Multimedia Research Institute: Introduction

Hi. My name is Mike. I am a multimedia hobbyist, historian, researcher, and fanatic. I maintain a little website called the Multimedia Research Institute (MRI). The MRI carries as many useful, specific, technical details about computer multimedia formats as I can possibly track down and publish.

There are a lot of multimedia formats out there in the computing world. Some are common and generalized and some are highly obscure and specialized. Some are open for all to see and use and some are sealed off from public view. I am interested in any and all multimedia formats. This includes transport formats and file containers, on-disk A/V compression formats, playback methods, and associated specific optimizations.

I am interested in the intricate technical details. Too often, the only information known about a particular multimedia format is that is uses, e.g., wavelet or vector quantization with motion compensation. If a programmer has the ambition to create a new multimedia application from scratch, these surface details are not enough.

Many years ago, some confidential Microsoft documents were leaked. These documents came to be known as The Halloween Documents. Halloween I had a commentary from Eric S. Raymond that I have always found particularly poignant (quote is here under "Un-sexy work"):

Characterizing this kind of work as ``unsexy'' reveals an interesting blind spot. It has been my experience that for almost any kind of work, there will be somebody, somewhere, who thinks it's interesting or fulfilling enough to undertake it.
You may wonder who would put up with the tedium of dissecting multimedia file formats to make sure that any interested programmer has the option of reimplementing them. You have just found an entire website dedicated to the idea that this type of work is interesting and fulfilling enough to undertake.

This is not an official research institution with public or private funding or anything like that; it is just a hobby. Like any good hobby it will consume as much time as I can possibly throw at it.

Documentation and Reference Implementations

When I write technical multimedia documents I ask myself, "What would I, as a programmer, need to know in order to write a program that implements this multimedia format?" Documentation on this site focuses on the hard technical details necessary to reimplement formats.

It is my sincere hope that the knowledge and concepts contained within the documentation will outlive any individual project that makes use of the information.

Many of the documents on the MRI offer descriptions with no source code. However, many of the contributors for the site actively help to develop these multimedia applications:

These projects are open source and anyone is welcome to examine their codebases as reference implementations.


If you have data you would like to contribute to the MRI, great! If it fits with the purpose of the site, send it to mike at

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