Essay, Research Paper
In this modern era of information, the internet has been opening up a world of opportunities to any with the resources and know-how to take advantage of it. Information of many shapes and sizes is now distributed globally at the click of a button. Scientific journals, conspiracy theories, fine arts, and totally new media are being distributed on the internet. One form of information has been slow to get to the internet, and that is animation. There have been limited advances made up to this time, but animation, as well as any other broadcast type media (live action, even audio.) T understand why this is, a basic understanding of the internet must be understood. Then, a survey will be made of current attempts at dealing with these issues, and then a glance toward what the future holds. But first, to understand the issues at hand, we must have a general understanding of what the oft-misunderstood internet actually is.The nature of the internet itself is not terribly complicated. It consists of a multitude of computers connected primarily through existing telephone lines that can transfer any sort of digital information back and forth. It began in the early 60 s with the design for a post-nuclear attack information transfer system, known as the ARPANET. That grew into a system which would consist of multiple independent but interconnected networks. This expanding network of networks allows any computer that can be connected to a phone line to become a part of it. As of today, most connections to the internet are done over analog phone lines, with digital signals being sent over and translated on the user side by a device called a modem (modulator-demodulator.) this is of crucial importance for understanding the current limits of internet technology. Current phone lines are limited in exactly how much data can be carried over them. The theoretical limit of 33.6 kbps has been stretched, but a standstill seems to have been reached for modems at the current stander of 56 kbps.This data transfer rate limitation is a severe hindrance to anyone who wishes to transport large amounts of data to the common user. For text based documents, this limit is not a overwhelming issue to cope with. Once graphics are added, the issue becomes more pronounced. Sound and animation tend towards being much larger, which translates into slower download times. People are forced to wait to see your content, and many users are unwilling to do this. This problem is being dealt with in two ways across the industry. The first method is by opening bandwidth. Companies are scrambling to develop new technologies that are not dependant on analog phone lines and which can exceed the current 56kbps limit imposed on modem users. The other approach is in making the size of files smaller, wither through compressing them or re-interpreting the data in a more concise manner. Both of these approaches have benefits and drawbacks. First, we will examine the open bandwidth approach. In this approach, the modem/phone line connection to the internet is replaced by one of several emerging technologies. A brief survey of the front-runners in this approach, as well as their advantages and drawbacks is in order. Internet Bandwidth Options Technology Advantages DrawbacksISDN Reasonable Reliability, Improved Bandwidth CostDirect T1 Excellent Bandwidth Prohibitive CostCablemodem Excellent Bandwidth, Uses Existing Tech AvailabilityTable 1 – Bandwidth Options This approach to solving he bandwidth dilemma involves connecting your computer to the internet using a wire other than your phone line (and a device other than a Modem proper.) The four technologies that we will be discussing are the following: ISDN, Direct T1 (or better) XDSL, and the Cablemodem. Each offers the same basic improvement, but with subtle advantages and disadvantages in each. First, we will examine ISDN. ISDN allows multiple digital channels to be operated simultaneously through the same regular phone wiring. The change comes about when the telephone company’s switches can support digital connections. Therefore, the same physical wiring can be used, but a digital signal, instead of an analog signal, is transmitted across the line. This scheme permits a much higher data transfer rate than analog lines. With ISDN supporting an uncompressed data transfer speed of 128 kbps. (this is double the Modem’s capacity of 56 kbps) In addition, the latency, or the amount of time it takes for a communication to begin on an ISDN line is typically about half that of an analog line. In addition, it is possible with ISDN to combine many different digital data sources and have the information routed to multiple destinations, an option not available with analog lines. Since the line is digital, it is easier to keep the noise and interference out while combining these signals. ISDN technically refers to a specific set of digital services provided through a single, standard interface. Without ISDN, distinct interfaces are required instead.
ISDN, however, must be wired into your home on its own, and while prices are descending (pricing depends on the provider) ISDN is not a new technology, and has since been bested by newer, faster lines. ISDN, while faster than modems, is not a particularly good value, and I would speculate that it is on its way out.The next option we will examine is having a direct T1 line. For the most part, this is a business scale operation, and amounts to a direct connection to the internet. T1’s and above form the blood vessels of the internet, and the lines cost hundreds of dollars per month to own. The Bandwidth to such a high scale operation is incredible. For the average user, however, T1’s are impossible to afford on their own. However, Enterprising offices and residences are having T1 lines installed in their buildings to be shared among the tenants (which is responsible for many of the ethernet connections that are beginning o be included with apartments, dorms, and offices.Next, We will examine cablemodems. Cablemodems use existing cable lines instead of phone or specially purchased lines to deliver high speed internet connections. The speed is faster than Analog and ISDN by a lot, with available speeds up to 30Mbps, though this slows down as the popularity grows and more users are using them, though today’s average PC will only handle data transfer rates of 4 Mbps anyway. Getting all of this–including the modem, a browser, email, and an Ethernet card (if you need one)–normally costs a setup fee ranging from $100 to $200, plus monthly charges between $30 and $50.The only problem, aside from its sensitivity to the demands placed on it, with cablemodems is that they are not commonly available. And from a broadcaster’s perspective, you can’t start making pages that only people with a cablemodem will be able to see, unless you want to severely limit your audience. Broadcast Compression Options Technology Advantages DrawbacksQuicktime High Quality Media Poor Web CompressionFlash Scalable, Small, Good Quality media Difficult o use, limited applicationRealvideo Good Web Compression Poor QualityTable 2 – Broadcast Compression Options The next possibility for web broadcast animation we will be looking at is compression options, examining the three leading technologies comparatively. The first we will be looking at is QuickTime, examining its advantages and drawbacksQuickTime is a simple cross-platform architecture (for Macintosh, Unix, and PC). Depending on the version of QuickTime players and plug-ins the client has installed, the user may or may not have streaming capability (the ability to view media without having to wait for an entire video file to download before beginning to view it.) QuickTime codecs and the player are available free. It is a widely used format, and provides high quality web media, though files sizes for QuickTime media are still on the large size. Next, we will be examining Flash. Flash is a vector based animation program, Vector based animation deals with simpler objects (graphical elements as opposed to photographic ones.) Because of this, it consists of text instructions telling the computer how to draw and animate the various items, instead of detailed maps of each drawing, so the file sizes are quite small, and since these animations are passed over in the form of mathematical instructions, they can be resized easily without compromising image quality. The drawback to this is that the Flash program is poorly designed, with a difficult interface and non-intuitive learning processes. On top of this, With flash, you are limited to vector based animation, no rasterized images may be used. Finally, There is Realvideo. Realvideo was the first, and some would argue best streaming audio and video application. It too is cross-platform solution, the primary difference between QuickTime and Realvideo is where priorities lie. In QuickTime, emphasis is given to a high quality signal with high download time as a result. The RealPlayer solution inverts those priorities, so that the files suffer in quality, but are much faster to download and begin streaming. As this survey no doubt shows, a great deal of attention is being given to high bandwidth demand media for the internet. Animation, audio, and live video are without a doubt the direction the internet will be headed in. It I important for those interested in animation, especially more entrepruerial sprits who would b interested in developing and distributing media on their own. The internet is definitely a hot spot for animators to be watching.