Foundations of multimedia database systems

Sherry Marcus*, V. S. Subrahmanian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Though numerous multimedia systems exist in the commercial market today, relatively little work has been done on developing the mathematical foundations of multimedia technology. We attempt to take some initial steps towards the development of a theoretical basis for a multimedia information system. To do so, we develop the notion of a structured multimedia database system. We begin by defining a mathematical model of a media-instance. A media-instance may be thought of as "glue" residing on top of a specific physical media-representation (such as video, audio, documents, etc.) Using this "glue", it is possible to define a general purpose logical query language to query multimedia data. This glue consists of a set of "states" (e.g., video frames, audio tracks, etc.) and "features", together with relationships between states and/or features. A structured multimedia database system imposes a certain mathematical structure on the set of features/states. Using this notion of a structure, we are able to define indexing structures for processing queries, methods to relax queries when answers do not exist to those queries, as well as sound, complete and terminating procedures to answer such queries (and their relaxations, when appropriate). We show how a media-presentation can be generated by processing a sequence of queries, and furthermore we show that when these queries are extended to include constraints, then these queries can not only generate presentations, but also generate temporal synchronization properties and spatial layout properties for such presentations. We describe the architecture of a prototype multimedia database system based on the principles described in this paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)474-523
Number of pages50
JournalJournal of the ACM
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Data structures
  • Languages
  • Multimedia databases
  • Query languages
  • Query processing
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Artificial Intelligence


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