American Chemical Society's Pan American Conference for Undergraduates

June 29 - July 3, 2000

San Juan, Puerto Rico


Using SMIL to Enhance an Introductory Chemistry Web Site


Dr. John I. Gelder

Department of Chemistry

Oklahoma State University

Click here for this page in Spanish


Using Real Video Solution

Using QuickTime Solution

Player only

Player only


Lecture Ex. 1

Lecture Ex. 2

Player streaming

Lecture Streaming Ex

Significant Figures


Audio/SMIL example
Stoichiometry Ex. 1
Stoichiometry Ex. 2
Stoichiometry Ex. 3

Limiting reagent Ex. 1

Limiting reagent Ex. 2


1215HelpSession ver. 1

1215HelpSession ver. 2

QuickTime/Flash ver 1

QuickTime/Flash ver 2

AP Chemistry Institute


Additional Links:


Howard Hughes


It appears to many futurists who know more than I, the Internet and TV are destine to converge. There are many difference in these two technologies today, but with time they will merge. The Internet is a digital, interactive, on-demand environment. Television is a video/audio environment. To me I see the convergence producing an interactive, digital video, on-demand environment. The drivers of this convergence are the entertainment industry and e-commerce. Education will likely have little to do guide the changes that occur. But the changes that occur are going to impact on education.

Today I can turn on my television, go to the Weather Channel and see what the meteorologist's are discussing when I tune-in. It may or may not be weather that I'm interested in learning about. If I'm interested in my local weather I may have to sit down and wait a few minutes. If I'm interested in knowing if there are any thunderstorms on the east coast predicted for the next week, I'm likely to have longer to wait. I can pass the time by surfing to another channel, but I risk missing the information if I get too interested in the program on the new channel.

On the Internet I can access the Weather Channel and with a few more button clicks, find out about my local weather, including current temperatures, forcasts and current radar. If I want thunderstorm information on the east coast there is a button to click to get that information also. The difference between the two approaches? On the Internet I get the information I want, when I want it.

On the Internet if I wanted to find information about when 'tornado season' is in southwestern United States I could select a search engine and enter my query and get a long list of sites likely to provide me with the information I requested. On television I can surf through the other channels to see if anyone is doing a special on tornadoes, but we all know how likely it is to find such a program. The Weather Channel is likely to offer such programming but I may have to wait a day or more to view their information.

There are many who see the Internet as a new delivery system for instruction. Institutions are offering 'distance learning' over the Internet to expand their enrollment. Will the Internet be the new delivery system?

Many of us recall in the early years of television the program SunRise Semester. Television was reaching homes all across America why not take advantage of the medium to deliver instruction. SunRise Semester existed for many years but the revolution offered by the combination of television and classroom instruction that the creators of SRS hoped for never occurred. In the late 80's and early 90's distance learning utilized satellite technology to deliver live instruction to students around the country/world. A little fresher perhaps, with live instruction so students could call in questions and listen to answers, or students could call and interact with the teacher during the live instruction. More technology applied but the same paradigm. Now there is the Internet, and video and audio are just beginning to be accessible to many in their homes. There are still many issues to be resolved, but for most in the communications industry it is just a matter of time before video over the Internet will be in most homes. What will this future hold for education?

I've been using the Web in my classes for many years. My use of the Web has grown over the years. I began with relatively simple kinds of information...printed text and shockwave animations. I had a large collection of Director movies available to me and I learned how to link them to my web page. My Web sites have grown in sophitication over the years and contain information very similar to most other Web sites for introductory chemistry courses. I like to think my sites are unique in several respects...the presences of the shockwave animations and some other forms of the interactivity that I've produced.

In the Spring of 1999 I learned of a RealVideo Server which was available on the Oklahoma State University campus. I had done some video many years ago when I taught AP Chemistry by Satellite to high school students around the country. RealVideo Server software had been purchased by Computer Information Services and a Windows NT server had been set aside as the video server. No one else on campus was using it so I began playing with the software available to digitized video and edit digital video files. I had all the videotapes of my lectures from my APCBS program and I figured it would be interesting to digitize some of them for use in my classes. As I explored using the software from Real I learned about a markup language called SMIL (sychronized multimedia integration language). It is a markup language like HTML but designed to allow the author to synchronize different media elements and play them in a Web page or in a player like the Real Player. After considerable work I generated the beginning of an example on significant figures.

Late in the Spring 2000 semester I gained access to a Sony DCR-VX1000 miniDV camera. The miniDV cameras are particularly interesting because they capture digital video. Popular DV cameras today all include FireWire connectivity. With a computer with a FireWire port and proper software it is easy to transfer the digital video to a hard drive for editing and compression. From my limited experience a 50 minute digital video captured at 30 fps 640 x 480 pixels requires approximately 8 G of HD space. Compression (at 15 fps and 240 x 180 pixels knocks that number down to less than 1 G). Still a large value.

I brought the camera to class and with the assistance of students in my class started videotaping each class. It wasn't long before I started taping everything. I continued streaming the video files from the Real Server, and at the end of the spring semester I had access to a OSX server to stream QuickTime. This summer I've been learning more about Real/SMIL, QuickTime/SMIL, QuickTime streaming and Flash/Real and Flash/QuickTime.

The video captured using the camera can be 'digitized' by inputing into a PIII 500MHz Dell computer with an Osprey 100 video capture card using Real Producer Plus software to simulateously capture and compress. Or the video can be captured using the FireWire connection on the camera and Final Cut Pro software from Apple

Flash 4.0 is a vector-based animation application from MacroMedia. Its popularity has exploded recently as more and more Webmasters/mistress enhance their web sites with dynamic Web pages. The Flash plug-in come standard with both Netscape and Internet Explorer and runs transparently. Future releases of the Real Player (8.0) and QuickTime Player (<4.2.1) claim to be Flash 4.0 compliant. This is important because Flash 4.0 offers much greater interactivity when sychronized with media files using SMIL. I'm convinced that the future of streaming video will be closely tied to Flash 4.0 to provide greater interactivity. SMIL will remain the agent which allows the placement and sychronization of the different media elements on the Web page, while Flash handles interactivity.

Here is a brief description of each of the audio/video files listed in Table I.

The first Real Video file is 320 x 240 pixel size copy of a 3 minute sequence from a Help Session I taught this spring semester. The file is 6 MB in size and is playing from my server in my office at Oklahoma State University.

The first QuickTime file is a movie that is 240 x 180 pixels in size. It is about 2.5 minutes in length and is 25 MB and is playing as a fast start from my HTTP server in my office.

The next two QuickTime movies Lecture Ex. 1 and Ex. 2 are also fast start movies playing from my HTTP server. However, these QuickTime movies have been embedded into the web page in such a way that I can provide some text describing what is happening in the video. Ex.1 is 46 MB and Ex. 2 is 52 MB in size. Ex. 2 has some additional interactivity available.

The second Real Video file is 320 x 240 pixel size copy of a lecture over the gas laws that I delivered for AP Chemistry by Satellite broadcast in the fall of 1990. The file is 6 minutes in length, 13 MB in size and is streaming off the RealVideo Server at Oklahoma State University.

The streaming QuickTime movie is streaming off an OSX server in the Department of Foreign Languages at OSU. The file is 678 MB, 43 minutes long and has a window size of 240 x 180 pixels.

The RealVideo of Significant Figures streams off the RealVideo server. This file is interesting because the Real Player is embedded in an HTML page within the browser. This is the first example of a SMIL file. The video plays in the left frame and at particular time points in the video a web page is displayed. The web pages are located on the HTTP server in my office. This file was created using RealProducer Pro. This software produces several files which include files containing the links to the web pages along with the specific times those links are to be displayed. The software also produces the HTML files to display the video, and additional files transparent to the user but critical for the RealVideo server. The additional interactivity in this example was developed using NetCloak a product of Maxum. This software provides a relative simple environment to allow interactivity using forms.

The audio/SMIL examples are five different files using RealAudio synchronized with web pages to demonstrate problem solving. Three of the examples introduce stoichiometry and the last two are examples of limiting reagent calculations.

The next set of files show the same an interactive example of a Help Session I did for my students this Spring. The two links in the RealVideo column are two different interfaces for te same information. Both the files are SMIL examples using RealVideo and realtext. The video is a about 1 hour and 45 minutes in length. The RealVideo is streaming from the RealVideo server. The QuickTime example uses Flash to produce some enhanced interactivity. The video is in QuickTime streaming from the OSX server. The video is only about 54 minutes in length. I've been having problems streaming the 1 hour 45 minute QuickTIme file.

The last file, AP Chemistry Institute, is my latest example (still working on it) of a RealVideo/SMIL example. This example countains three hours of video. The interactivity is produces using SMIL. The video is streaming off the RealVideo server on campus. I've not yet produced the corresponding Flash/QuickTime version.


New project.