Multimedia Data Formats

Windows supports three distinct types of multimedia data: MIDI, waveform audio, and video.

MIDI sounds are stored as a series of instructions. A synthesizer (often part of the computer's sound card) interprets the instructions to produce the sound. The MIDI Mapper provides standard patch services for device-independent playback of MIDI files. Standard patch services ensure that different MIDI synthesizers use the same instrument sounds to reproduce the music in a MIDI file. However, because different synthesizers interpret MIDI instructions with greatly varying quality, the sound heard by the user cannot be guaranteed. This sound format can store music, and sometimes sound effects, but voice is not a practical option. MIDI is easy to edit and the storage requirements are low. Windows MIDI files typically have a .MID file extension.

Waveform audio is a digitized recording of a sound. You can typically edit waveform audio using insertions and deletions, or you can modify it using filters. This sound format can store voice, music, and sound effects exactly as they should be heard by the user. Compared to MIDI sound, however, editing waveform audio is difficult and the storage requirements are high.

Windows supports a tagged file structure called the Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF). There are two RIFF file formats currently defined for audio files.

RIFF type
Filename extension
MIDI audio file
Waveform audio file

The multimedia file input and output (I/O) services include functions for working with RIFF files. For information about using these functions, see File Input and Output.

Video is a multiple-track recording that includes waveform audio and moving images. The moving images are recorded as a series of still images. Windows video files typically have a .AVI file extension.

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