Nothing on Telly? There Will Be
Homer, Steve, The Independent (London, England)
Multimedia, the combination of text, images, graphics, sound, animation and sometimes video, is beginning to move out on to wires. On corporate networks, on ISDN, on cable-TV systems, even on the ordinary telephone line, interactive multimedia is spreading everywhere.
The problem of "tele-multimedia" is the amount of data that has to be sent around. Sending text via a modem on a telephone line is straightforward because the files are small. So is a simple animation or still image. Sending a file containing high-quality sounds is considerably more difficult: it can take more than five minutes to send a half-minute audio clip. And sending TV-quality video takes forever. More than two hours for one minute . . . Tele-multimedia requires the designer to use some restraint.
Probably the most widely used form of tele-multimedia is the World Wide Web. "By its very nature, the WWW, with its combination of text and graphics, is multimedia," says Henry Ritson of UUNET Pipex. "Until the development of the WWW, the Internet was nearly all text-only."
Although the depth of multimedia and interactivity on the Web is still generally low, it is developing rapidly as animation and sounds are added to many Web sites. "At the moment, Web pages can be enhanced with logos spinning round and a small clip from the chairman's speech," says Mr Ritson. "But in four years' time we will probably look back and laugh at how basic it all is."
Companies are wondering how they should best use the Web but, according to Andy Mitchell, an account director at Digital Communications Ogilvy & Mather, they have a long way to go. "Most people's experience of the WWW is crushing disillusionment with the mediocre stuff in 2-D they see there. Many `good' sites look like they have been created by Sylvester Stallone - lots of flash and bang but no story. What companies need to create are sites with true meaning and benefits for the visitor."
This, given the current technical restraints, is difficult. "To make an audience come to your site you can use a lot of interactivity and a lot of multimedia," Mr Ritson says. "The downside is the more you put on, the slower it will take to download. …