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The RealMedia architecture was developed by Progressive Networks, makers of RealAudio. It was designed specifically to support live and on-demand video and audio across the WWW.

The first version of RealMedia is focused on video and audio, and is referred to as RealVideo. Later releases of RealMedia will incorporate other formats including MIDI, text, images, vector graphics, animations, and presentations.

RealMedia content can be placed on your site either with or without special server software. There are performance advantages with the server, but you don't have to buy one to get started. However, high volume sites will definitely want a server to get substantially improved file delivery performance.

Users can view RealMedia sites with the RealPlayer, a free "client" application available from Progressive. A Netscape plug-in is also available.

The main downside to RealMedia is that it currently requires a PowerMac or Pentium computer to view. As such, RealMedia movies aren't available to the full range of potential users.

The latest free downloads, as well as more information, are available at Real Network's site.

RealVideo Codecs
(Primary Use)
Pros Cons Availability
RealVideo (Standard)
WWW video below 3KBps
Encodes quickly; better at lower data rates & higher action Requires high-end PowerMac or Pentium for proper playback Included with RealVideo Encoder
RealVideo (Fractal)
WWW video above 3KBps
Plays better than RealVideo (Standard) on lower-end systems; higher quality for scenes with less action. Still requires mid-range to fast PowerMac or Pentium for proper playback; no live encoding. Available from Iterated Systems

RealAudio Codecs
(Primary Use)
Pros Cons Availability
Voice Extremely low data rates allow use over 14.4 modem, or leave more bandwith for video Don't accurately reproduce music or sound effects Included in RealVideo Encoder
8, 12KBps Music Acceptable reproduction of music, especially instrumental-only Mono only; not as good on vocals Included in RealVideo Encoder
High bitrate Music Very good reproduction of wide range of music Requires faster connection Included in RealVideo Encoder

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