Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Multimedia Software

Multimedia Software

Multimedia software encompasses a wide variety of software that allows you to combine images with text, music and sound, animation, video, and other special effects. This category of software can be broken down into several sub-categories The sub-categories of multimedia software are:
  • Multimedia Authoring;
  • Multimedia for the Web;
  • Business Presentation;
  • Animated Greetings;
  • Screen Saver Creation;
  • Slide Show Software;
  • Multimedia Photo Albums;
  • Multimedia Authoring.
This category of multimedia software is by far the most versatile. It can be used to create anything from simple slide shows to full-blown games and interactive applications. There are literally thousands of uses for this type of software: computer-based training, surveys, quizzes and tests, encyclopedias, games, interactive kiosks, interactive presentations, screen savers, CD-ROM/DVD content creation, and advertisements to name a few.

You're likely to find support for a wide variety of multimedia file formats including images, video, and sound, but you're less likely to see clip-art and sound libraries bundled with this type of software compared to some of the other multimedia software programs. High-end products in this category will offer database support for data-driven content. Some products allow you to author in a WYSIWYG environment (what you see is what you get), while others use a timeline-based environment. Although it's not required for all software in this category, much of it involves learning advanced programming and scripting languages to utilize its full capabilities.

Content is definitely intended for distribution and the software generally has some means of exporting projects to self-running, self-installing files. Many products in this category allow you to export your content as screen savers as well. If you intend for your projects to be cross-platform compatible, be sure to carefully examine the product's export specifications; many of these products will only produce stand-alone files for the Windows platform.

Multimedia for the Web

Software in this category allows you to combine images, audio, text, and animation, and publish it to the web as streaming multimedia. Streaming means that the files do not have to be completely downloaded before the viewer starts to see them. Usually a portion of the content is downloaded, and the remainder is downloaded while the content is being viewed. Uses for this type of content include: interactive picture albums, virtual galleries, slide shows, product demonstrations, tutorials, brochures, movies, cartoons, walk-through demonstrations, and advertisements.

Most of this type of software requires the viewer to install a plug-in or player in order to view the content. However, some products utilize technology that is already included with the latest Web browsers. If you use these products, it's important to be aware of what is required of your Web page visitors in order for your content to be seen. Many Web surfers are not willing to upgrade their browsers or install additional software to get to the content they're looking for. Another consideration with some products in this category is your Web server; be sure you're aware of any server-side requirements.

Often these products will allow you to publish two versions of your content. One version is published strictly with HTML and doesn't include all the bells and whistles of the multimedia project, but it allows most users to get to the content they want. The alternate version will require additional download time or a plug-in, but the viewer will be able to see, hear, and interact with the content exactly as it was intended. Much of this software utilizes compression technology to create the smallest possible files, thereby reducing the download time and wait time for the viewer.

Animated Greetings Software

This type of software allows you to create personalized electronic greetings with your own images, text, and sound files. Your completed projects can be saved as self-running files that can be sent as e-mail attachments or posted on the Web for downloading. The recipient of your custom animated greeting creations need no additional software to view the greeting. This software ranges from the very basic, which limits you to slight modification of the predesigned templates, to fully-customizable software with timelines, effects, and other advanced features.

You'll want to make sure the product you choose can support all the image files you use, otherwise you'll need a program to convert your images to a supported format. For instance, not all software allows you to import animated GIF files. Most software of this type will support WAV and MIDI files for sound, but not all of them can use MP3 and Real Audio files. If you think you'll want to use these types of files, be sure the product you choose supports it. Some animated greeting software allows you to import MPEG, QuickTime, and AVI movies also.
You'll also want to find out if the software limits you to working with templates, or if you can create project completely from scratch. If the software includes pre-designed templates, try to find out how many templates are included. Some software comes with libraries of clip-art, animations, backgrounds, sound effects, and music. These bonuses can add value to your purchase and allow you to be more creative. Other extras you may wish to look for in a program include: transition effects such as swipes and fades for moving between pages or scenes, decorative effects such as borders, simple drawing tools for creating shapes and lines, and text effects for animating and formatting text in various ways.

These files can become quite large in file size, making them impractical for distributing online.

Screen Saver Software

Software in this category generally falls under two types. The first type allows you to create custom screen savers that can be distributed and run as screen savers by others. The second type runs on a single computer and uses your own images and sound files to display a slide-show style screen saver.

Both types of screen saver software usually allow you to add text captions and transition effects. Other features you may find are image effects such as borders and frames, custom backgrounds using textures or gradients, background music, timing controls, and motion effects.

Screen saver software that does not create screen savers for distribution usually runs in the under $25 price range. The cost of screen saver creation software is much higher when the screen savers will be distributed. Like multimedia authoring software, it's not uncommon to find a tiered pricing structure with one price for personal use, another price for business use, and often a third price covering unlimited royalty-free commercial distribution. Be sure you understanding the licensing agreement if you intend to resell or distribute your creations. For instance, a business-use license may allow you to create screen savers with your corporate logo and give them away freely, but if you are creating custom screen savers and reselling them at a profit, you'll probably need a commercial-use license.

Business Presentation Software

This type of software is intended for the business user, primarily for creating slide-show style presentations, overhead transparencies, reports, portfolios, and training materials. Pages in presentation software are often referred to as "slides". Completed presentations are frequently published in multiple formats which may include print, the Web, or electronic files.

Most often, presentation projects are used in live presentations. They are commonly projected onto large screens or printed on overhead transparencies. The slides may be distributed in printed form as handouts to accompany the live presentation. Slides are generally intended to be followed in an ordered sequence, although some presentations may utilize interactive forms of navigation. Commonly, this software uses proprietary file formats that are not intended for electronic distribution, although there may be add-ons available for exporting presentations to self-running files for distribution purposes. More and more of this software now has the ability to export to HTML for posting presentations on the Web.

Common features in this type of software include support for popular vector and bitmap image formats, sound effects, animation effects, and transitions. Most products include templates or themes to give the presentation a unified look. Often the software comes bundled with business oriented clip-art, backgrounds, and sound effects. You'll usually find some level of interactivity such as hyperlinking for navigation. OLE support is an important feature to ensure office-suite integration. Text support is often limited to short blocks of text rather than long paragraphs, but you'll often find special text effects for creating eye-catching headlines and bulleted lists. This software has a definite business emphasis, so you're not likely to find flashy effects and cute clip-art, but you will find in-depth help, templates, step-by-step design wizards, and tips to get you up and running quickly and efficiently.

Slide Show Software

This category has a lot in common with screen saver software. Often the only difference in features is the format of the resulting file. Most of these products produce self-running executable files that can be distributed on CD, floppy disk, and e-mail. Sometimes a separate player is required to view the slide shows, but commonly the player is packaged as part of the executable file so that the recipient does not need to install any additional software.

The slide shows you create will generally combine images, background music, transition effects, and captions. There is very little interactivity with the viewer, other than moving forward and backward in the sequence of slides.

Multimedia Photo Albums

This software has a lot in common with both slide show software and animated greetings software. The software allows you to organize your digital photo collection into albums with special effects and music. The albums can be saved and replayed for your own personal enjoyment, and some software also allows you to publish your albums to the Web or distribute them as self-running files.

Much of this software works in conjunction with partner Web sites that offer Web space to the users. This allows users to post their albums to the Web easily, and usually offers additional benefits such as password protection, plus community tools such as message boards and chat.

Adapted from: http://graphicssoft.about.com