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We present the results of a comparative analysis between the Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) and MPEG-4 BInary Format for Scenes (BIFS). SMIL is a language developed by the W3C consortium for expressing media synchronization among objects of various media types. MPEG-4 BIFS is the scene description scheme of MPEG-4, an international standard for communicating interactive audiovisual scenes. They are both facilities for representing and synchronizing multimedia content, and have a wide range of support for interactivity, animation and object composition features, etc. We compare their scope and purposes, the level of support for the multimedia features and investigate the degree of complexity of each of their representation formats. This comparison study is primarily based on SMIL 2.0 and version 3 of BIFS. The analysis shows that although MPEG-4 has better support for 3D features, on the things that both can do, SMIL appears to be better and easier to use. SMIL also provides better timing, animation controls, more transition effects, and supports keyboard events which are missing in MPEG-4. In addition, although MPEG-4 has been defined with the aim of standardizing many aspects of a multimedia streaming application, there are no well-defined interfaces in place for its streaming mechanism.


MPEG, SMIL, synchronization, scene description, authoring, interactivity, multimedia applications


Software Engineering

Research Areas

Software Systems


Columbia University Department of Electrical Engineering Technical Report

City or Country

New York, NY, USA