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Bitmap Formats

Bitmap formats are used to store bitmap data. Files of this type are particularly well-suited for the
storage of real-world images such as photographs and video images. Bitmap files, sometimes called
raster files, essentially contain an exact pixel-by-pixel map of an image. A rendering application can
subsequently reconstruct this image on the display surface of an output device.

Vector Formats

Vector format files are particularly useful for storing line-based elements, such as lines and polygons, or
those that can be decomposed into simple geometric objects, such as text. Vector files contain
mathematical descriptions of image elements, rather than pixel values. A rendering application uses
these mathematical descriptions of graphical shapes (e.g., lines, curves, and splines) to construct a final
image.

Metafile Formats

Metafiles can contain both bitmap and vector data in a single file. The simplest metafiles resemble
vector format files; they provide a language or grammar that may be used to define vector data
elements, but they may also store a bitmap representation of an image. Metafiles are frequently used to
transport bitmap or vector data between hardware platforms, or to move image data between software
platforms.

Scene Formats

Scene format files (sometimes called scene description files) are designed to store a condensed
representation of an image or scene, which is used by a program to reconstruct the actual image.
What's the difference between a vector format file and a scene format file? Just that vector files contain
descriptions of portions of the image, and scene files contain instructions that the rendering program
uses to construct the image. In practice it's sometimes hard to decide whether a particular format is
scene or vector; it's more a matter of degree than anything absolute.

Animation Formats

Animation formats have been around for some time. The basic idea is that of the flip-books you played
with as a kid; with those books, you rapidly displayed one image superimposed over another to make it
appear as if the objects in the image are moving. Very primitive animation formats store entire images
that are displayed in sequence, usually in a loop. Slightly more advanced formats store only a single
image but multiple color maps for the image. By loading in a new color map, the colors in the image
change, and the objects appear to move. Advanced animation formats store only the differences
between two adjacent images (called frames) and update only the pixels that have actually changed as
each frame is displayed. A display rate of 10-15 frames per second is typical for cartoon-like animations.
Video animations usually require a display rate of 20 frames per second or better to produce a smoother
motion.

Multimedia Formats

Multimedia formats are relatively new but are becoming more and more important. They are designed
to allow the storage of data of different types in the same file. Multimedia formats usually allow the
inclusion of graphics, audio, and video information. Microsoft's RIFF, Apple's QuickTime, MPEG, and
Autodesk's FLI are well-known examples, and others are likely to emerge in the near future.

Hybrid Formats

Currently, there is a good deal of research being conducted on the integration of unstructured text and
bitmap data ("hybrid text") and the integration of record-based information and bitmap data ("hybrid
database"). As this work bears fruit, we expect that hybrid formats capable of efficiently storing graphics
data will emerge and will steadily become more important.

Hypertext and Hypermedia Formats

Hypertext is a strategy for allowing nonlinear access to information. In contrast, most books are linear,
having a beginning, an end, and a definite pattern of progression through the text. Hypertext, however,
enables documents to be constructed with one or more beginnings, with one, none, or multiple ends,
and with many hypertext links that allow users to jump to any available place in the document they wish
to go.

3D Formats

Three-dimensional data files store descriptions of the shape and color of 3D models of imaginary and
real-world objects. 3D models are typically constructed of polygons and smooth surfaces, combined
with descriptions of related elements, such as color, texture, reflections, and so on, that a rendering
application can use to reconstruct the object. Models are placed in scenes with lights and cameras, so
objects in 3D files are often called scene elements.

Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) Formats

VRML (pronounced "vermel") may be thought of as a hybrid of 3D graphics and HTML. VRML v1.0 is
essentially a subset of the Silicon Graphics Inventor file format and adds to it support for linking to
Uniform Resource Locators URLs in the World Wide Web.

VRML encodes 3D data in a format suitable for exchange across the Internet using the Hypertext
Transfer Protocol (HTTP). VRML data received from a Web server is displayed on a Web browser that
supports VRML language interpretation. We expect that VRML-based 3D graphics will soon be very
common on the World Wide Web.

Font Formats

Another class of formats not covered in this book are font files. Font files contain the descriptions of sets
of alphanumeric characters and symbols in a compact, easy-to-access format. They are generally
designed to facilitate random access of the data associated with individual characters. In this sense, they
are databases of character or symbol information, and for this reason font files are sometimes used to
store graphics data that is not alphanumeric or symbolic in nature.

Bitmap fonts

Bitmap fonts consist of a series of character images rendered to small rectangular bitmaps and stored
sequentially in a single file. The file may or may not have a header. Most bitmap font files are
monochrome, and most store fonts in uniformly sized rectangles to facilitate speed of access. Characters
stored in bitmap format may be quite elaborate, but the size of the file increases, and, consequently,
speed and ease of use decline with increasingly complex images.

Stroke fonts

Stroke fonts are databases of characters stored in vector form. Characters can consist of single strokes
or may be hollow outlines. Stroke character data usually consists of a list of line endpoints meant to be
drawn sequentially, reflecting the origin of many stroke fonts in applications supporting pen plotters.
Some stroke fonts may be more elaborate, however, and may include instructions for arcs and other
curves. Perhaps the best-known and most widely used stroke fonts were the Hershey character sets,
which are still available online.

Spline-based outline fonts

Character descriptions in spline-based fonts are composed of control points allowing the reconstruction
of geometric primitives known as splines. There are a number of types of splines, but they all enable the
drawing of the subtle, eye-pleasing curves we've come to associate with high-quality characters that
make up printed text. The actual outline data is usually accompanied by information used in the
reconstruction of the characters, which can include information about kerning, and information useful
when scaling characters that are very large or very small ("hints").