We are in the process of upgrading our RealServer. You may have to
upgrade your RealPlayer to the "RealOne Player" in order to access
the sample files mentioned in this and related documents. There is still
a truly free RealOne player, but you need to look for it carefully
and it takes several clicks to get to the actual download from the Real home page. Currently, the first link
to click from there is in the upper right corner -- very easy to overlook.
Version 1.8.3 (February 22, 2000) -- version
Multimedia contents for course web pages:
A brief video in "streaming" format; requires the Real Player G2 which
can be downloaded for free
The file is served in Real's "surestream" mode, i.e. what
is served is adjusted to actual connection speed. If traffic is slow, you
may see a 12 kbps version with only a few video frames, but no continuous
motion. In that case, try again later. Your connection needs to support
20 kbps at minimum for somewhat decent video quality. This particular file
is optimized for modem connections; a T1 connection will not render better
results than a well working 56K modem connection.
I gratefully acknowledge the support provided
through a "New Teaching Initiatives" grant by the Office of the President.
Advisory for people planning to do similar explorations
RealNetworks.com announced a number of changes in "branding" and
pricing in connection with the final release of version 7 in December 1999.
The "Basic Server" is now called "RealServer Basic" and is still free;
the "Basic Server Plus" is now the "RealServer Plus" and sells for $1995
(rather than $695). In addition, the new version 7 requires a minimum of
512 MB memory (according to the installation instructions) though the sales
material on the company web side currently does not say so. It may be possible
to tweak the installation to make do with less memory.
So, moving on to the current version 7 requires a significantly higher
investment in server hardware as well as Real software license fees.
Background. For a while, the development of multimedia presentations
and course web pages has run along different tracks -- with powerful and
(relatively) user friendly software tools becoming available in each realm.
Now, surfing the Web, one easily finds many commercial sites that provide
multi-media contents over the Web. The question, then, is what can be done
with limited resources and very limited technical support at a public institution
of higher learning like Hunter College to enrich course pages with multimedia
contents. In each area, faculty have easy access to convenient tools
In theory, these tools can be easily combined since ERes can accommodate
any format, web servers can easily be configured to accommodate additional
file types, and a free Powerpoint viewer is available to amend web browser
(Netscape, MS IE) capabilities on the user side. No extra cost is involved.
The drawback, however, is that Powerpoint and other multi-media files tend
to be rather large, so that load times become rather long -- especially
over a slow modem connection and using less powerful work stations. (The
options for delivering Powerpoint
presentations via the Web are explored in more detail in a related
document.) With the advance of "streaming" technology, however, it is possible
to start displaying a large multimedia (or single media video or audio)
file while the download process from remote server site to user work station
like Powerpoint (which comes as part of the MS Office 97 package which
is available via the CUNY bulk purchase agreement for $40 or less) for
multi-media production and
like Netscape Composer or the html support built into recent versions of
WordPerfect and MS Word as well as -- at Hunter -- a convenient course
management system like ERes.
Streaming technology is still in its early stages, but no longer in
its infancy. Though there are different products and approaches, the RealSystem
emerged as an industry leader eclipsing early competitors like VDOlive.
However, both MS (Windos Media Player) and Apple(especially
with the "preview" release of Quicktime
4 in April 1999) also offer their own streaming solutions. One of the
largest web sites using streaming video (CNN)
offers all clips in two versions, for the RealPlayer and for the Windows
In 1998, Real Systems launched its G2 series (I trust G2 stands for
'second generation') and a multitude of products have become available
-- some for free, some for modest cost, some for real money. This page
documents my start into exploring these (low cost) products for
their potential of generating multi-media contents for college courses
and distributing it over the web (via course web pages).
Call for exchange of ideas and experiences. This is a start.
While I have used web course pages since fall 1995, my experience with
multimedia contents/presentations is still limited. So, most examples of
multimedia contents you see on this page are rather crude, quickly put
together to test the interplay with web distribution. As other colleagues
are beginning to take in interest in these issues I am getting better material
to experiment with, and I invite such collaboration.
Real Products Overview. I am not going into
any details here, check their web
site if you want more detail. However, it is important to realize that
these products fall into three categories and to understand the relevance
of each category for the purpose discussed here:
Starting with the last, the RealPlayer G2 is available
for free, a fancier version RealPlayer Plus G2 cost about $30. The latter
offers an option to record a streaming media presentation -- if the generator
(faculty member) has not protected the contents against recording. Unlike
regular web files and images that can be easily downloaded by the user
(student), Real contents cannot be easily captured (especially when a RealServer
is used). Using the Real tools thus provides much stronger
protection and strengthens a "fair use" claim. Of course, there
will be never be absolute protection for still images. As a still image
is displayed on the user's monitor, the screen can be captured (by simply
pressing the "Print Screen" key), pasted into any graphics or photo editing
program, and the screen shot cropped to the image it contains. But this
does not work with audio and video contents.
Production tools -- software that helps you (the faculty
member) to produce multimedia (audio, video) contents on your work station
and -- to a lesser degree -- to move it to a remote computer (server box)
Server tools -- special software that works in conjunction with
or in place of a regular web (httpd) server, which may or may not reside
on the same remote computer (server box); only system administrators would
deal with (install, maintain) such software. A special RealServer
is not necessary for small scale explorations, but it is necessary for
optimal performance and it is certainly necessary for regular course use.
Player tools -- software that works with a regular web browser (e.g.,
Netscape) and enables the user (student) to view the specially formatted
files generated by the production tools. A very recent addition (still
in beta release as of May 1999) is the Real Jukebox (comes as part of RealPlayer
Plus) which is actually part production and part player tool. As a production
tool, it allows you to "rip" off contents from any regular audio CD (which
you can play in your computer CD drive) and convert it into audio file
including the high quality mp3 standard.
A number of production
tools are also available for free, more elaborate versions as well
as related products sell at reasonable prices (like RealProducer Plus at
$150) or for real money (like RealProducer Pro for $500) . Another useful
tool is the Real
Presenter (about $40) which allows to convert a Powerpoint presentation
into Real format; but it is useful for Powerpoint presentation with audio
only and any animations are not preserved (details).
As to servers, Real contents can be served by a regular web server
(only minor adjustments in terms of specifying additional "mime types"
-- a five minute job for the system administrator -- are needed). All demonstrations
in this page are served from both a standard web server (Apache 2.5 running
under Linux kernel 2.0.32 on an i686; in October 1999 upgraded to Apache
3.1.6 running under Linux kernel 2.2. [Redhat Linux 6]) and -- initially
-- from the free
basic server from Real Systems. In March 1999, the Real Basic Server
G2 Plus (which then sold for $695) was installed and the links on this
page were changed accordingly. The
Real Basic Server was upgraded to version 6.1 (beta 2) on October 22,
With modem connections you are likely to see better connections via
the RealServer. I will keep the comparison with the regular server, because
setting up the RealServer requires the cooperation of the system administrator.
While refusing to add a few mime types would be sheer obstruction, some
system administrators may be balking at the suggestion to install the RealServer.
Unfortunately, not all computer support professionals are so helpful like
Andrew Blaner, David Gallagher, or Bill Gruber -- to name just a few outstanding
people I have had the pleasure to work with. So, settling for a regular
web server is a workaround for faculty at locations with an obstinate computer
Final note: The G2 player and production tools are available for Win9x
platforms as well as for Unix and Mac (final release of the latter in spring
Below are several samples of multi-media (audio, video) contents that were
produced without any extra cost involved, simply using free Real products
and using the standard web (httpd) server on the "maxweber" box. The latter
makes it necessary to pick a single rate for streaming contents:
28.8 as a low modem standard was chosen. In order to view these file,
you need to have the RealPlayer G2 installed. Older RealPlayers will not
work properly. If you don't have this player installed on your computer,
click on the button below to download the free
software. And, obviously, to experience audio contents you need to have
a sound card in your computer and speakers or headphones attached. Finally,
I have developed this contents using a monitor set to 800x600 resolution
and 16-bit (=high, =64000, =thousands) color. I am not sure what you will
get using other monitor settings -- some of the images will certainly look
pretty weird with lower color settings.
If you experience problems with viewing any
of the examples below, go to the troubleshooting
But keep in mind that all material is available
from two different servers, always try both.
However, since March 1999, both servers reside
on the same box ("maxweber").
This is an audio-only file with an excerpt from a Bach fugue of
some 100 seconds in length. Web
server -- RealServer.
The audio was taken straight from a regular music CD (played in my computer's
CD drive) using the RealProducer, a very simple and straightforward job.
The file size is 276 KB. The link will bring up a web page with an embedded
RealPlayer. Just click on the controls in the player image to start, stop,
control volume, etc. If you like the recording, here is more
information on the artists (scroll down on that page to get to the
This is a slide show, but not a straightforward one (one image simply
replacing the next, maybe with a fade over). Rather, it allows for zooms,
pans, overlays, etc. This has important didactic advantages in that details
can be brought out more clearly, several details can be superimposed, etc.
I think this is useful for a wide variety of courses; any course were still
photos are an essential visual aid. The moving of still photos allows to
add emphasis and to direct attention to specific details. Again, never
mind the imperfections of the contents, I just want to demonstrate the
server -- RealServer.
The four photos used were taken by myself with a cheap camera that I have
had for years -- nothing fancy, nothing digital. To save time, I simply
used the digital versions that Seattle
Filmworks provides for an extra $4 per roll of film developed and printed.
Alternatively, I could have scanned prints of the photos, and my Agfa SnapScan
EZ scanner (bought for under $100) does a great job with color photos.
But since not everyone has a scanner, I tried to be as bare bone as possible.
Note that scanning will give you better digital images than using a digital
camera -- unless you use high-priced professional equipment.
The photos were converted from Seattle Filmworks' own format into .bmp
(increasing file size by about factor 10 to over 1 MB for each 4x6 photo),
then edited with Corel Photoshop (part of the Corel WP suite) to reduce
the size to 4" width and resaved in .jpg format. Changing the size of digital
photos is best be avoided altogether, but if it has to be done, it should
be done while the image is a non-compressed format like .bmp.
The 2.6x4 photos in .jpg format were only about 20 KB each. But "bandwidth"
is valuable, so I used a special jpeg compression
program to reduce the size even further. I used an old version (1.2),
the current version (2.02) probably does an even better job. Note that
every photo editing program gives you some options as to quality level
(and hence file size) when saving an image as jpg, but this special program
achieves a much better compromise between file size and quality. The final
images are all less than 5 KB in size.
The RealPix users guide suggests to use their own jpegtran program (comes
with the free stuff) for a final stage of prepping the photos. This does
not affect the file size, but optimizes the delivery of the image from
the web server to the browser. It did this for one of the photos, but not
for the others and could not tell a difference. But a difference may show
under adverse (heavy traffic with delays) delivery conditions.
Starting with a set of regular images (in .jpg format), a RealPix file
is written in which the use (display and movement along a timeline) of
the still photos is defined. I simply used one of the sample files (RealPix
HTML\media\viewchng.rp) that comes with the free stuff and replaced the
still photos in the sample file with my own images. The .rp file consists
of a number of tags -- very similar to html tags. So, it takes a bit of
time to learn these tags and produce the desired effects. The free stuff
does not include a convenient specialized editor. Writing such a file feels
like writing an html file in the "early days". You can check whether your
.rp file does what you want it to do by opening it locally (on your work
station) in the RealPlayer G2.
If you have a RealServer available, you would simply upload the .rp file
to a subdirectory on the server box (exactly the same way as you handle
an ordinary html file). If you want to use a regular web server, you have
to go through a few more steps. First, you need to set up a .smil (pronounced
"smile") file -- which you will need for any truly multimedia presentation
anyhow. I discuss these smil files in the next example. Then, you write
a straight text file with a single line which describes the location of
the smil file like:
and save this file with the extension ".ram". This .ram file is put
on the (regular web) server together with .smil, the .rp, and .jpg files
for the basic images (photos). The link on the referring page (like this
one) points to the .ram file. Provided that the mime types have been properly
defined on your regular web server, clicking on a link pointing to the
.ram file, makes the web server send the .smil file to the browser which
will launch the RealPlayer (recognizing the mime type) and pass the contents
of the smil file on the RealPlayer which in turn will request the .rp file
from the web server, and then reading the .rp file request the underlying
.jpg files. Using a RealServer eliminates the need for both a .ram file
and a .smil file; a .smil file, however, is always needed when additional
sound or text is used.
To check my statement about copyright protection, try to download the image
files to your work station -- permission granted, I won't sue you for copy
right violation :-)). It can be done without hacking into the maxweber
server, but it takes a fairly good understanding of how all these files
work together and where you finally can find path and file names of the
underlying photos on the server. (Once you have this information, downloading
is a piece of cake.) And this works only as long as a regular httpd server
is used. You will not be able to capture/download multimedia material from
commercial sites unless they deliberately make this this material available
for recording (using RealPlayer Plus) or downloading. But, as mentioned
above, there is no protection against simply capturing the screen (rather
The same slide show but with a brief voice greeting added. Web
server -- RealServer.
If your work station has a sound card, it should have some basic sound
software such as a "WAV player". It should also have a microphone. Typically,
the microphones that come with a sound card (or the whole system) are pretty
basic and may not be suitable for serious production. I had some trouble
with my cheap mike to get a decent recording; it took some fiddling with
the sound card setup. It pays to read the user guide for the sound card
and check that the mike is properly installed. My Gateway station (P2-233
with 48 MB memory) came with an Ensoniq Audio PCI Wavetable Sound Card.
Since mike adjustment is sound card specific, I will not go into any details.
Using your .wav player (or similar software) check the volume control
during recording to have the right amount amplitude (meter should stay
in the green or blue range). Replay recording to check quality. Wav files
get large quickly, the 20 second recording used here takes over 400 KB.
RealProducer converts any audio file in .wav or .au format to .rm format
suitable for streaming and reducing size considerably; here the resulting
.rm file is just 42 KB, about one tenth of the original size. Again, you
play the .rm file locally to check the final result.
As part of the (free) RealProducer
G2 Authoring Kit comes the SMIL Presentation Wizard. This allows you
to combine several media files -- like a slide show and a voice narrative.
This is fairly easy to use, and several templates are provided as well.
You may want to make some adjustments, e.g., matching the size of RealPlayer
window to the size of your slides. A .smil file is a text file (though
it should have the extension .smil or .smi -- depending on how the mime
types in your web server are set up; a smart system administrator would
allow both forms) and thus it can be edited with the help of any text editor
or word processing software that can save file as ASCII text. A particularly
useful multi-purpose editor is Ultra-Edit,
now in version 6. This editor opens and edits any file (text, hex, exe,
html) and you can easily open files in this editor by right-clicking on
the file name in Windows Explorer. Registration of this shareware product
costs you $30.
If you want to learn more about SMIL, a nice tutorial
became available on March 12, 1999 at the "Web Review" site. And there
is also a rather costly (over $600) product that makes creating smil files
easy and allows you to make efficient use of the available bandwidth, the
Composer. (It's like creating a regular web page in Notepad inserting
all html tags explicitly versus using a user-friendly html editor like
Netscape Composer, MS FrontPage, or the like. But the difference is in
The final step is to set up the .ram file (see above).
Another product -- not available at the time of the first explorations
simplifies the process of producing slide slows with audio (narration and/or
music), but it is more limited in its presentation of the images (no pans
or zooms) and no adding of text. It comes in both a free and a "plus" version.
The latter sells for $30 in early 2000; additional features of the "plus"
version include the ability to add text annotations to each image. Here
is a very first exploration of free product, the result of my first
hour of checking out this product. It is a slide
show of some of our departmental faculty and the narration simply reflects
my personal opinions. This is produced for 28/56K modem connections only.
With a bit more time investment, the slide show could look better; also,
the background music is hardly audible. Though it may surprise you, the
audio part is usually more difficult to handle than the video part. Here,
one has to balance the level (volume) of the two separate recordings (the
narration and the music) which use different input channels (mike for narration,
CD player for music). Anyway, have a look. The slide show is served by
I now have moved on to RealSlideshow
Plus 2.0 which offers some significant additions and improvements.
Though Real's marketing strategy for this product is focused on hobbyists
showing off their vacation or baby pictures, there is important use for
it in education -- as an alternative to video clips and "screencam" movies
to reduce the demand on the server (storage, memory) and to better deal
with slow off-campus connections (56K modems):
capability to add a text caption to each slide (makes it possible to forego
an audio track and save bandwidth)
customized layout of up to 4 areas (image, text caption, text, logo); the
content of the last two will be the same for all slides
support for .gif format (source images) and use of .png format (rather
than .jpeg) in generated slide show -- can results in significant improvement
in quality while reducing (!) file size; .png format, however, requires
RealServer 6.1 beta 3 or better
Screen shots are easy to produce (see separate
guide) and require no investment whatsoever, all necessary tools are
already on any Windows 9x computer (and I guess on Macs as well, though
I don't know this for a fact). However, ScreenShot
Deluxe 2.0 (which sells for $30) does make it more convenient and offers
some additional functionality. The screen shots used for the demo RealSlideshow
below were produce with ScreenShot. In particular, I used its option to
overlay a text caption on the screen shot with control over placement and
appearance (background and font color, font style and size). The alternative
is to add the text caption in RealSlideshow. Then, however, the placement
of the caption box is fixed for the whole slide show -- which may work
fine for some presentations and which is largely a matter of taste.
using a series of still photos of experiments in the sciences, of practical
demonstrations in the health sciences, field work documentation in anthropology
or sociology to just name a few possibilities
using a series of "screen shots" to demonstrate use of online data bases
(like Lexis-Nexis, InfoTrac, FirstSearch) or the use of specific computer
programs, to take students on a virtual of the web, and much more
Let's assume now that you have your "slides" (images, graphic files)
ready with or without text caption. RealSlideshow Plus accepts both .gif
and .jpeg format as source input. The most important thing to ensure decent
quality of the end product is to avoid resizing of the images. Make sure
that the source images all fit into the image area defined in the RealSlideshow
layout. The default RS layout is an image area of 320x240 pixels on top
with a text caption area of 320x40 beneath. However, this layout can be
customized. In the demo below, the text caption area is eliminated (as
text captions are already contained in the images) and the image area is
slightly expanded to accommodate the original size of the screen shots.
Again, check the size of your screenshots: any graphics program will provide
you with this "image property"; I recommend to use pixels as measurement
unit. 320x240 is a quarter screen under basic screen resolution. You can
go larger, but this will also increase the size of your screen shots (image
files). For the demo below, I stayed close to a quarter screen.
Other than making sure that none of the source images is larger than
the image area (thus avoiding a need for resizing) the production of a
slide show is pretty straightforward. The tools have much improved in contrast
to what I had available when I first started with this (see older parts
of this document). In particular, the sequence of slides can be easily
rearranged by "dragging" as can the "time line" (the amount of time each
slide is shown). A voice caption can be added to each slide individually
and rerecordings are easily done, if you don't like the technical quality
of the audio or the contents of what you said. This is a very cool tool,
at a very reasonable price, with great potential for instructional use.
To view the finished slide show locally (on your own computer), you
simply need the RealPlayer installed (to be on the safe side, make sure
that you have RealPlayer 7). To make the slide show available to others
(your students) you need to put the whole set of files on a server. It
is possible to use a regular web server, but a RealServer is the much better
solution. As noted before, to use all features (like the very efficient
.png format) you need have RealServer 6.1 beta 3 or better. Unfortunately,
I discovered too late that currently -- as of February 2000 -- I
have 6.1 beta 2 only installed and my very compact slide show did not show.
So, as a work around I switched to jpeg format, and this is the version
you can view: Check my basic tutorial on how
to use Lexis-Nexis for finding newspaper articles on "college bookstores".
To accomodate the larger file size caused by the switch to .jpeg, I had
to increase the bandwidth requirements; this file requires a 56K modem
connection, it will not (properly) work with a 28.8K modem. The same holds
for a companion piece on how
to use InfoTrac for finding the full text of articles in scholarly
and other journals. This InfoTrac slide show uses larger screen shots (480x360)
and makes uses of the text caption feature within RealSlideshow. While
the placement of the caption box is fixed, it is much easier to edit the
text -- if or when changes become desirable. Overall, I would recommend
this second approach. However, with larger screen shots the lack of RealServer
7 becomes more consequential. PNG
(portable network graphics) is a very efficient format and the lack of
support for it in earlier versions of RealServer is a major drawback.
Note, that both tutorials require that your monitor is set to "16-bit
color" (also referred to as "thousands of colors" or "65K colors). With
just 256 colors (or "8 bit color") the text comes out as blue against black
(almost impossible to read) and the screen shots look decidedly "psychodelic".
This happens no matter what format (jpeg or png) RealSlideshow uses for
the presentation. All my source graphics (screen shots) were saved as 8-bit
color .gif files. There is no work around. On the other hand, only ancient
video cards/monitors restrict a user to 8-bit color. However, some "broadcasting
software" like LANSchool (used in lab settings to "broadcast" the contents
of the instructor station to all student stations) cannot handle more then
8-bit color -- though all individual stations are capable of displaying
higher color resolution. So, the problem is most likely to occur in a lab
The same slide show but with music added. Web
server -- RealServer.
Nothing much new, other than that the media files from example 1 and 2
are combined in another .smil file. Note, however, that you may experience
trouble hearing the music the first time you access the link. Chances are
that you only see the mute slide show. Wait till the very end, the music
track is longer than the slide show. Towards the end, the music should
become audible. Restart the clip from within the RealPlayer, the music
should start right away.
I am not sure what causes this problem, maybe a bandwidth issue, maybe
a problem due to the lack of a RealServer. The RealPlayer stores the component
files in a memory cache, so the second time around the bandwidth or sequence
problem does no longer exist. I am inclined to think that it is a server
problem rather than a genuine bandwidth problem, but ...
The same slide show, no audio, but with a text marquee added. Web
server -- RealServer.
Similar to handling still images with RealPic, RealText allows to produce
moving text. Such text can be displayed by itself or be combined with other
media contents in a .smil file as in this example. Very easy to learn for
anyone who once learnt html the hard way, explicitly using tags.
, originally in Quicktime format, no sound track. Production note:
This is a straightforward use of the RealProducer to convert a quicktime
file in .mov format of 3.8 MB to streaming format, reducing file size to
90 KB and then setting up a web page and publishing this web page to the
server. Pretty much a no brainer. In contrast to example 1, I chose to
have the RealPlayer to pop up rather than embed it (a choice offered by
RealProducer). As demonstrated above I could easily add a sound track (narration
or music) to this animation.
This leads to another
page with a series of multimedia material related to the 1998 German
Campaign -- to give you more of a taste what can be done in substantive
terms. This page will expand as I get materials ready and should be of
special interest for faculty in German Studies, Political Science, and/or
For starters, the page links to a video clip with background music
of 1:30 min from the SPD. The original .mov file is almost 8 MB. You can
compare the video quality difference between 28.8 and 56 K modem connections.
Note that the video quality is determined at production time, not by your
actual connection speed at viewing time. So, a streaming clip for 28.8
will not look any better over an ISDN connection. Of course, your actual
connection speed must be at least as high as the intended speed -- otherwise
you will experience pauses and delays. Using the RealServer, one can produce
so called sure stream files where the video quality is adjusted to the
actual connection speed. Production note:
See example 6 as far as the conversion of the original .mov file is concerned.
As another option, the clip can also be viewed with English subtitles using
the technique first discussed in example 5. Here, however, we have all
three channels involved: sound, video, and text.
Input via video capture card
In addition to using (digital) video files as in some of the examples above,
one can produce such video material (digital or analog) and transfer it
to the computer via a video capture card. Such cards accept input
from both digital cameras and (regular) video recorders. In addition, there
are TV tuner cards with capture capabilities which allow to hook up a regular
TV to one's computer. Capture and tuner cards are not enormously expensive
(they start under $100), but one needs to pick careful so that the capture
card works well with the video card and the sound card already installed
on the computer. (The "video out" jack of a VCR gets connected to the "line
in" jack of the video capture card; the "audio out" jack of the VCR to
the "line in" jack of the sound card. And as they are quite a few different
jacks/plugs around, the basic hookup can be quite a headache. Many thanks
to Greg Crosbie for providing me with all the right cables.)
I took advantage of a limited time offer by Real Systems which bundled
the Basic Server Plus with a digital camera, a video capture card, and
some other goodies -- all for some $1000. Now, this is not the fanciest
camera around, but it does its job (example).
As to input of VHS tape via standard VCR, this works quite well, too. Obviously,
as there is some quality loss in the conversion to the "streaming" format,
it is good to start with a high quality recording (good lighting, clear
sound). Greg Crosbie and his crew from the AVS division of OICIT have shot
some really good video of President Caputo delivering a greeting to visitors
of the Hunter web site which I converted to RealFormat (example).
A link to the clip may be added to the Hunter home page or the web page
of the Office of the President in the future, for now President Caputo
has agreed to have a link to this clip on this page. Production notes:
The video capture card comes with its own software that allows capture
in regular video formats (.mov, .avi). This software also allows to control
his video input for contrast, brightness, tint, etc. The RealProducer takes
these settings. Matter of fact, at least in my setup (which was sold as
a bundle), one items from the options menu in RealProducer starts this
software and allows to make these adjustments. I experienced some problems
with this approach, however. In my setup, it works best to start the capture
card software first, make the necessary adjustments, close this software,
and then start the RealProducer to do the "encoding".
Likewise, adjustments to the audio controls may be necessary to ensure
proper level during recording. Details depend on the sound card you use;
there are usually separate sets of controls for recording and playback.
Takes a bit of fiddling like when recording audio via the microphone.
The RealProducer Plus does not offer any editing features (the "Pro"
version does), so it's a bit tricky to start and stop the clip at exactly
the right point; no trimming options available.
The final file size very much depends on the options chosen. For a 3 minute
clip that is simultaneously optimize for 4 connection speeds (T1, DSL,
56K, 28K), the resulting file size (default frame size of 160x120 pixels)
is about 11MB. But this is only a concern for hard disk space on the server
box, as the size of the file actually downloaded for a particular connection
speed is much smaller.
So far I have discussed "on demand" multimedia (audio, video) contents
only. The RealSystem allows for live (audio or video) broadcasts as well.
At this point, live video broadcasts via the Web (a RealServer) are not
a real alternative to dedicated video conference delivery systems as in
used synchronous distance learning -- given the relatively small image
and, more general, bandwidth problems with slow modem connections. However,
they are worthwhile considering as a "better-than-nothing" complement
to make a presentation accessible to people not able to be present at a
dedicated remote video conference site. Audio quality, however, is quite
good and at least at level with what I have experienced with dedicated
video conference systems.
To clarify the terminology, live broadcasts start and end at
specific times and users join the broadcast in progress -- like switching
on a regular TV; if a viewer is late for the start of a program he/she
missed the beginning. In contrast, all "on demand" material is played from
its very beginning at the time a viewer requests it. As with regular TV,
such live broadcasts may not genuinely be live (even most live TV
shows are shown tape-delayed, sometimes by hours, sometimes by weeks and
months). However, here is one important distinction:
Simulated live broadcast and live broadcasts of taped contents are intermediary
steps to reduce the complexity of producing and sending a genuine live
broadcast. These are logical preliminary steps in preparing for the real
thing. As of October 1999, my explorations have extended into these important
steps. Under low load, no problems have become apparent.
simulated live broadcasts serve material previously encoded and
stored on the server (the program consists of a playlist of on demand material)
live broadcasts a video feed is captured on a remote station (via video
capture card), encoded, and directly transferred to the server which simultaneously
transmits this feed to requesting viewers; the feed captured on the remote
station can either be truly live (coming from a video camera hooked to
the video capture card) or taped (coming from a VCR connected to the video
However, I expect that a memory upgrade of the physical box will be
necessary to serve even relatively small audiences effectively. The current
license of the Basic server allows for 40 concurrent viewers, but even
this may be beyond the current memory limitations. With the investment
of some $200-300 for additional memory (bringing it to near 256MB), this
problem should be easily solved. A serious problem may lie in limitations
of the Hunter college backbone and/or Hunter's connection to the Internet.
Only practical tests will tell -- and these have just started. So, check
back in a month or so, for more details. If you want to play a more active
role, consider being a test viewer, check out the live
broadcast program schedule and tell me about your viewing experience.
Call for exchange of information and experience
In terms of academic teaching, we see an increasing overlap between or
in that the technologies have become more much similar and compatible.
Multimedia contents can be efficiently distributed via the Web and "on-demand"
and live delivery are just two options within one unified technology.
multimedia presentations and delivery of course materials via the Web (web
synchronous distance learning and asynchronous distance learning
If you are interested in the material presented here, especially if
you have done similar explorations in the past or are about to engage in
such, please get in touch, preferably via e-mail.
||Nov 27, 1998
||Nov 28, 1998
||minor adjustments, example 6 added
||Nov 30, 1998
||Example 7 and corresponding page expanded (some more additions in the
week of Nov 30)
||Dec 1, 1998
||Connection troubleshooting page added
||Dec 4, 1998
||Links utilizing the Basic RealServer added
||Dec 9, 1998
||minor editorial changes
||Mar 7, 1999
||Basic Server Plus installed and links updated accordingly; both Basic
Server Plus and regular httpd (Apache) server now reside on the same box
||Mar 20, 1999
||Video Capture card plus digital camera (Osprey-101) installed; the
greeting on top of the page is the first production attempt
||Mar 25, 1999
||Link to document summarizing explorations
of the Real Presenter, a plugin for MS Powerpoint, has been added;
minor editorial changes in the intro section (Powerpoint discussion)
||May 24, 1999
||Segment on using various video input added; general information update
||July 10, 1999
||Link to page with extended video coverage of 1999 Commencement added
||Oct 24, 1999
||Section on live broadcasts started; editorial changes, TOC added
||Dec 16, 1999
||Note about changes in branding and prices at Real added
||Feb 2, 2000
||Links to various pages on the Real Networks web site updated (after
the restructuring of their site);
first exploration of RealSlideshow added
||Feb 21, 2000
||More discussion on RealSlideshow Plus 2.0 and more examples added
This page has been accessed
times since Nov 27, 1998