CWI's SMIL Tutorial

SMIL 2.0: Interactive Multimedia on the Web

Instructors and Primary Contacts

Lloyd Rutledge and Lynda Hardman
CWI (Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica),
P.O. Box 94079, NL-1090 GB Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Other contributors

Dick C.A. Bulterman, Oratrix Development BV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Jacco van Ossenbruggen, CWI, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Tutorial slides

Four Hour Talk

The most recent set of tutorial slides is the four-hour version. It is encoded in XHTML+SMIL. XHTML+SMIL is supported by Internet Explorer 6. Printable handouts in PDF for the four-hour version are also available.

To run the XHTML+SMIL-encoded tutorial, do the following:

  1. Make sure the window content display is active by clicking on it.
  2. Press alt-space to focus on the next link.
  3. Press return to trigger the next link.
  4. By default, the focus stays on the next link. From now on, all you should need to do is press return to go to the next slide. If this stops working, repeat steps 1 and 2.
  5. To return to the first slide, reload the document by pressing F5.
  6. The second sheet has hyperlinks to sheets throughout the presentation. Clicking on these will remove the focus from the next link, so you will need to repeat steps 1 and 2 to go further.

One Hour Talk

A one-hour version of the tutorial is available in XHTML+SMIL. XHTML+SMIL is supported by Internet Explorer 6.

Full-day Tutorial

The older still CWI SMIL Tutorial HTML-encoded Slides can be viewed in a scrolled browser interface, as an overhead projection, or they can be printed out. The overhead projection mode works best on browsers that have implemented CSS page breaks, such as Opera. In this mode, the "page up" and "page down" buttons work appropriately, and only the contents of one slide are shown at a time. These contents will be updated soon to XHTML+SMIL and combined with the current four-hour version.


An older PDF version of the slides for the tutorial are maintained here as archive material here to keep the link active.


Nederlandse samenvatting

SMIL 2.0 specifies interactive multimedia on the Web. It has been a W3C recommendation since August 2001. It already enjoys substantial support, implemented in such Web browsers as RealNetworks' RealOne/Helix and Internet Explorer 6. This version of SMIL extends SMIL 1.0, a W3C recommendation since June 1998. SMIL 2.0 is 15 times as large as SMIL 1.0, and defines a family of languages rather than just one language. This tutorial presents SMIL 2.0, tools for it, how to create presentations in it, and how it has currently been adopted by the community at large.

This tutorial covers SMIL 2.0 as a specification, the sub-languages it defines, the available tools for it, and its current use on the Web. The primary constructs are described in full. All areas of SMIL 2.0 are overviewed. All languages defined with SMIL constructs, including SMIL 1.0, SMIL 2.0 Language Profile, SMIL 2.0 Basic Language Profile (SMIL Basic), XHTML+SMIL and SVG, are discussed. Available tools for playing and editing these languages are presented and demonstrated. Examples of SMIL 2.0 presentation in current use are demonstrated.

The goal of the tutorial is to explain the concepts that form the basis of the SMIL language and to provide sufficient detail on the language itself so that participants can create their own simple presentations. Participants will also understand the underlying issues of temporal and spatial layout and the complexity of creating links within multimedia. They will also be able to use available tools to play and create SMIL presentations.


SMIL 1.0 is a W3C recommendation, approved in June 1998, which provides a vendor-independent, declarative language for hypermedia presentations on the Web. With at least three players currently available, and with more and more presentations being posted on the Web, SMIL promises to do for interactive multimedia what HTML did for hypertext: bring it into every living room with an easy-to-author, readily implementable format and easily accessible players for it. Through its support in all RealNetworks media players since SMIL 1.0's release, at least 200 million SMIL players have been distributed. A large collection of SMIL documents is played frequently on RealPlayer, since SMIL defines the multimedia synchronization it uses.

SMIL 2.0 was released by the W3C in the summer of 2001. The specification document is 15 times the size of SMIL 1.0, offering many new, rich features and constructs. SMIL 2.0 also has the backing of major industrial players and has been implemented in RealNetworks' RealOne and Internet Explorer 6.0. SMIL 1.0's legacy of wide, though behind-the-scenes, distribution and use is expect to expand further with the anticipated adoption of these tools.

Before describing the details of the SMIL 2.0 language, the tutorial first presents an overview of the components required in a hypermedia document description language. The SMIL language includes features for specifying the media items included in a document, referred to with URL's, how these are temporally and spatially related to one another, and how links can be specified within the multimedia environment. Alternates for different data formats for the heterogeneous web environment are also provided.

The goal of the tutorial is to explain the concepts that form the basis of the SMIL language and to provide sufficient detail on the language itself so that participants can create their own simple presentations. Participants will also understand the underlying issues of temporal and spatial layout and the complexity of creating links within multimedia. The tutorial also describe the use of the major SMIL implementations.

Intended Audience

The tutorial is intended for content developers who have created HTML documents or have used tools such as Macromedia Director or Authorware. Multimedia designers, web-page creators, creators of interface prototypes such as user interface designers, human factors practitioners and industrial designers will also benefit from this course. It can also be followed usefully by participants unfamiliar with existing tools and environments. The level is introductory and expects knowledge of the Web at a user's level, not necessarily that of an HTML author. Familiarity with basic HTML constructs is desirable, though not necessary.

Previous Tutorials

Instructor Backgrounds

Lloyd Rutledge is a researcher at CWI. His research involves adaptive and generated hypermedia, and standards for it such as SMIL. He is co-author, with Dick C.A. Bulterman of Oratrix, of SMIL 2.0 — Multimedia on the Web, to be published soon by Springer-Verlag.

Lynda Hardman researches into hypermedia document models, hypermedia authoring systems and more automated generation of hypermedia documents. After graduating in mathematics and physics from Glasgow University, Lynda began her computing career at ICL (International Computers Ltd.). She later joined OWL (Office Workstations Ltd.), where she became the development manager for Guide (the first hypertext authoring system for personal computers). Her interests in the problems associated with navigating in hypertext documents led her to become a research assistant at the Scottish HCI Centre at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. She joined CWI in 1992.

Both instructors were members of the W3C working group that developed SMIL and helped development the GRiNS authoring and playback environment for SMIL.


This tutorial covers SMIL, the standard for multimedia on the Web. The instructors are members of the SMIL development team. The tutorial covers the current status of SMIL, its implementation and its adoption. This includes the incorporation of the new version, SMIL 2.0, into the RealPlayer and Internet Explorer browsers, and the GRiNS playback and authoring environment.

Back to the CWI SMIL Page

Copyright © 2003, Lloyd Rutledge

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