Authors and Contributors
@ Digital Renaissance Inc
190 Liberty Street, 2nd Floor
The standards for embedding URLs into Audio and
Video media should be designed take advantage of a distributed
network system. This will allow for the natural evolution of simple
URL anchors into HTML for new media. It is proposed that the approach
to anchors be expanded to form a distributed model with the anchors
residing in a data source in the network, the media ( streamed
or downloaded ) in its own file elsewhere in the network and intelligent
players to deal with media/anchor synchronization.
By separating the URL anchors from the media and
placing them in the network, the anchors can be manipulated, changed,
made dynamic, or even personalized based on personal profile or
geographic location. This allows simple URLs to be extended to
be part of a set of anchor commends that can offer significantly
more flexibility than embedded URL anchors.
HTML for video, HTML for audio, Hypervideo, Embedded
URLs, video , audio.
World Wide Web development has been taken several
new and exciting directions in the past two years. One of the
most exciting developments is the field of linear or time based
media on the Web. The focus of most of the research has been
to provide the best quality video/audio streams/files with a
limited bandwidth and considering the network characteristics
of the web. Obviously without continued advancements in this area,
linear media might have restrictions on how it could be used.
At present two methods are used for deploying the
linear (video/audio) media throughout the World Wide Web. The
choice of the method on a particular web site is usually based
on what the site owners what to accomplish with the media. The
two categories of media presentation are:
1: Download the content and play it locally on the users client machine.
2: Stream the content to the users client and play as soon as possible given appropriate buffering
( broadcast or uni-cast approach )
However, with significant focus on for streaming
media architectures, improving synchronization, delivering broadcasted
streams, and compression techniques, there is the opportunity
now to begin focusing on making the media Interactive.
It is proposed that video and audio ( and other
forms of linear media ) be given the opportunity to evolve into
a flexible and interactive media. This would be accomplished by
encouraging networked architectures and establishing standards
that enable video and audio media to act upon markup languages
in a distributed network environment. This is the same direction
that text and images took as the web began to evolve. It is video
and audio media's time to follow the same evolutionary path.
2.0 Anchor Requirements
International communities of interest and their desire
to have multiple types of systems work within the Web has made
users, developers, and content/information providers to rush
in adding Web functionality. The idea that information and content
can be accessible in many different forms on many types of systems
has been very powerful development force. These requirements have
driven the need for standards and network designs that are based
on the need for an open network..
Open network connectivity is the founding principle
behind this proposal that URL anchors be networked rather than
limited to a just embedding them into a media file. By taking
a distributed network approach, embedding the URLs into the media
can be supported as one choice of deployment, usable in certain
The standard approach would be to access a networked
data source to obtain the URLs. It is contended that the evolution
of linear media should be tied to a model that promotes network
connectivity and distribution of information, thereby building
on the principles of the World Wide Web.
Basic requirements for anchors in media files would
be seen as the following
1: The ability to play a media file and have a URL
reference embedded in to the
2: The ability to have the URL launched by the player or browser at a specific point
in the playing of the media.
If URLs were only to be embedded in the media type,
the critical issue attached to the above features would be the
format and location of that information. However it is proposed
that a flexible anchor standard with a distributed network design
could pave the way for additional , highly interactive anchor
To encourage an application flexibility state of
mind, embedded URL commands be termed one of a set of anchor
commands. The potential for anchor command functionality
goes well beyond basic URL embedding. Additional anchor commands
could include features such as
1: Download a media file, play and have unlimited ( although impractical ) number
of anchors referenced from the media stream
2: Stream a media file and have unlimited number of anchors references from the
3: Anchors should be able to overlap ( several anchors
at the same time, with different ( or same ) start and end points
4: Anchors should be defined as more than URLs. Anchors should be of several forms
5: Anchors should be separate from the media file to allow for
6: Anchors system should be architected to allow for two way distribution of elements
7: Anchors can be applicable to all type of linear
media - video, audio, animation, motion graphics, etc
8: Anchors commands should support a flexible notification system to allow for custom graphics or sounds based on application specific requirements
3.0 Architectural Proposal
An open architecture to support the above principles
- distributed data source, media separation, open and anchor command
language requires at least three issues to be addressed.
1: Player and communication structure
2: Data and Media Synchronization
3: Data Format
3.1 Player and Communication Structure
The communication paths for the three potential servers
involved in playing the media do not have to relay on the same
3.1.1 Web Server
No protocol or HTML changes are necessary for implementation
into any web page. The file is referenced with normal HTML links.
( embedded object or plug-in ). The HTML link activation would
cause the browser to open the player. The file extension type
( or embedded object ) would be recognized by the broswer.
3.1.2 Media Server
The player's communication with the Media server
( a logical entity ) is based on the need for receiving the media.
Current media players use a variety of communications methods
( UDP, TCP, VDP , etc ) . The protocol chosen is not based on
the need for a networked data source approach, but is solely dependent
on the type and method of media streaming ( or downloading ).
Whichever protocol is chosen, no changes would be necessary to
support the networked datasource.
3.1.3 Data Source and Server
The player communication with the Data Source server
( logical entity ) is based on the need for receiving and sending
data. As with the media communication, this path is established
between the player ( initiator ) and the data source ( recipient
). The choice of the communication protocols to perform the functions
would depend on the type of performance required by the player
and the applications. Methods of communication could be network
aware ODBC, ORPC, HTTP, RPC, or other network protocols for datasource
3.2 Data and Media Synchronization
The temptation with networked data is to attempt
to synchronize the media and the anchors in realtime over the
network. The World Wide Web's inherent architecture would not
necessarily allow this approach to work effectively. Synchronization
of the media with the anchors can be resolved through the use
of data source snap shots. The player at the time of launching
( or other critical times ) would receive the data source and
synchronize media with data locally. Network delay would not be
a factor in synchronization.
3.3 File Type Formats
In the case where the player is to launched as a
browser plugin, the anchor system would use an executable text
files to allow for command flexibility. Below is an example of
a possible syntax. The server downloads a file based on a users
( file extension .tgg ). This anchor command file is intended
to look like HTML and the player's plug-ins would act on these
files much like browsers act on HTML files. The contents of the
anchor file would be at least three elements
1: Location of the Anchor database
<A DREF "URL_format"></A>
HREF could be used but another syntax element would
need to indicate that the HREF is for a anchor database. The URL
would point to the database.
2: Location of the Media file
<A MREF "URL_Format"></A>
HREF could be used but another syntax element would
need to indicate that the HREF is for a anchor database. The URL
would point to the media file for download or streaming.
3: Frame Management
There are many ways of handling the navigation of
launched URLs from the player. For flexibility, it is suggested
that any options be specified by adding a syntax line to the .tgg
file. The option would specify whether the URL is sent to an existing
frame, a new page or a new window )
<FRAME OPTION=1 TARGET="framename">
TARGET holds the name of the frame within the browser
page. Option 2 and 3 may not need a frame or window name.
Notification that an URL anchor is present could
be done through a variety of methods - visual, audio, automated
, etc. To accommodate the notification options, the file syntax
might want to have a number of parameters.
<IMG SRC="URL_Format/firstgraphic.gif " BORDER="0">
<IMG SRC="URL_Format/secondgraphic.gif" BORDER="0">
The notification system might have two graphical
positions for the placing of graphics. The first <NOTIFY>
places the graphic in for the first location. The second <NOTIFY>
places the graphic in for the second location. This command would
offer no movement in the location where the graphics are placed.
For audio notification the syntax might be :
<A HREF = "URL_Format/firstsound.wav"></A>
<A HREF = "URL_Format/secondsound.wav"></A>
In the case that the player is an object reference can be done from within the HTML script and there is no need for the separate file extension ( .tgg )
<OBJECT ID="Xplayer1" WIDTH=x HEIGHT=x
<PARAM NAME="_Version" VALUE="65536">
<PARAM NAME="_ExtentX" VALUE="16157">
<PARAM NAME="_ExtentY" VALUE="8996">
<PARAM NAME="_StockProps" VALUE="128">
<PARAM NAME="MediaName" VALUE="">
<PARAM NAME="DataSource" VALUE="URL_Format/db.mdb">
<PARAM NAME="Frame" VALUE="framename">
<PARAM NAME="NotifyGraphic1" VALUE=" URL_Format /firstgraphic.gif"
<PARAM NAME="NotifyGraphic2" VALUE=" URL_Format /secondgraphic.gif"
<PARAM NAME="NotifySound1" VALUE=" URL_Format /firstsound.wav"
<PARAM NAME="NotifySound2" VALUE=" URL_Format /secondsound.wav"
The media file name, data source name and the frame
reference information are parameters in the object syntax.
The use of HTML like syntax is an example of a
very flexible method of offering anchor commands to linear media.
The use of this format method is not intended to create a new
community of browsers but to use an open standard command syntax.
HTML sets a good standard. With the appropriate plug-ins or downloadable
objects, current browsers should be able to support all functionality
3.4 Growth to HTML for new Media
By establishing several principles in the proposed
anchor architecture, there is the ability to support the natural
evolution of linear media to a command structure tha allows for
the manipulating of new media ( Video, audio, annimation, etc
). Anchor players could evolve to become interpreters of new
The argument for HTML support for other media is
that media such as Video and Audio are flat and have the very
simple control , like that of of VCRs or Tape recorders. The imagination
of the development and service provider community would offered
tools to go far beyond embedded URLs. By supporting a open standard
where the data is separate from the media, the system is open
to allow for new and innovative directions.
Presently URL anchors represent the first entry into
Hyperlinks references. ( like the command HREF ). The future
of interactive new media in a web environment will be determined
somewhat by the desire to provide an open distributed network
system that considers users and service providers as potential
creators of interactive content
4.0 Architectural Advantages
The advantages of a distributed data source network
approach, with open command structure are many:
1: The anchors data sources can be rotated and changed
for many reasons/purposes without the need for several copies
of the media to be store, streamed or downloaded.
2: A single data source reference can be used for
the same content, regardless of media format. Example : Entries
are created for a movie trailer. The trailer is encoded AVI for
some PC, Quicktime for Macs and MPEG for a broadband network.
If the player and database are structured properly, one a single
database is needed that can be referenced by all media players
3: The system is inherently bi-directional. In the
spirit of the web , the system encourages collaboration, personalization,
and personal participation in content creation.
4: The data source and the media do not have to exist
on the same machine or even the same country. The architecture
encourages data and network distribution.
5: The architecture provide maximum growth potential.
Simple URL embedding can be extended to bring a variation of HTML
for video and HTML for audio into our tools for Internets and
6: The system can be downwards compatible and support
URL embedding. There are some cases where embedding the URL may
be the correct choice.( say in the case of CD-ROM publishing )
where network connectivity cannot be assumed and all the data
is local. A flexible publishing system would be able to offer
a choice of collapsing the file into an embedded format.
7: The system will also allow for realtime annotation.
Through the use of collision detectable data sources systems,
data anchor data can be updated in realtime. Data source snap
shots can provided up-to-date information to the players.
8: The media files are not modified. They can be
player using standard players or with anchor reading players.
5.0 Proposal Summary & Recommendations
It is recommended that the subject of embedding URL
anchors in streaming media be considered the starting point for
the evolution of interactive linear media. The evolution of new
media into web based interactive models requires a small but significant
set of recommendations
The following set are proposed.
This is the same direction that text and images took
as the web began to evolve. It is video and audio media's time
to follow the same evolutionary path.