Web browsers allow you to combine text, sound, and images both moving and still. Multimedia technology augments your message when used judiciously, however, you should always evaluate whether your combination of media offers an enhancement or distraction.


Realaudio - (RealNetworks) is created using RealProducer. It requires that the user have the RealPlayer plug-in. RealPlayer then acts as a separate application opening outside the browser window. You may view an example from "History and Politics Outloud" of a speech by Winston Churchhill.


Realvideo like Realaudio, is created by using RealProducer and viewed using RealPlayer. You may view an example from the PBS film "Houdini" Straitjacket Escape.

Quicktime - Made by Apple, it requires the Quicktime plug-in. Unlike RealPlayer, it can be "embedded" in a web page. You can see the same example, Straitjacket Escape, in Quicktime from the PBS film "Houdini." 


With streaming technology, your browser or plug-in can start displaying a video or audio file while it is downloading instead of waiting for the entire file to be present before playing. Streaming requires special server software. At Columbia, most of you will only have access to our regular web server for your files, so you will need to stick to technologies that do not require special server software for streaming. Fortunately, Quicktime developers have an additional option -- "fast-start streaming." Unlike real-time streaming (which Quicktime is capable of), fast start streaming allows your movie to start playing after some of the file has downloaded, but it uses standard Web protocols. So, if you'd like to take advantage of authoring streaming files here at Columbia, Quicktime fast-start streaming is an option.


Flash - (Macromedia) Requires the Flash plug-in and is played within a web page. The authoring software is a vector-based drawing program that allows you to create interactive animations. 

Shockwave - Requires the shockwave plug-in and is authored using Macromedia Director, previously better known as a CD-ROM authoring tool. Like Flash it plays within a Web page. 

dHTML or dynamic html is actually a combination of cascading style sheets, part of the HTML 4.0 specification, and a scripting language, most often javascript. CSS allows you to position elements and javascript then animates them. Although it doesn't require the author to use any particular software to script, there are a few programs that offer a visual interface and easy dHTML scripting, the most popular being Macromedia's Dreamweaver. Users don't need a special plug-in, but they must visit the site with a javscript enabled, 4.0 or above Web browser.

Interactive Elements 

It is a myth that using multimedia makes your site inherently interactive. However, you may use multimedia to create interactive elements. dHTML allows you to manipulate any page element. For example, layers can be dragged around the screen by your users as in this puzzle. Flash has very powerful drawing and animating functions. It is an excellent tool for creating a sophisticated user interface, however, its interactivity is limited to rather basic navigational elements. Director is usually required for high end interactive interfaces such as games. This is probably why the Web designers at PBS chose to use Director to create their shockwave game, Save Houdini

Authoring Facilities

Teachers College i-designstudio - CCTE students
Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) - instructors and faculty members