Architectural and Interior Design Computer Multimedia Applications: Issues and Common Procedures in the Incorporation of Video Sequences
Jill B. Pable
Department of Human Environmental Studies
Southeast Missouri State University
The use of video segments within multimedia computer applications is a compelling educational tool, as video provides both live visual action and matching audio. Such computer applications are increasingly finding applicability among strongly visual educational fields such as architecture and interior design. The basic procedure of video incorporation is outlined in terms suitable for the beginning multimedia creator. Based upon the insights gained by the author in the production of a multimedia application, recommendations are made regarding the production of video segments themselves. Planning for the incorporation of limited-size video clips necessitated by limited computer capabilities is also discussed as well as CD-ROM storage issues for multimedia application distribution.
Multimedia computer applications are increasingly being viewed as an effective means of promoting information retention (Monti, Cicchetti, Goodkind, & Ganci, 1994) . Some judge these educational tools to be superior to other teaching methods such as lecture in engaging students in active learning (Monti, Cicchetti, Goodkind & Ganci,1994; Weal, 1995). Active learning studies reveal that people retain 10 percent of what they see, 20 percent of what they hear, half of what they see and hear and 80 percent of what they see, hear and do (Monti, Cicchetti, Goodkind & Ganci,1994; Weal, 1995). The features of multimedia applications allow inclusion among the 80 percent bracket by the incorporation of visual images, auditory accompaniment and interactivity with the user.
As previously discussed, the term 'multimedia' implies the inclusion of audio, user interactivity and/or video footage in the computer application. Of these, video is arguably the most compelling of the active components of multimedia, offering both live action and corresponding audio. Video in computer applications specifically tailored to interior design and architectural education may be viewed as especially crucial to these visually oriented fields. Examples of relevant footage in an educational application of these types might include the oral discourse of an imaginary client, slow pans of an exemplary interior setting or the assembly of an architectural building component.
Interior design education is in fact beginning to explore this method of communication in such areas as the study of computer animation to provide more complete client understanding (Hosken & Thompson, 1993) , teaching of elements and principles of design (Scott, 1993) and in simulating professional business interactions (Pable, in press, a).
While multimedia capability has been technically feasible for many years, it is only recently that its production has become a major focus in commercial development (Halal & Liebowitz, 1994) . This relatively recent emphasis has led to increased opportunity for the user of the personal computer, including educators, to produce educational multimedia applications in an in-house fashion. Computer programs are available, such as Astound by Gold Disk, Inc. (1995) that enable the Windows or Macintosh user to create these applications at a relatively low cost.
The incorporation of video in particular is a relatively new phenomenon, and one that requires sufficient speed, additional software and computer capability to adequately accomplish. A video capture device and video editing device are required, such as Microsoft's Video for Windows.
The purpose of this article is to outline information for the beginning-level creator of multimedia applications that may be useful in planning the incorporation of video into in-house computer exercises. The distribution of multimedia applications is also discussed.
The Process of Video Insertion into Multimedia Computer Applications
Incorporating video footage into a multimedia computer application requires several steps:
- video footage is recorded using a video camera;
- Using a VCR player and video capture software, the video footage is captured by the computer and converted into a computer file;
- the video computer file is edited to fine-tune the beginning and ending and any changes needed to the file's content; and
- the edited video computer file is incorporated into the multimedia application.
The following are some issues which might require attention as video is created and incorporated into the application. They are addressed in the order of the process detailed above.
Recording Video Footage with the Video Camera
Depending on the purpose of the video segments, it may be worthwhile to have the intended footage recorded by professional videographers. Similarly, if one or more actors is involved in the required scenes, the directing skills of a professional video team may be a simpler and more time-efficient approach. As is to be expected in all photography-related pursuits, proper lighting is crucial to good quality video footage. However, it is important to remember that even the most optimal lighting does not guarantee true color in the final video output.
If the scenes depict mid-range or close-up scenes of persons conversing, keep in mind that such footage will require the audio and video images be perfectly synchronized when shown in the final multimedia application. This is an issue which becomes a factor in the later video editing phases. On the other hand, video which shows, for example, a slow pan of a room with no audio would not require such careful attention.
If appropriate to the purpose of the multimedia application, video footage recorded in black and white may have the advantage of a smaller computer file size and a faster, smoother running time when viewed in the final application (J.Gannon, personal communication, July 26, 1995) . Black and white footage is also sometimes perceived as a visually avante garde approach, which might be advantageous in certain applications.
Capturing Video Footage in the Creation of Video Computer Files
In this step, video footage is played on the VCR and through a connection to the computer, captured into computer files of the type produced by the video capture device. Microsoft's Video for Windows , for example, creates computer files with an .avi extension.
File size and compression. The size of the capturing computer's random access memory (RAM), hard drive space and speed is crucial in producing satisfactory capture files. Video files are relatively complex and therefore have the capability to become gargantuan in size. For instance, sixty seconds of video using the 160 by 120 pixel size at 15 frames per second requires approximately 23 megabytes of disk space (Microsoft, 1992) . To avoid this, most video capture software packages offer the option to compress video files, making them sometimes less than half the size of similar uncompressed files.
Audio/video synchronization. The synchronization between audio and video of certain types of segments is crucial, such as those depicting people engaged in conversation. Greater care is necessary when producing segments where this is a concern, as improper settings when capturing a segment can cause audio to lag behind or speed ahead of the displayed video. Frames of video may also be omitted which creates noticeable gaps. This is often due to the recording software's inability to keep up with the VCR's video input. A solution to this problem can sometimes be found in reducing the number of frames per second that are captured.
Optimal settings and video sequence length limitations. Through extensive experimentation, it has been the author's experience that a video sequence runs smoother when video files are kept to no longer than 45 seconds. Using a Pentium computer with a 540 megabyte hard drive and 16 megabytes of RAM, the following settings achieved success:
8 frames per second
audio: 16 bit 11 kv mono
160 x 120 pixel size
16 bit full frame 5-5-5 video format (compression of this type should maintain a 45 second video at a size of 15 megabytes or smaller)
Sequences requiring greater accuracy of color would need to be recorded in 24 bit format to access 16.7 million colors instead of the 16-bit's control of only thousands of colors. Such files will require more storage space and may run slower on the computer screen.
Video sequences requiring times longer than 45 seconds are best shown using several separate video files, each shown in a successive multimedia slide. If this is determined to be necessary, writing the video script in advance to cover for such breaks in conversation or action would make this accommodation less obvious.
In capturing video footage, it is often easier to capture a few seconds too much video at both the beginning and the end of the desired sequence, as this can be easily edited out in the next step of the procedure.
Editing the Captured Video File
Editing of video and audio. If the capture file includes several seconds of unwanted footage at the beginning and end of the desired sequence, then the trimming of the sequence to the desired size is made easier in using the 'mark and cut' feature of many video editors. Similarly, it is easier at times to record a 1:30 minute sequence that can be edited down and saved to two 45-second files if necessary to show video over successive slides as described above.
Editing of sound or video only. It is also sometimes the case that an unwanted sound is included in a crucial segment of video. Most video editors offer the ability to edit very small pieces of audio while leaving the video portion intact. Usually such slight audio omissions go undetected when paired and shown with the unedited video portion once again. The reverse is also true: slight 'glitches' in video which sometimes appear through the recording process can be edited out one frame at a time while leaving the audio continuous.
Incorporating the File into the Multimedia Application
If a video sequence is properly recorded, captured and edited, this phase of the procedure is usually relatively effortless. The author's experience with the Astound multimedia program by Gold Disk Inc. has shown that video incorporation in a Windows-based program often amounts to little more than navigating to the intended slide in the program and choosing the size and location of the video. The latest version of Astound (1995) also includes a more advanced video editor that allows fade-ins, additions of other audio and clipart, and combinations of several video segments into one for special effects, among other features. Regardless of special editing effects, however, it is recommended that the above time limitation and file size be adhered to in order to ensure the best quality video display within the multimedia application.
Multimedia Application Distribution Issues
As stated earlier, video sequences have the habit of growing to inordinate sizes. This can in turn create extremely large multimedia applications. For example, one soon-to-be-completed multimedia application (Pable, 1995,b) that will take a student approximately twenty minutes to complete is 110 megabytes in size. This necessitates running the application directly from a computer's hard drive or alternately, from a CD-ROM drive. *1
Recording an application to a CD-ROM disk requires that a number of additional choices be made, such as deciding what specific equipment to buy and weighing the various manufacturing costs (Carter, 1995) . While CD-ROMs have the advantage of storing up to 650 megabytes of information on one disk, a computer retrieves and shows information from a CD-ROM more slowly than a hard drive. Therefore, the recording of information to a CD-ROM in an efficiently retrievable manner becomes very important to preserve speed. Other decisions must be made regarding any necessary 'partitioning' of information on the CD-ROM disk, as in the case of an application that might be read by either a PC or a Macintosh computer.
The costs of CD-ROM production have recently come down sufficiently for those who do not wish to mass-produce disks in the thousands. Schools and universities sometimes possess the ability to master CD-ROMs in-house and other private CD-ROM publishing bureaus will also convert applications to this format (Carter, 1995) .
The creation of multimedia applications that employ video require advanced planning and sometimes a commitment to extensive trial and error in order to ensure quality playback. While these large files can be cumbersome and often necessitate conversion to CD-ROM, these negatives, in the view of Carter (1995) and the author, are more than compensated for in their enhancement of the application's educational value.
*1 Laserdisk format, more common among medical multimedia applications, is another possibility. Thought, however, should be given to the availability of laserdisk players among the application's intended student or professional market.
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