Multimedia Review

Multimedia Review

New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1994

Reference materials have recently begun their high-tech journey to the future. No longer do our bookshelves need to be filled with multi-volumed encylopedias, and dictionaries. These obvious repackaged goods are sold to the consumer with an added high-tech edge. The New Groiler Multimedia Encylopedia offers not only an illustrious twenty-one volume set of The Academic American Encyclopedia, but also an "interactive" perspective including a vast supply of animation, graphics, maps, photos, sound, and video clips. What this brings to the average user is information to its fullest. Through the streamlined interface, handy searching mechanisms, and quality content, Groiler is a multimedia package that can be used for both learning and fun.

The main menu presents the user with all the tools that will make their journey as quick and easy as possible. The Word Search icon allows the user to quickly search for topics. I chose to do a search on Frederic Chopin to see how many subjects came up. There were 40 topics found ranging from George Sand to french romanticism. A complete biography of Chopin included a photo of the composer, a musical sound clip of one of his piano sonatas, comments on the historical period as well as on the intricasies of his music. Instead of just learning about Chopin, the quick topic search allows the user to explore in greater depth other aspects and personalities of his life.

Other convient features is its Knowledge Tree icon. Here the user has the ability to chose such topics as The Arts, Geography, Science, or Nature. Clicking on either one of these subject icons, a short 5-7 minute video documentury is presented. These mini-documentaries provide historical infomation in a narrative and visual medium that can be a enjoyable way for one to learn more on a particular subject. I found these to be extremely interesting in that they covered various aspects on a particular subject that were quite facinating. For example, I chose to look at The Arts and the subject of "Painting and Sculpture". Here I found a rare look at the history of painting and sculpture through its origins on cave walls to the highly sophisticated work of Michaelangelo. The beautiful graphics of paintings and scupltures ranging from early cave art, to modernist visions combined with ongoing narrative had me mesmorized to say the least

Similarly, the Groiler's Multimedia Maps uses animated maps and narrative to show history from the beginnings of man to the Civil War. Again, by using the various options a user can perceivably learn more by doing a word search on the Civil War--thereby obtaining more than 900 different topics and references including video clips, sound clips and the Multimedia Maps. By simply clicking on these main icons like Multimedia Maps, Word Search, and Knowledge Tree, users are able to quickly search numerous topics or just browse for their own leisure.

Sound, Video, Graphics and Animation
The Grolier's comprehensive multimedia aspects make this a reference tool that goes beyond the general repackaging so familiar with the expanding of these new technologies. The sound library includes sounds of 100 different animals, musical instruments, classical music selections by famous composers, as well as famous speeches. Similarly, the photo stills include and range from fine art, film, famous people both in history, politics, business, and entertainment. Coupled with its short video clips which last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, these multimedia aspects are referenced together with its respective topic. Therefore this allows the user to explore futher into the particular topic, or just preview the various video clips by itself for entertainment. The video clips are arraged nicely into categories which range in topics from famous speeches by American Presidents to the beauties of nature.

The actual content in terms of text within each topic/subject is slim at times. But that is to be expected from any reference book especially encyclopedias. Nonetheless for comprehensive study, each text includes the bibliography at the bottom which allows the user to search on his/her own if necessary. One way to circumvent this is the users ability to surf through the different relating subjects to the one topic. It is only this way that a user could get more than just the handful of paragraphs that lie under the main topic. And the added combination of the mutimedia aspects definitely give the subject text a boost.

Final Thoughts
Overall, the New Groiler Multimedia Encyclopedia is an excellent multimedia tool that is a combination of interactivity, enjoyability, and learning that surpasses those gold trimmed heavy encyclopedias that sit so prominately in my living room. Where it lacks in textual content, it makes up with its heavy doses of video, sound, multimedia maps, and animation. In comparing this to many of the so-called reference CD-ROMs available today, this one clearly ranks high in the true concept of word "multimedia".

Natalie Zee
Febuary 17, 1995 n an educational setting where schools have purchased computers with less than 8MB of RAM.