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RealNetworks Adds SMIL Code to Helix

Digital media heavyweight RealNetworks on Monday added the code for SMIL to its open-source Helix Community, a move that allows the creation of multimedia presentations that integrate streaming audio and video with images and text.

The Seattle-based RealNetworks said the source code for SMIL 2.0 (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) would be available for Helix community developers to create and display interactive audio/visual presentations.

SMIL, based on XML, is a new markup language developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that lets developers divide multimedia content into separate files and streams (audio, video, text, and images), send them to a user's computer individually, and then have them displayed together as if they were a single multimedia stream.

The release of the SMIL source code to the Helix Community comes as RealNetworks continues to battle cross-town rivals Microsoft for the lucrative enterprise digital media market. Real's open-source Helix Community, created late last year to strike a chord with the developer community, is the company's answer to Microsoft's all-encompassing Windows Media 9 Series platform.

Both companies have scored lucrative partnerships with big-name electronics and chipset firms and the latest addition of SMIL code gives RealNetworks another carrot to add to the mix.

The company's flagship Helix DNA Client is currently being used by major middleware and electronics firms to enable digital media on DVD players, set top boxes, PDAs, and mobile devices.

RealNetworks VP in charge of Helix Products and Solutions Nagesh Pabbisetty said the addition of SMIL code will jump-start development of audio/video-enabled products in desktop and mobile devices.

He said Web developers looking to display content on devices like top boxes, mobile and handheld devices can now implement the Helix DNA Client with SMIL functionality. "This simplifies both the product development process and the creation of content -- as SMIL enables content owners to create complex media presentations without using scripting languages," the company said in its announcement.

The cross-platform SMIL source code (Windows, Mac and Linux) is available under a no-cost open source or a royalty-based commercial license.

RealNetworks said the SMIL standard offers advantages in several areas, including:

  • Presentation layout and timing -- SMIL allows the arrangement and manipulation of elements of a video, audio or graphics animation presentation to play simultaneously or on a specific time sequence.
  • Tailoring a presentation for different audiences -- SMIL can stream different clips to audiences based on criteria such as language or available bandwidth, all accessible without just one hyperlink. When a URL is opened, the Helix DNA Client-based application would read the options in the SMIL file and choose the appropriate presentation.
  • Flexibility in media organization -- A SMIL file lists a separate URL for each clip so presentations can be put together using clips stored on any server. This allows SMIL to eliminate the need to merge multiple clips into a single streaming file.