More Multi Media

Last week I introduced some of the problems and solutions
for those of you that wish to add multi-media content to
your web site. If you did not have a chance to read the
article, it is posted at: issue47top1.htm

Despite my own warning about the problems you may face when
adding multi-media files to your web site, I fell into the
trap of adding a link that was bound to fail even though I
suggested that it would work for most of you. If you try the
link from a Windows platform to the 315 kb
avi file , you will probably see
the Windows Multi-Media player displayed followed by a
message that the file format is invalid. If however, you try
exactly the same file from: there is a
good chance it will play after it has finished downloading.

So if these two files are identical, why does the multi-
media player report that one is corrupt?

The reason is the MIME type. The
web site is hosted on an NT server.  The
web site is hosted on an Apache UNIX server. Since ".
files are a proprietary Microsoft video format, the NT
server has the MIME type setup.
UNIX systems and system
administrators have little interest in supporting Microsoft
unless they are asked to. In all probability the people at
Pair Networks where the IMS Web Tips site is located, would
not have a problem setting up the MIME type for ".
avi" files;
but only if asked.

Assuming you have verified that the MIME types are set up
for your host and that you have a link to a downloadable
player for those visitors that may not have them, how do you
actually add the multi-media file to your web page?

As I previously mentioned, the simplest solution is to add a
hyper link to the multi-media file that you wish to play. In
addition to loading the visitor's default media player for
the file type being used, this method has the advantage that
it gives the user the option of deciding if they wish to
play the file or not.

The other options are to use the BGSOUND, EMBED and OBJECT
tags. Although they are not as easy to use, these tags have
the advantage that they will provide you with more control
over the multi-media playback.

When adding music or audio to a web site, the most common
method is to use both the BGSOUND and EMBED tags.

The \ tag is only available in Internet Explorer but
it allows the Browser to play the audio directly without
having to use a plug-in. The full format is:
\src="filepath", loop="1"\>

filepath   is the location of the audio file. This can
               either be a Wave or a Midi file.                                                                    
Loop       set the number of times the file should be
               played. A value of -1 will loop the file

The \ tag is used by Netscape to load a Plug-In to
play the audio file. The full format is:
\src="filepath", autostart=TRUE, loop=true width=x
y align=center hidden=no\>
The "
filepath" is basically the same as in the BGSOUND tag.
The loop tag only has two values. These are TRUE for
continuous play and FALSE for single play. The Embed tag
will also display a console unless the Hidden=YES parameter
is included. The Width, Height and Align parameters will set
the size and position of the player when it is visible.

When adding audio you should use both the EMBED and BGSOUND
tags to ensure your audio will play in both major browsers.

The \ tag is a new HTML 4 standard tag that will
replace the EMBED and many other tags. It has many uses
including adding Flash files to your web site. The tag is
not yet fully supported across all browsers and consequently
should be used in conjunction with the EMBED tag. Due to its
extensive number of features and uses, its full description
is probably best left for a future article. In the mean time
you can look at the W3C's specifications at:

In addition to downloading a multimedia file to play on your
machine through the Browser or Plug-In, you can also use
Streaming Media. Most multi media files will have to be
completely downloaded before they can be played. Since these
files can often be huge, the visitor may have to wait a long
time before the file starts to play even if they have a fast
connection. Streaming media however, will start to play
almost immediately. The files may still be huge, but the
player does not need to wait until the entire file has

Although Streaming Media's ability to play before the file
has downloaded is a real advantage, Streaming Media is more
problematic to set up. First, you will need a Streaming
Server. Not all ISP's include Streaming Servers and those
that do may have restrictions or additional costs associated
with its use. If a Streaming Server is available, you will
need to transfer your Streaming Media files to the server as
well as a RAM
metafile that contains the paths to these
files. Check with your ISP to find out exactly what you need
to do to utilize their Streaming Server.

For most web sites, multi-media should be used sparingly.
Although it may add interesting and valuable content, multi-
media is generally a bandwidth hog. Visitors with slow
connections may simply not be willing to wait. Visitors with

Metallica playing gently in the background may not
appreciate your web site blaring out "Twinkle Twinkle Little
Star" to interrupt their peaceful web experience.

I have discussed some of the problems you may encounter when
playing multi-media files and the tags that you will need to
add to your web page. But how do you create the multi media
file and just what are all those file types? MIDI, WAVE,
MPEG, AVI, AU, RA, MOV etc. What is the difference and which
ones should you use? -Next week

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 2000 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.

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