Resource 1: Media Formats for the Web

Multimedia on the web is sound, music, videos, and animations.  Modern web browsers have support for many multimedia formats.

What is Multimedia?

Multimedia comes in many different formats. It can be almost anything you can hear or see like text, pictures, music, sound, videos, records, films, animations, and more.

On the Internet you can often find multimedia elements embedded in web pages, and modern web browsers have support for a number of multimedia formats.

In this tutorial you will learn about different multimedia formats and how to use them in your web pages.


Browser Support

The first Internet browsers had support for text only, and even the text support was limited to a single font in a single color. Then came browsers with support for colors, fonts and text styles, and the support for pictures was added.

The support for sounds, animations and videos is handled in different ways by different browsers. Some elements can be handled inline, and some requires an extra helper program (a plug-in).

You will learn more about plug-ins in the next chapters.

Multimedia Formats

Multimedia elements (like sounds or videos) are stored in media files.

The most common way to discover the media type is to look at the file extension. When a browser sees the file extensions .htm or .html, it will assume that the file is an HTML page. The .xml extension indicates an XML file, and the .css extension indicates a style sheet. Picture formats are recognized by extensions like .gif and .jpg.

Multimedia elements also have their own file formats with different extensions like .swf, .wmv, .mp3, and .mp4.


Video Formats

Videoformats The MP4 format is the new and upcoming format for internet video. It is supported by YouTube, Flash players and HTML5.
Format File Description
AVI .avi The AVI (Audio Video Interleave) format was developed by Microsoft. The AVI format is supported by all computers running Windows, and by all the most popular web browsers. It is a very common format on the Internet, but not always possible to play on non-Windows computers.
WMV .wmv The Windows Media format is developed by Microsoft. Windows Media is a common format on the Internet, but Windows Media movies cannot be played on non-Windows computer without an extra (free) component installed. Some later Windows Media movies cannot play at all on non-Windows computers because no player is available
MPEG .mpg
.mpeg
The MPEG (Moving Pictures Expert Group) format is the most popular format on the Internet. It is cross-platform, and supported by all the most popular web browsers.
QuickTime .mov The QuickTime format is developed by Apple. QuickTime is a common format on the Internet, but QuickTime movies cannot be played on a Windows computer without an extra (free) component installed.
RealVideo .rm
.ram
The RealVideo format was developed for the Internet by Real Media. The format allows streaming of video (on-line video, Internet TV) with low bandwidths. Because of the low bandwidth priority, quality is often reduced.
Flash .swf
.flv
The Flash (Shockwave) format was developed by Macromedia. The Shockwave format requires an extra component to play. But this component comes preinstalled with web browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer.
Mpeg-4 .mp4 Mpeg-4 (with H.264 video compression) is the new format for the internet. In fact, YouTube recommends using MP4. YouTube accepts multiple formats, and then converts them all to .flv or .mp4 for distribution. More and more online video publishers are moving to MP4 as the internet sharing format for both Flash players and HTML5.

 


Sound Formats

Format File Description
MIDI .mid
.midi
The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a format for electronic music devices like synthesizers and PC sound cards. MIDI files do not contain sound, but digital musical instructions (notes) that can be played by electronics (like your PC’s sound card).Click here to play The Beatles.Since MIDI format only contains instructions (notes), MIDI files are extremely small. The example above is only 23K in size but it plays for nearly 5 minutes. MIDI is supported by many software systems over a large range of platforms. MIDI is supported by all the most popular Internet browsers.
RealAudio .rm
.ram
The RealAudio format was developed for the Internet by Real Media. The format also supports video. The format allows streaming of audio (on-line music, Internet radio) with low bandwidths. Because of the low bandwidth priority, quality is often reduced.
Wave .wav The Wave (waveform) format is developed by IBM and Microsoft. It is supported by all computers running Windows, and by all the most popular web browsers (except Google Chrome).
WMA .wma The WMA format (Windows Media Audio), compares in quality to MP3, and is compatible with most players, except the iPod. WMA files can be delivered as a continuous flow of data, which makes it practical for use in Internet radio or on-line music.
MP3 .mp3
.mpga
MP3 files are actually the sound part of MPEG files. The MPEG format was originally developed for video by the Moving Pictures Experts Group. MP3 is one of the most popular sound formats for music. The encoding system combines good compression (small files) with high quality. Expect future software systems to support it.

What Format To Use?

The WAVE is the most popular uncompressed sound format on the Internet, and it is supported by all popular browsers. If you want uncompressed sound (music or speech) to be available to all your visitors, you should use the WAVE format.

The MP3 format is the newest format for compressed recorded music. The term MP3 has become synonymous with digital music. If your website is about recorded music, the MP3 format is the choice.