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Re: XML multimedia specs -- help for the bewildered, please?
- From: Chuck White <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- To: Mike.Champion@SoftwareAG-USA.com, email@example.com
- Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2001 09:14:38 -0700
XML multimedia specs -- help for the bewildered, please?I've spent most of
my professional life in graphics and the communication arts, either on the
ad agency side or for in-house graphics/creative departments, and I've been
watching XML's contributions to the graphics world closely. I take a user's
perspective within groups or lists like this one, which is pretty much why I
keep my mouth shut except when user-related issues like this come up.
Unfortunately, all of the graphics-related specs are plagued with the
internecine warfare that companies feel compelled to wage in order to gain a
marketplace advantage. SMIL has always suffered from lukewarm support from
Microsoft. Currently, there are three major formats that have to be taken
into account for video distribution: Windows Media Player files, Real Media,
and now Quicktime, which is gaining momentum. Quicktime and Real Media use
SMIL to manage synchronization (if you want to use XML for managing sync),
but Windows Media uses ASX.
Microsoft also has its own vector markup language (VML) that they like to
say is not meant to compete with SVG (http://www.w3.org/TR/SVG/) but does.
If SVG rather than VML was used to convert PowerPoint presentations, what
effect would that have on SVG's success in the marketplace? (not that many
people bother with such conversions). Similarly, Macromedia has been pretty
silent on SVG, I'm sure because they perceive it as a threat to Flash. Why
they can't simply incorporate it into Flash is beyond me. There are folks
who have already come up with conversion utilities, so it's not a technical
So, currently, there is very little ROI in multimedia, which is why you see
so much lousy work out there.
The short answer, then, is none of the languages you mentioned fit together
because companies won't agree on the global standards necessary to make them
work. I'm sure various representatives from these companies on this list
will beg to differ, but until a spec proves ubiquitous I'm not presenting it
as a commercially viable option to any of my clients, who are only
interested in smooth, painless implementations.
Right now our conmpany's use of XML is limited to some server-side
implementations, generally as a way to communicate with Flash files or
convert the occasional XML file to PDF. Of course, web services are pretty
interesting, but that's another subject.
Now that you've seen the short version of my rant, I'd say the one to watch
is SVG because you can, potentially, build an entire site with it. You can
build menus, interactive elements, animation (especially when combining with
SMIL). In order to gain a true foothold in the designer community a powerful
visual editor is needed that allows folks to manipulate the DOM. Adobe
Illustrator has an SVG pallete that makes it possible to do such scripting,
but no designers I know would be willing to plunge that deeply into the
level of coding necessary to make it work. The spec has just turned into a
Proposed Recommendation, so hopefully things will take off soon. Macromedia
could give SVG a serious kick start, but I haven't seen any indications that
they are prepared to do so.
I do think that the real sleeper in all of this may just be XSLFO (XSL
Formatting Objects), but that's a long way off. The simple fact that none of
the major software vendors has created an alternative (yet) makes it
As for 3D, currently, there are two areas of activity that I'm aware of (but
there may be more): the X3D spec you mentioned and a 3D language being
pushed by Viewpoint and Adobe
(http://www.viewpoint.com/developerzone/5-0.html). Naturally, these groups
don't seem to be working together, but I could be mistaken.
I don't know if this helps at all, or if this just served as an opportunity
to voice my displeasure over the way companies handle spec development. If
it's the latter, my apologies, but these things need to be said from time to
The Tumeric Partnership
Author, Mastering XML, Premium Edition
Sybex Books, May, 2001
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2001 3:06 PM
Subject: XML multimedia specs -- help for the bewildered, please?
I've been seeing announcements about various XML-related specs having to do
with multimedia and rich graphics. Does anyone have some perspective as to
how they fit together (or don't), which have the most potential in the "real
world", and any observations as to what (if anything) one can do with
generic XML tools to work with these formats? Is there some good
independent/neutral source of information about this stuff?
The ones I know of include:
SMIL 2.0 (new W3C Recommendation, see http://www.w3.org/TR/smil20/)
X3D (successor to VRML) launched
MPEG-7 (an XML packaging format to bind multimedia objects together?)