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Above and Beyond: Understanding Metadata(Part 2)

By Nate Zelnick Learning to SMIL SMIL provides two ways to group media objects: parallel and sequential. These are described using the elements <PAR> and <SEQ> which operate as you would expect. For example, to create a presentation that displays an image while an audio file plays, you would use the Sequential element to group these, like so:
 <SMIL> <HEAD> </HEAD> <BODY> <SEQ> <PAR> <IMAGE SRC="foo.gif"> <AUDIO SRC="foo.wav"> </PAR> <PAR> <IMAGE SRC="bar.gif"> <AUDIO SRC="bar.wav"> </PAR> </SEQ> </BODY> </SMIL> 
In the example above, the "foo" picture and voiceover are grouped as a parallel element, which means the two objects are shown together and presented until the "foo" audio file finishes playing. Then the "bar" objects are presented until the "bar" audio file is finished. While each of the combined objects play together (in parallel), they are contained in a larger sequential element, which means they play one after the other. This is a very simple demonstration of SMIL. The language includes very sophisticated timing and switching mechanisms as well, which I'll outline in a future article. The interesting thing about metadata and SMIL is that it allows binary elements that otherwise could not be easily categorized by their internal content to be described in a straightforward, human-readable fashion. This is the key concept in how XML will help the Web to run more efficiently--particularly by making it easier for search engines to categorize anything--including pages and sites--so that searches are more likely to return the document that users are looking for instead of the all-too-common information overload of today.


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