Module 1 - Definitions


What is multimedia?
What is it used for?
What types of multimedia programs are there?
What are multimedia elements?
What do we need to make it?
Jumping right in!
Things to do


You will be able to: 

  • define what multimedia is and describe some of its applications
  • understand the three different basic interactivity models
  • describe the elements and basic tools required for multimedia production
  • realize the importance of organization and planning 


What is multimedia?
As little as 15 years ago, multi-media was a term that referred to the use of a variety of media in a single application.  For example, if you made a presentation using a film projector,  a slide projector and an audio tape with music on it, it was considered to be a multi-media presentation. 
Since about 1985, the word multimedia (notice how the hyphen has dropped out to indicate popular useage) has been related more and more to computer hardware and software.  Today, the word multimedia has come to mean any combination of text, graphic art, sound, animation and video delivered on a computer platform or other electronic device.
Humankind has always sought to express itself and communicate ideas.  The invention and use of the printing press over 500 years ago started a new revolution, and changed the way humans communicated and spread information. Multimedia is part of the modern electronic revolution that is changing the way we give and receive information. Some countries think that multimedia is so important, they have included it in the curriculum of primary schools (Austrailia, 1996). 

Multimedia is made possible today because of the increases in computer speed, bandwidth and storage space.  Consider that storing a few seconds of full screen video can take up as much space as thousands of pages of text!  Also, the relatively low cost of computers and connecting to the Internet or World Wide Web (WWW) brings multimedia technology into everyone's reach. 

What is it used for?

Here are some examples of the uses of multimedia: 

  • Home study
  • Product promotions and information
  • Entertainment
  • Training and Instruction
  • Exhibitions
  • Public relations
  • News
  • Hobbies
  • Advertising
  • Internet/intranet 
  • Shopping
  • Simulations of complex things
  • Virtual environments (being somewhere)
  • Reference and cataloguing systems (as in a library or spare parts shop)
  • Travel and Tourism
  • Resumes
As you can see, wherever there is a need to communicate an idea or give information, there is the potential for multimedia to deliver the goods. 

Due to recent increases in bandwidth, multimedia applications on the Internet are becoming very popular and wide-spread. Currently there is a shortage of good multimedia content, and the communication technology industry needs professionals that can contribute to the design and production of multimedia. 

What Types of Multimedia programs are there?

A Powerpoint presentation can be considered a multimedia presentation, however, to really excite the five senses and make our presentation more effective, we can give the program interactivity. This refers to the amount of control that the user has over the presentation.  How the user navigates through a multimedia program determines the amount of interactivity involved.   Imagine watching a computer game instead of playing one. Interactive multimedia engages the user and gets them involved with the content. 

There are basically three types of interactive programs: 

  • a linear presentation where you the author decides what order the information is presented in.

  • a branching program where the user has some control from a group of choices.

  • a hypermedia program where the user has complete control over the pace, order and content.

As you can see, the above hypermedia structure would be much more interesting to navigate through than a linear or branched one. You can appreciate the importance of planning ahead, as this type of structure can become quite complex rather quickly.

What are Multimedia Elements?

Most students are already familiar with the elements of multimedia: 

  • images - graphics, photography
  • sound - speaking, music, sound effects
  • text
  • video
  • animation
For you communication technology students, the good news is that everything you have learned about design, color, fonts, camera angles, lighting, editing and more, can be applied to creating multimedia!  In this course we will learn how to extend and apply our skills for multimedia. 

What do we need to create it?

We can already easily understand that we require creative skill and technology, but we also need organizational skills and business talent!  You may have to hire or manage additional people and make important decisions. 

Before we do anything, we need a plan.  "He who fails to plan, plans to fail".  Many of the same planning principles you learned for video production (including the storyboard) can be applied to multimedia. You can study a good example of the steps involved in creating a large, full-scale multimedia project by visiting the Studio 1151 website at the Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction (MCLI), Maricopa Community College. 
We require multimedia tools. These can be software programs like Photoshop or SoundEdit 16, or hardware like a video capture card.  These tools allow us to prepare our elements before they are incorporated in our finished product. 
A multimedia authoring tool is a software program that brings all of your elements together into a finished product ready to be used.  It is also where you will give your program user interactivity, and perhaps do some final editing on a few elements.  Some authoring tools such as Hyperstudio, have almost all of the multimedia tools you'll ever need incorporated in the program.  It contains a paint program and an interface for capturing or digitizing audio and video. 

Jumping Right-in! 

Sometimes the best way to learn about multimedia is to stop talking about it and do it! We do however have to realize that can be much to learn,  and that there are proper procedures to follow. We will plan, design and produce a small project to become more familiar with how multimedia works, then return to a more detailed approach later. 

The authoring program we have chosen for this introduction to multimedia is Hyperstudio.  This program is so intuitive and flexible that it is being used around the world by millions of students from Kindergarten to University level, as well as professional developers. 

Before we "jump right-in", we will look at several different examples of multimedia programs, and discuss various design concepts.  Your instructor will show you a variety of multimedia programs.  Perhaps you have a few favourites that you would like to share with the class.

Things to do  Michael Shaw, 1997