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Multimedia Optimization

In this chapter, you'll learn how to optimize both the size and the speed of your multimedia content to help deliver your message to your target audience. Optimized multimedia combines audio, video, text, graphics, and animation into an efficient interactive experience. This chapter covers all aspects of multimedia optimization for the Web, including sections on Flash optimization and PDF optimization.

Figures

Summary

  • QuickTime, RealMedia, and WindowMedia Player are the leading video formats.
  • Flash, Shockwave, Shockwave 3D, and Cult3D are the leaders in web animation.
  • The limitations to multimedia are CPU speed and your customer's bandwidth.
  • Remember to keep in mind your goals, your target audience, any limiting factors, and any potential copyright issues.
  • When shooting video for the Internet, reduce outside and background noise and use professional equipment, a tripod or stabilizer, and a lot of light.
  • When optimizing video, crop the edges, reduce the noise, adjust the gamma, and deinterlace.
  • When compressing video, remember that the higher the data rate, the better the quality, but the bigger the file. Use the data-rate formula (W*H*FPS/35000) as a starting point, and always use 2-pass VBR and a multiple of 10 times your FPS for your keyframes.
  • When optimizing Flash content, remember these variables: audio, bit rates, reuse symbols, keep animation to a minimum, and generate a file size report to test.
  • When optimizing Flash code, remember to code in Flash 4 whenever possible (version 4's coding style is faster), keep your scripts less than 64K, and define your local variables.
  • When optimizing Shockwave, remember that the majority of the file size savings is in the bitmapped graphics and any imported audio.
  • When creating PDFs, minimize the number of bitmapped images, objects, and fonts. Use default fonts where possible. Substitute vector images wherever you can.
  • To optimize PDFs, eliminate unnecessary objects, subset your fonts, minimize bit depth, use 72dpi for bitmapped images, and use compression where possible. Use the latest PDF version that most users have, and use Distiller or an optimization tool for minimum file size.

Further Reading

Books

Adobe Acrobat 5 Master Class
The best book on advanced Acrobat. Also includes a "Managing File Size" section on optimizing the size of PDF files (Adobe Press, 2002).
Learning to Light
Learning how to light well is an art form all in its own. By Roger Hicks and Frances Shultz (Amphoto, 1998).
Streaming Media Bible
The definitive (and comprehensive) guide to streaming media on the Web. Includes a chapter on optimizing your files for faster downloads. By Steve Mack (Wiley, 2002).

Audio Formats

MP4
MP4 is the new audio standard replacing MP3. MP4 supports bit rate, sample rate, depth, channel, hinted streaming tracks, and more. Offers smaller files than MP3 and higher audio quality. See also http://mpeg.telecomitalialab.com/.
MPEG.org
MP3 offers CD-quality sound at a fraction of the size.
Qdesign.com
Qdesign Music is a compressed audio format that comes in standard and pro versions. The psycho-acoustic parametric coding algorithm is designed for low data rate applications.
Qualcomm PureVoice
PureVoice is an audio codec designed for encoding voice signals.
QuickTime Audio
The QuickTime format is cross-platform for people with Macs and PCs. You can use QuickTime files to edit your audio and then compress them for distribution, making this a very versatile format.
WAVE
An audio format used extensively in Microsoft Windows to store and deliver audio. Also used in wavetable synthesis, such as E-mu's SoundFont.

Video Formats

QuickTime (QT)
Over 15 years old, QT is cross-platform, supports both progressive downloading and real-time streaming, and can get through firewalls.
RealMedia
RealNetworks' cross-platform audio and video streaming delivery technology. Allows different target bandwidths and desktop or web playback. RealVideo files are only stored compressed.
Windows Media Player
Microsoft's answer to QuickTime. Will playback either compressed or streaming WMP files in real time to all target bandwidths, such as a DSL or a 56Kbps modem.

Video Optimization

Cleaner
Discreet's premier streaming media optimization tool
Sorenson
The premier video codec. Also offers Sorenson Squeeze for Flash MX and QuickTime.

Animation

Flash
The most popular animation format on the web with over 95% penetration. Vector-based format files are generally small and bandwidth friendly. Flash files are compressed into SWF file format and delivered with Macromedia Shockwave technology.
Shockwave and Shockwave 3D
Director allows the creation of vector or bitmapped-based content compressed into DCR (Director Compressed Resource) files that are played back on the web using Shockwave. Macromedia and Intel recently introduced Shockwave 3D, which also supports 3D data from applications like 3D Studio Max or Maya for 3D experiences. DCR files and their plug-ins are much larger than their Flash counterparts.
Cult3d
Cult3D tries to blend the simplicity of Flash with the capabilities of Director for web 3D. Designed with 3D e-commerce in mind, with XML database interaction and shopping cart functions built-in.

Flash Optimization Tools

Flasm
Free server application that allows fine-tuning of byte-level code. Also includes information on refactoring and Flash optimization.
Optimaze
Commercial application to optimize Flash movies.

PDF Optimization and Management Tools

There are a number of tools to create and optimize PDFs. Here are a few:

ArtPro
This pre-press solution includes some PDF optimization features. Also includes Power Optimizer that minimizes paper loss. From Artwork Systems.
Create Adobe PDF Online
An online PDF creation and optimization service from Adobe. Includes free trial.
CVista PdfCompressor
Features JBIG2 compression available in the latest PDF files (Acrobat 5/PDF 1.4) for efficient compression of scanned documents. From CVISION Technologies.
Distiller Server
The Distiller plug-in comes with Acrobat and does an excellent job of optimizing PDF files, especially when run multiple times. The Distiller server can automate the PDF workflow and optimization process for higher volume applications.
InDesign
Easy cross-platform PDF creation, including tagged PDFs (eBooks) from Adobe.
Jaws
Offers PDF creation, editing, and server-based PDF creation software.
Optimize PDF Files
In-depth tutorial on Acrobat PDF optimizer and other conversion tools for smaller files and faster downloads. By Andy King.
PDF Enhancer
This cross-platform, client or server-based PDF optimization software offers extensive optimization options. The pro version also linearizes and encrypts PDFs. From PDF Sages and Apago.
PDF Xchange
PDF Optimizer
Linearizes PDFs for byte-serving servers for fast first page display without waiting for the rest of the file to download. Windows-based, written in Perl. From FyTek.
PDF Tools
Offers client and server-based PDF optimization tools developers can embed in their applications and users can use on their desktops.
PitStop
An Acrobat plug-in that allows editing, preflight, and profile embedding in PDFs. From Enfocus.
Prinergy
PDF workflow management and creation. From creo.
RasterMaster with PDF reader
Also offers batch conversion tools. From Snowbound Software.

PDF Sites

PDFzone
Devoted exclusively to PDFs and professionals.
Planet PDF
All PDFs, all the time.

Sites

Articles

QuickTime and ActiveX
If you think you'll use QuickTime, go to for instructions on making your QuickTime files viewable on all platforms and browsers. If you are using version 5.5 SP2 of Internet Explorer for Windows, you must view QuickTime as an ActiveX control because Microsoft has discontinued support for Netscape style plug-ins.
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Last modified: January 11, 2010.

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