ULg AIM Networked Multimedia Computing
December 1993 - Liège
Ralf Steinmetz
IBM European Networking Center - Heidelberg

"Multimedia" means audio and/or video in a computer: a multimedia system is characterized by the integrated computer-controlled generation, manipulation, presentation, storage, and communication of independent discrete (such as text and images) and continuous media (such as audio and video).

A distributed multimedia system consists of four main building blocks which closely interact and relate to specific system components:

  1. Audio and video data is represented as samples and pixels. The notion of audio incorporates speech and music. Video evolved based mainly on TV, digital TV and HDTV developments. The resulting data rates together with the expected quality imply the use of compression techniques such as JPEG, H.261, MPEG and DVI to be performed by hardware and/or software.
  2. The workstation and high-speed network technology allow for multimedia computing. The main driving force in a local environment has been the optical storage technology which arises from the consumer market.
  3. On such a multimedia platform, audio and video demands for operating, database and communication services. The specific needs for real-time processing of these media are taken into account as system services. Essential issues are resource administration, scheduling and synchronization
  4. Programming abstractions like object oriented environments allow to interface the above mentioned services in a application friendly way. A document comprises a set of structured information to be presented to humans via appropriate user interfaces. Hypermedia techniques can be exploited to relate content provided by means of different media. In terms of standards MHEG provides a toolkit for building platform independent retrieval applications. Applications for cooperative work, networked kiosks or tutoring and education exploit the advent of the integrated new media in computing and communication.

This tutorial provides computer experts with an overall view of what is multimedia today and where the main challenges in contrast to conventional computing arise. The attendee should then be able to distinguish between easy to provide showcases versus the real integrated multimedia solutions.

Ralf Steinmetz received the M.Sc. (Dipl.-Ing.) degree in 1982, at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, and the Ph.D. degree (Dr.-Ing.) in 1986. Subsequently he joined the "Advanced Development Department" of Philips, Germany, where he was involved in an ISDN and established an ESPRIT project as part of multimedia workstations development activities. Since 1988 he has worked at the IBM European Networking Center (ENC) in Heidelberg, Germany. There he has been involved in various multimedia communication activities, including the leadership of the whole OS/2 multimedia transport system development and subsequently of the application projects. He lectures at the University of Frankfurt on "distributed multimedia systems". He is author of a technical book on multimedia technology, which reflects the major issues of a first in-depth publication and appear in early 1994, in German and in 1995, in English. He is editor of the magazine "Computer Communications" and of the "Distributed Systems Journal". He will be the associate-editor-in-chief of the upcoming "IEEE Multimedia Magazine". He has served as chair, vice-chair and member of various program and steering committees of multimedia workshops and conferences including "IEEE 1994 International Conference on Multimedia Systems" (as program chair).

This two-day tutorial was presented in Liege in December 1993.

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