Multimedia Hardware Requirements

Computers

The two types of desktop computer used for multimedia development are the Apple Mac and the Microsoft Windows based personal computer or PC. Both platforms share these common components as do most types of computer:

The latest specification Macs and PCs are capable of running the application tools necessary for developing standard multimedia applications. The standard applications are image, sound and video editing, animation and multimedia integration. Comparisons of the performance of the latest generation of PCs and Macs are hotly contested but in
general they are now roughly the same with each type of computer performing better on some tasks than others. Apple Macs have, in the past, been more associated with the multimedia industry, however PCs are increasingly being used since they are now capable of undertaking the same processor intensive tasks like video compression equally well.

High specification computers are required to undertake some of the tasks required in multimedia development and Figure 2.1 shows the specification of a recent PC and Mac base unit that are appropriate.

There are other types of computer used in multimedia developed particularly for graphics processing, video capture, and editing and 3D modelling. For example, the SGI Silicon Graphics Octane2 computer is specifically designed for visualisation, 3D modelling and other graphical applications and is based on SGI’s own R14000A processor and a version of the UNIX operating system. 300 SGI Octane2 computers were used to create the 3D animated characters for Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story 2 film. 

There are a number of storage devices used in multimedia development, the key one being the hard disk drive. It is important to have a large hard disk drive to undertake some tasks like video and sound editing, however the latest desktop computers come with a minimum of 60Gbyte of capacity which is enough for most standard tasks. Currently, hard disk drives have capacities up to 120Gbytes and data transfer rates of 160Mbits per second. There two standard types of hard drive used in desktop computers – enhanced integrated drive electronics (EIDE) or Ultra ATA based drives and small computer system interface (SCSI) based drives.

Optical disk drives including the compact disk-ROM (CD-ROM), CD-Recordable (CR-R), CD-Rewriteable (CD-RW) and the digital versatile disk drives (DVD) are also key storage devices. The CD-ROM was the standard medium for delivering multimedia throughout much of the 1990s but is being superseded by the rapid development of the Web. Computers used for multimedia development should include a CD-RW drive for reading and writing CD-ROMs disks. CD-R drives, sometimes called WORM (write once read many) drives, are used for backup purposes and also for creating master copies of multimedia applications. For batch production purposes CD-Copiers are used for copying and labelling 50 CDs at once. CD-ROM drives store up to 660Mbyte at access speeds of up to 7200Kbits per second. Currently CD-RW drives work at lower access speeds but are becoming standard since they are re-recordable and are making the 3.5‘‘ floppy drive redundant. CDs are all based on a particular CD standard named after the colour of its covers. The original audio CD was based on the yellow book standard, the CD-ROM on the red book but is also compatible with the yellow book standard so you can listen to audio CDs on your computer. CD-R and CD-RW are based on the orange book standard. It is likely that DVD drives and in particular DVD rewriteable drives will eventually supersede CD-ROM technology with storage capacities up to 17Gbyte and faster transfer speeds.

Why are these specifications necessary when developing and running multimedia?