Digital Video Architectures



QuickTime 3 Logo
QuickTime is Apple's multi-platform, industry-standard, multimedia software architecture. It is used by software developers, hardware manufacturers, and content creators to author and publish synchronized graphics, sound, video, text, music, VR, and 3D media.

QuickTime movies are the most common type of video on CD-ROM and the Internet today.

RealMedia (RealAudio, RealVideo)

RealMedia Logo RealMedia (including RealAudio and RealVideo) is exclusively focused on delivering media across the Internet. It supports both live and "on demand" video, and works with or without a dedicated server. RealAudio is currently the most widely used "true streaming" media type on the Internet.

Microsoft (NetShow, DirectShow/ActiveMovie, Video for Windows)

NetShow Logo NetShow is Microsoft's solution for delivery of Internet multimedia. The NetShow server supports both live and "on demand" video. With a strong set of technologies added with the acquisition of VXtreme, the upcoming NetShow 3.0 looks like a very powerful streaming media solution.

DirectShow (formerly known as ActiveMovie) is the successor to Microsoft's Video for Windows architecture. It is built on top of the DirectX archictecture, and supports playback of multimedia from WWW, CD-ROM, and DVD-ROM.

Video for Windows (also known as AVI) was primarily aimed at CD-ROM video (although it is also used on the WWW to some degree). It is no longer supported by Microsoft, and is being replaced by DirectShow/ActiveMovie.


Smacker is a CD-ROM video architecture which provides Cinepak-like quality. It is most popular with game developers, as it is optimized for low-to-midrange systems, and uses the 8-bit display mode popular with many action games.

VDOLive is a true streaming WWW video architecture. Its unique pyramidal encoding scheme allows a single video stream to be optimized on-the-fly for a range of connection speeds.

VivoActive is a standards-based WWW video architecture. Vivo was acquired by Real Networks in February 1998; this technology is being incorporated into RealMedia. Because of this, the VivoActive format is likely to disappear in the future.

VXtreme Web Theater is a true streaming WWW video architecture based on powerful server software. VXtreme was acquired by Microsoft in 1997; the Web Theater technology is being incorporated into NetShow 3.0. Because of this, the VXtreme Web Theater format is likely to disappear in the future.

Emblaze is a Java-based WWW video architecture, which is unique in that it does not require any plug-ins. However, proper playback does require the latest version of Java and a high-end computer, and even then generally falls short of other technologies.