Updated 4/15/00

Creating RealMedia Videos

Before you read any further, note that the software is available for Windows 95/98/2000/NT 4.0, Macintosh PPC & Linux 2.0/2.2.

This procedure will not create those tiny, pixelated RealVideo clips you're accustomed to seeing. Because you control the size and resolution of both the original and converted videos, your RealVideo clips will be of much higher quality. You will end up with files which are greatly reduced in size but of remarkable clarity. This will save you huge amounts of server space, and your site visitors will be spared long download times; so, they will be more likely to view your animations.

There are compression systems which provide higher quality output than RealMedia. However, most people have the Real (or a compatible) player installed, already. The production software is free, cross-platform, and very easy to use. A number of graphics applications provide the option of direct RealMedia output. And the output is good, if you consider the file sizes involved. In this application, it's a simple way of increasing the size of your audience by allowing site visitors to quickly preview your animations. It may be that the best approach would be to provide links in multiple formats and let your site visitors choose for themselves.

If you want to see some fine examples, have a look at Dan Mancuso's collection of very inventive animations.

The utility required to convert animations to RealMedia is the RealProducer, available in both free and upgraded versions. The upgraded version is rarely necessary and is far too expensive for the average user.

For technical information related to creating and delivering RealMedia, there are some lengthy and confusing manuals available both in online and pdf versions. Odds are, you won't find any of this necessary. They are geared more towards those interested in setting up servers to deliver streaming content.

You have a choice how to present the video on your web site. You can have the player launch and let the viewer see the anim in a streaming format, or you can let them download it and then launch the player.

For our purposes, the preferred method to avoid stalling for users with slower connections is to allow them to download the video to their hard drives. The default in the encoding process is no copying or downloading. This can be overridden in RealProducer through the Options/Preferences/General tab in the main window. You then link directly to the .rm (RealMedia) file.

For the streaming style, you create a .ram file. This is simply a HTML page containing only the URL to the .rm file. Really, that's all it is. You create a text file in any text editor, type in the URL of the .rm file, save the text file and change the file extension to ".ram". Provide a link on your web page to the .ram file, which then launches the RealPlayer and loads the .rm video. This provides some additional copying security, but is likely to produce stalling during playback, diluting the viewing experience.

To create a RealMedia video from your original animation, the steps are simple:

  1. Render your animation. Following Russ Andersson's suggestions, I use sequenced pcx for it's intrinsic lossless compression. Create the avi or mov from this file, using whatever animation or video editing package you prefer, and using no compression codecs (no Indeo, Cinepak, etc.). This is critical...since the RealMedia conversion process will compress your files significantly, you want to start with the highest quality input.
  2. Run RealProducer.
  3. In the New Session window - Choose Recording Wizard window, select Record from File.
  4. Browse to the animation file saved in Step 1.
  5. Enter the title, author and copyright information. This will be displayed in the RealPlayer during playback.
  6. Select Single-rate for Web Servers. This forces RealMedia to deliver only the least compressed version.
  7. For Target Audience, select 512K DSL/Cable Modem.
  8. Select the output format. Normal Motion Video is okay, Sharpest Video is good--it really depends on the degree of movement in your animation. The descriptions next to the various choices are a good guide.
  9. Specify the Output File name.
  10. When the main conversion window appears, double-check your settings and press Start. The conversion will take only a few seconds.
  11. The Processing Complete window will appear and give you the option to transmit information regarding your clip to RealMedia.com. There is also a Statistics button which will display the degree of compression achieved in the conversion.
  12. Press Play to preview your converted clip.

Let me know if this works for you. I'm certainly no expert and if anyone has any additions or corrections they would be welcome.

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