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Guest Editor's Introduction: What's New with MPEG?

John R. Smith, IBM T. J. Watson Research Center

Pages: pp. 16-17

Multimedia standards play a vital role in ensuring interoperability of systems for distributing, managing, and creating multimedia data. Multimedia standards help accelerate the adoption of innovative technologies in the marketplace and allow for a greater choice of vendors and interoperable components. No standards body has had greater influence on the multimedia industry than the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). MPEG standards have impacted a wide range of products and services related to digital television, streaming audio and video, portable music players, and so on. MPEG's work has spanned a broad array of requirements resulting in the MPEG-1, -2, -4, -7, and -21 standards, which together define an extensive set of tools for audiovisual compression, transport, metadata, and exchange of multimedia resources.

MPEG is continuing to explore new directions to serve the needs of industry for audio, video, and multimedia standards. This special issue highlights six of the significant new multimedia standardization efforts currently under way.

In this issue

The first article by Quackenbush and Herre on "MPEG Surround" presents MPEG's recent effort on developing a state-of-the-art coding method for multichannel sound. The MPEG Surround standard is being designed for backwards compatibility with traditional stereophonic systems by providing a multichannel enhancement via low-rate side information. This article describes how the standard will help bridge traditional stereophonic systems with new multichannel capabilities and satisfy new multichannel audio requirements for applications such as music download, Internet radio, teleconferencing, gaming, and digital audio broadcast.

The second article by Drury and Burnett on "MPEG-21 in a Backpack Journalism Scenario" walks through a scenario with a freelance multimedia journalist. MPEG-21 helps the journalist with the creation, publishing, delivery, and consumption of digital items. The article demonstrates the enormous benefits of interoperably exchanging digital items throughout the entire delivery chain using the MPEG-21 multimedia framework and illustrates how MPEG-7 can work together with MPEG-21 to provide standardized metadata descriptions. The article also illustrates how MPEG-21 supports a broad range of users with different roles throughout the delivery chain.

The third article by Diepold, Pereira, and Chang on "MPEG-A: Multimedia Application Formats" presents a new direction being explored by MPEG to develop lightweight multimedia application formats (MAFs) that combine existing standards to satisfy the needs of specific applications. The article describes how MPEG-A aims to facilitate the rapid development of standards-based multimedia applications and services by building on proven standardized technologies. The article presents MPEG's approach for creating MAFs and discusses two examples currently under development. The music player MAF integrates existing MPEG tools for MP3 audio coding, MPEG-4/-21 file format, and MPEG-7 metadata. The photo player MAF integrates JPEG format images, exchangeable image file format (EXIF) metadata, MPEG file format, and MPEG-7 visual descriptors.

The fourth article by Bellini, Nesi, and Zoia on "Symbolic Music Representation in MPEG" motivates the need for developing a new standard of symbolic representation for music to support applications in education and entertainment. Symbolic music representation (SMR) extends music notation by providing not only a visual representation of a music score, but also audio information and annotations. The article describes the relationship of SMR to the MPEG-4 standard and illustrates several potential tools and applications that could use SMR.

The fifth article by Tokmakoff, Nuttall, and Ji on "MPEG-21 Event Reporting: Enabling Multimedia E-Commerce" describes MPEG's work on standardizing the reporting of events within the MPEG-21 multimedia framework. MPEG-21 event reporting supports the needs of the rights holders to monitor the use and exchange of copyrighted digital items. The article describes the key concepts of event reports (ERs), event report-requests (ER-Rs), and presents a model for processing ERs and ER-Rs.

The last article by Dufourd, Avaro, and Concolato on "An MPEG Standard for Rich Media Services" describes MPEG's new effort to develop a standardized framework for delivering rich media presentations. The result, known as a lightweight application scene representation, or Laser, is designed to support new requirements for packaging and streaming graphics, audio, video, and text required by applications such as rich media portals and interactive mobile TV. The article describes the elements of the Laser representation, which encodes scene descriptions and media content. Lastly, the article describes the relationship of Laser to MPEG-4 systems, the International Organization for Standardization's ISO file format, and MPEG-4 streaming standards.


I hope that this special issue provides readers timely and relevant insights into new and exciting multimedia standardization activities. Just as each of these technologies focuses on interoperability and interaction, so does the MPEG community spring forth from the continued cooperation and interaction of talented, visionary multimedia researchers and readers. We've only represented some of the technologies that abound in this special issue. Others from MPEG—such as scalable video coding and new audio and video extensions of MPEG-7—and from other standards bodies like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), will also greatly enhance the industry.


I would like to thank the invited authors, who are the leading authorities on the topics presented in this special issue, for their terrific efforts in preparing such informative and accessible articles. I would also like to thank the reviewers for their valuable feedback. I am grateful to the Editor in Chief, Forouzan Golshani, for his support and guidance. Lastly, I would like to thank Alkenia Winston and Tammi Titsworth of IEEE MultiMedia for their tremendous support and guidance in preparing this special issue.

About the Authors

Bio Graphic
John R. Smith is a senior manager of the Intelligent Information Management Department at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in New York. His research interests include multimedia databases, content analysis, compression, indexing, and retrieval. Smith received his MPhil and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from Columbia University. He served as the chair of the ISO MPEG Multimedia Description Schemes (MDS) group from January 2001–July 2004 and as coproject editor for the MPEG-7 MDS Metadata Standard. He's an associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Multimedia, the Standards department editor for IEEE MultiMedia, and is an editorial board member of ACM Computers in Entertainment and the Journal of Multimedia Tools and Applications.
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