SIGMM Education Column

June 2011


Authors: Wei Tsang Ooi


By Wei Tsang Ooi

In this issue's SIGMM Education Column, we highlight a new textbook on multimedia computing, written by two active members of the SIGMM community, Ramesh Jain and Gerald Friedland. The textbook, titled ``Introduction to Multimedia Computing,'' is targeted at senior undergraduate and beginning graduate students. It is scheduled to appear in 2011 and is published by Cambridge University Press.

``Introduction to Multimedia Computing'' adopts a comprehensive approach in presenting the field of multimedia computing. Instead of introducing multimedia computing based on the media types (image, audio, video), this book considers multimedia as a fundamental and unique discipline that must use all media necessary to solve problems and presents a unified introduction to the field by focusing on the fundamental techniques and mathematical foundations of multimedia computing. For instance, the book introduces lossy compression by presenting the principles of quantization and differential coding, before showing how these principles are applied to compression of image, audio, and video.

Even though the theoretical foundations are very similar, multimedia researchers and developers are usually divided along specific medium boundaries, such as speech processing, natural language processing or computer vision. The ways humans process information as well as the processing power of modern computers, however, suggests that by handling different media synergistically, one may understand even an individual media better and may design more practical engineering systems. Integrated processing promises improved robustness in many situations and is closer to what humans do. This textbook provides such a unified perspective to multimedia computing for computer scientists. The authors hope that, people interested in multimedia will rise above the media boundaries and will worry more about the content than the medium.

Of course, a field as broad as multimedia cannot be covered comprehensively in one book as it would require covering large parts of mathematics, physics, physiology, psychology, electrical engineering, in addition to computer science topics. The authors therefore adopt a different approach: They introduce the main concepts in a ``capsule" form and provide pseudo-code for algorithms such as ADPCM encoding or the Paeth Predictor. Very often, chapters point to unexplored possibilities and the historical reasons for them (e.g., patent quarrels), encouraging the student to experiment on their own. For example, given the Weber-Fechner law of logarithmic perception, why are the TV formats encoding colors and brightness linearly? Further literature and web references are provided, allowing the reader to explore the topics beyond the coverage of the book.

Topics covered in this textbook include fundamentals of sound and light, compression, authoring, content analysis, retrieval, HCI, as well as privacy and security. The authors of the textbook have made draft chapters of the book available online for comments. The chapters can be downloaded from

In the future, the website will provide additions to the book chapters, which will dynamically evolve as the field progresses, support for the exercises, as well as further and updated information on the community.

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