Authoring and Encoding for New Media

 


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As the technology continues to develop, DVD-ROM and CD-ROM are publicized to be great sources of media for a wide variety of publishing objectives. What is less publicized is how to get from point A to point B in terms of necessary materials and a plan of content organization. Oftentimes, the process is learned while already involved in the sales cycle, and the goals of the project can often become more confused and ultimately restricted due to budget and time based on the lack of information and planning beforehand. This paper will explain the steps required to publish with these media formats, and will also analyze content organization. The more planning that is done prior to submitting material to a company to be published, the more successful a project will be in terms of objectives, budgets, and deadlines.

A distinction must first be made regarding the media types. CD-ROM and DVD-ROM will be the formats discussed in this paper. Both formats are suitable for publishing text, video, and audio content within an interactive interface to be used on both Mac and PC platforms. Hybrid DVD combines the ROM portions of the previously mentioned formats, as well as DVD Video, and therefore can also apply to the items discussed in this paper. DVD Video is the format commonly used in the entertainment industry exclusively for video and does not apply or coincide with the topics of this paper.

DVD-ROM and CD-ROM can accept practically any media or file type to be published. For documents and programs, PDF, Word, PowerPoint, Flash, HTML, and Projector are all examples of acceptable formats to submit content with. As for formatting submitted files properly, the publisher must make sure that each of the files submitted to the authoring specialist contain all the fonts (if they were converted from Quark files, for example). If not, the documents might not be able to be read on various systems or platforms. The files must also be analyzed to ensure their sizes are reasonable enough to open on various systems and maintain a consistent opening speed. Files that are too large in size, due to large images placed within them, can take a much longer time to open compared to text only files. The authoring specialist cannot guarantee that they will be able to manipulate the content of the files provided. Generally, their task is to arrange the provided material for convenient use and showcase it, but in most cases not to alter the material itself.

Video footage can generally be submitted as Betacam SP, digital Betacam, D-2, mini DV, DVCAM, Super 8, digital 8, VHS, SVHS, DVD, 1" reel, U-matic (3/4"), Hi8, Betacam SX, PAL Betacam SP, PAL digi-Beta, PAL, and VHS. Providing material in these formats will ensure that the end result of the project is of the highest quality, and will have the least compatibility issues.

All video footage that is intended for use within DVD-ROM and CD-ROM publishing must first be encoded. Encoding is the process of taking video from a master source (see above) and compressing it and converting it into formats that can be used within the DVD-ROM or CD-ROM media. This step also takes place for preparing video footage for Web based applications, which can, and often, work in conjunction with DVD-ROM and CD-ROM publishing. Video footage can be converted to a number of different formats, depending on the media used, software program used, and the publisher's demands for what type of quality and size they require for the video to have within the program.

Once the video material is encoded, the process of authoring can then begin. Authoring is the process of assembling the encoded video, along with other non-video files (PDF, Word, etc. ) into an interface that allows the end-user to easily access the information. Encoded video sources should be set up to require no additional external “plug-in" components (such as Real Player, QuickTime, etc. ), to ensure the highest level of compatibility with the end user, regardless of what current software their system contains. As the material becomes organized, custom interactive menus that link to different sections, sub-sections, chapters, etc. are created to support the layout. Besides navigation issues, which will be discussed more in this paper, design elements are a fundamental part of the authoring process. Existing logos, corporate fonts, etc. , are integrated during this stage to uphold corporate or project specific branding, and provide the overall aesthetic theme that will continue throughout the published work. Furthermore, an entirely new design can be created and implemented at this stage, so that the publication can actually be a springboard for further identity enhancement.

Auto-run is also programmed within the authoring stage. The auto-run program allows a DVD-ROM or CD-ROM to automatically play when inserted into a player or computer drive. A note regarding auto-run and the Windows platform; it is possible that certain end users might have this option disabled on their systems, which won't allow an auto-run formatted disc to automatically play. If this is disabled, users would simply need to enable this option from their desktop in order to utilize auto-run. Auto-run is also not available on Mac OSX, but is available for Mac OS9. As far as the general compatibility between platforms, it is common for all authored DVD-ROM and CD-ROM to be created to be usable on both Mac and PC platforms, regardless of the auto-run option.

Generally, the authoring specialist will work from a specific or general layout or flowchart from the client, build the interface in HTML or Flash, and in essence, assemble all the pieces of the puzzle together. Content management issues can occur when unspecific direction is given for material that requires specific direction. For instance, if a client were to provide material for a 300 page catalog that involved ten main sections, and twenty-five subsections, but only clarified which items went into the main sections, it is likely that the authoring specialist would need to revisit this with the client to clarify organization and navigation of the subsections. As stated previously, the more information provided up-front, the less time and cost will be accrued during the authoring process. While this is common sense to many people, there are instances when a client might be having their first project authored, are unfamiliar with how the process works, or the project is extremely complicated and unforeseen issues arise. Authoring is to DVD-ROM and CD-ROM publishing what layout and typesetting are to print publishing, but its intricacies are much greater due to the amount and variety of formats involved (text, video, audio, etc. ). Again, preparation is key. Once the organization is in order, and the work begins to develop, there are a variety of functions that can be utilized which are impossible within standard print publishing.

Navigation is one of the most notable features of publishing on DVD-ROM or CD-ROM. While printed indexes advise of specific pages of content, DVD-ROM or CD-ROM can navigate the user directly to specific pages, or even specific text, in the time it takes to click a button. There may also be instances where the material is subject to change. When publishing with DVD-ROM or CD-ROM, video, text, and images can be updated on a regular basis, without interrupting not only the navigation, but also without the need to republish the physical material (DVD-ROM or CD-ROM discs), by having certain material not housed on the disc, but stored on the internet in private domains. This form of navigation not only benefits the user to receive current information, it also benefits the publisher in terms of cost, and maintaining their publication's relevance. By incorporating the internet into DVD-ROM and CD-ROM publishing, additional planning steps must be communicated as part of the layout structure, to ensure that a system is in place to make any content updates in the future, and that all the information that will need updating is accounted for.

Because the distribution of the DVD-ROM or CD-ROM published work is on physical material, like print, there is also a greater chance for the material to be reviewed. While the convenience of the internet plays an important role in publishing, physical material is still fundamental as it brings material to an audience, as opposed to waiting for the audience to arrive to it, which is often the case in internet exclusive publishing. DVD-ROM or CD-ROM publishing uses elements of each media format, to produce an effective and engaging experience for both the publisher and audience. But the key to the success of the media is how effectively it is authored, in order to fulfill and surpass the expectations of the audience, and the goals of the publisher.

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