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Streaming competition heats up

If the Emblaze authoring tool and viewer for Internet multimedia actually delivers what its creators say it will, Shockwave could be in for some serious competition.

If the upcoming Emblaze authoring tool and viewer for Internet multimedia actually delivers what its creators say it will, Macromedia's Shockwave could be in for some serious competition by year's end.

Emblaze, from Geo Interactive Media Group, uses proprietary compression and file formatting to deliver synchronized audio, animation, and live-action video over the Internet in one data file.

When released in beta in December, the authoring component Emblaze Creator 2.0 will be as fully functional as Macromedia Director, according to Geo partner Eli Reifman. Creator will allow authors to import a multitude of audio, video, and graphic file types and will also include tools for creating native content. To synchronize different media types into a single Internet movie or animation, Creator will use a plotting mechanism that estimates the performance of the file at various bandwidths.

"You can see the data rate generated for each and every frame to show where bottlenecks might occur in the streaming process," said Reifman.

Creator 2.0 users will not need to know any programming languages, using a drag-and-drop interface for most actions, including synchronization of media files and creation of image maps (interactive hot spots) within the graphic elements of the content. For more experienced programmers, Creator 2.0 will support JavaScript and ActiveX.

To view Emblaze content, end users will need version 2 of the Emblaze Player, a slim 45K Java applet due out in early October. Over 28.8-kbps connections, Reifman said, the player will run live-action video at 6 frames per second without dropping any frames as well as full-motion animation. For full-motion video, at least an ISDN connection is needed.

Prices for Emblaze have not been set, but Geo's Reifman said it will be comparable to other Internet authoring tools.

A demo of the current version of Emblaze, version 1.0, which only supports animation, is posted on Emblaze's Web site. The current versions of the Creator and Player are free and available for download at the site.