most lower end video cameras do not come with the ability to plug in an external microphone. Having this capability allows one to use remote and wireless microphones. If you want good sound in your videos, use cameras that have this option.
Being able to do Blue Screens sometimes called “Chroma Key“, is now available to the home video editor. Blue screen is a technique most of us know from watching the weather person on TV. The visuals we see behind the weather person are not actually there, but can be anything. They see their background on monitors that are off camera. This technology is available to the average consumer today.

pdf
Commonly known as Acrobat files, the pdf is one of the most underrated file types as for its usefulness. It’s heaviest uses are in the publishing industries and advertising, where they are employed as the medium of commentary during prepress, because of their ability to have notes pasted on top of layouts without disturbing the original at all. The versatility goes further with its ability to embed various file types like movies and sound, within its pages. One of the popular ebook formats is this file type.
Another of its pluses is its ability to be viewed on just about any computer no matter its operating system, make, or model. This and the relatively small size of the files produced by this format make it very useful. Outside the advertising and publishing industries the capabilities of this file type are generally overlooked.
 
Streaming Media
As the name implies, this type of media is being constantly received. These streams can be stored on servers and/or, can be live. A heavily used streaming media is the web cam. Others are internet TV and radio. Most video one sees on the internet is streamed to the user. Buffering, is the process of saving the media to one’s local hard drive before beginning the stream, in order to have the media play smoothly. This may delay the video and/or make it stop-start. Media is streamed to the user’s machine, viewed or used, and then deleted, as part of the process. The webcast and podcast are other examples of streaming media. One of the first streaming media projects on the web was the fella who put a web cam on his goldfish tank and streamed his fish to the world 24-7. Today streaming technology is used in such projects as the USGS Volcano Cams and remote monitoring of security camera systems. Software and technologies are readily available to create streams.

 
Animation
Animation is the effect of making objects appear to move. There are tools that assist one in producing simple animations. Anything beyond this and complexity increases by quantum leaps. Full animation actually requires much faster computers than normally used for business, more like top line gaming machines, to “render” the animations once they have been created and programmed. These usually are dedicated to this task and may take several days to complete one job -no more than a few minutes of actual video. The Jeff Lew production of Killer Bean is a top line example of what can be done by one human with animation.
Animation can be created from scratch. Each character and object can be manipulated individually. Virtual worlds can be created for these animations. This technology is heavily used in gaming. Of course if you’ve seen Star Wars and other modern movies, you have seen that animation can be integrated with video, to take both to another level yet. Animation takes objects you create or import, turns them into 3D, and applies them to time in virtual space. Full blown animation can be compared to rocket science. Killer Bean took five years to produce, if that’s any indicator of how involved animation can be!

 
Flash
In today’s world Flash is one of the greatest tools since the hoe. What can be, and has been done with this program, is huge. Thanks to its ability to import almost any file type and work with it freely, along with internal timing, and animation, capabilities, Flash has risen to the top of multimedia creators. One of its strengths can be seen in the header to this site – The whole shooting match being generated from WordPress to Flash, without any actual coding by the author. Your abilities to create interactive, graphically oriented, interactive, pictures and animations from a near limitless array of sources, with this tool, is its strength. The output is able to be used on many, if not most, computers transparently.
 

Infographics

Infographics are visual representations of data. They have become increasingly popular. There are many free programs that help produce these. Some of the free ones can be found at 10 Awesome Free Tools to Make Infographics. Of course, you can create your own from scratch. Programs like Excel are excellent for generating graphs from data for use in these. A sample infographic can be found at Pure Content. Another site of interest is the Infographic Academy.

An industrial use for infographics is in environmental remediation. One of my job duties, a part of my job description – cartographer, was to make underground maps from drilling sample data, in order to present this information to the EPA for their decision making in cleaning up jet fuel spills from underground storage tanks. These maps were compiled and displayed in a manner formatted over time, essentially displaying contamination and cleanup for some period of years. The results of these data, these reports with their infographs, determined direction of expenditure of tens of millions of dollars at each site.
Infographics are heavily employed in business. They are primarily used in presentations where the king of the hill is Microsofts PowerPoint. The advertising industry makes extensive use of infographics as does telecommunications. And of course there’s retail.
 

Podcasts

Podcasts are media files (either audio or video) subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication. The name comes from the popularity of the iPod. The files are held on servers and their lists are kept for access by client software. New and changed files are flagged and can be downloaded for later use. This is different from streaming media in that the files are downloaded to the user’s device or computer and stored for use whenever. The nature of podcasting is that the consumer is a producer and the producer is a consumer. CNN is a big user and publisher of podcast news. Some of their regular TV shows are also podcasted.
 
RSS
RSS is not a multimedia format of its own but a method of delivery. I include it here because by using this technology one gains access to a world of multimedia. Its usefulness is tracking frequently updated works such as blogs or news. Included as a standard feature on many smart phones today, RSS allows one to keep up on the latest updates at selected sites, with one’s portable device, such as smart phone or iDevice. Alerts can be set so that each time new content is added, the user is notified. Links in RSS content station and header lists are opened and can be read with the software, with contained links that can then be viewed in the default browser.

With RSS one can use or run feed reading software, embed those articles into a web site, and have the feeds updated dynamically. World and regional news is distributed in this way from outlets like BBC and Reuters.
 
WordPress
With blogging has evolved WordPress. It is THE tool, although not the only tool, for putting a blog together, and is geared toward not having to write much, if any, code. It has provision to import blocks of code as well as many different kinds of graphics-multimedia. There are plug ins that do jobs like scripting the header of this site. One very important note – in order to work with video, sound, and raw code (even HTML), in WordPress, the proper plug-ins must be used. If full page editing is what you do then WordPress can be used to generate whole suites of code that can be plugged into whatever you see fit. This is handy when embedding a blog within a web site. For code writers, there are settings, adjustments, and plug-ins, that help prevent WordPress from changing manually input or imported code. Start with turning off WYSIWYG editing in your profile so that it is not there to accidentally access at all, as this mode is a major source of headache for making unwanted/unneeded changes to your code. Endeavor-Online is created with WordPress.

The Final Comedown
So what can be done with multimedia on a blog? Or any other website? The possibilities are endless. Having the “right” tools and the knowledge, savvy, and cajones to use them is a must.
An interesting and expanding tool is OpenOffice, a productivity environment similar to MS Office. It is developing as open source so the program is free to use under those terms. One advantage is its drawing package. Another is it’s spreadsheet. If one needs graphics from scratch, take a look at Inkscape. It is more like the long extinct MacDraw Pro of Macintosh fame. Old version software also offers savings and much of it can be run with VMWare. See where multimedia can become very techy, very quickly!
One of the popular uses of multimedia to generate revenue, is training and information materials in various formats from hard copy to digital. These products can be, sold on line, by subscription, (Remember that stuff, books, etc.?). Disks can be sold by mail and/or on line as disk images that the customer can purchase to burn onto physical disks or mount as virtual disks. Video in particular itself can be marketed.
ReelSEO is an interesting web site. They show how multimedia can be used to showcase product and other services, to give news, to highlight other sites and new ideas, as well as how premium web pages can be used. This site deals with many aspects of on line multimedia marketing and itself, is a prime example of multimedia marketing.
Overall, multimedia can be a fun, and very useful tool. Try it, you’ll like it.
Go see what Endeavor-Online has to offer to help you get your website or blog on with MultiMedia.

Please feel free to comment down below and add to the above conversation. Plus, if you like this article Tweet it, share it in Facebook or your favorite social media outlets.
Here’s to your successful online endeavor!
-Quest.

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