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Term of the Week: Media Standards for XML

What is it?

Industry-defined file formats for images, video, audio, and other multi-sensory content that can be included as a resource in a structured XML document.

Why is it important?

Media standards provide a consistent technical method for delivering these experiences to a variety of output formats from single-source content (XML). The prominent documentation standards have dedicated elements for referencing media: DocBook has <inlinemediaobject> and <mediaobject> elements; DITA has <image> and <object>; TEI has the <media> element.

Why does a technical communicator need to know this?

Engaging multiple senses helps an audience consume, remember and respond to your content. Some audiences are more visually-oriented, some are more auditory, and some have accessibility needs. Media standards provide a consistent way for you to enhance the communication experience using a variety of the audience’s senses.

Sight: Standard image formats include:

  • Vector
    • SVG: Scalable Vector Graphics (XML-encoded)
    • CGM: Computer Graphics Metafile
    • U3D: Universal 3D, a format for 3D graphics data
  • Raster
    • TIFF: common for high-resolution print and editing
    • PNG: widely used for web, mobile, and print
    • JPG: compressed, smaller files, preferred for photos
    • GIF: widely used bitmap format for web, supports animation
    • BMP: raw, uncompressed bitmap

Standard video formats include: MPEG (MP4), AVI and H.264.

SVG is the only XML-based format for images. It can scale to any display and supports embedded, localized text. Most modern browsers and print engines can render SVG.

Sound: While the video formats support both visuals and sound, standard audio-only formats include: MPEG (MP3), WAV and AIFF. The same markup is typically used to reference audio and video content in XML, though DocBook has distinct elements for <audioobject> and <videoobject>.

Touch: Primarily found in game content, haptic feedback will become more prominent in AR and VR delivery. MPEG-7 provides metadata for describing scenes. More formally, touch-enhanced content can be described using the Haptic Application Meta-Language (HAML) and Sensory Effect Description Language.

Smell and taste: While yet to become mainstream, taste and smell have markup languages under development, but consistent delivery of taste and smell content will require overcoming technical hurdles.

About Scott Hudson

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Scott Hudson has more than 20 years of experience in technical communications, including managing and deploying structured markup and content management systems. He specializes in information architecture, content analysis, solution design, content model design, XSLT, Schematron, and other XML-related technologies. Scott is a voting member of several OASIS technical committees including DITA, DocBook, and Augmented Reality in Information Products (ARIP). He is currently the Content Strategist for Digital Aviation Learning and Development at Jeppesen, a Boeing company.

Term: XML Media Standards



Twitter: @shudson310