Faculty Digital Media Handbook

Chapter 1 – Let’s Begin

Chapter Contents


The way I saw it, I had two choices for which chapter would start this book. The first choice was to do what traditional books would do:

  • Start out with a dry overview of digital media file types
  • Ask questions like “what is digital media?”
  • List the different media file formats and filename extensions
  • Talk about bits and bytes and Megs and Gigs (and now TeeBees)
  • And then, if I hadn’t lost you yet, I would eventually get to the good stuff


Instead, I’m going to start with the good stuff. I’ll start teaching you about digital media using the things you might be more familiar with. Don’t get me wrong. Knowing the answer to the question “what is digital media?”, well, it’s the whole point of this book. Understanding digital files is crucial to understanding digital media. However, if you don’t have some knowledge to hang the dry technical stuff on, it’s just dry technical stuff that evaporates into thin air before you can use it.

But first, why “digital” media?

When you hear or see the words digital media, what do you think of? Before you answer that, maybe we want to concentrate on the word media first, which is the plural form of medium. A medium is a way of communicating, informing, or entertaining. Some examples of media that we see in our daily lives might be things like newspapers, television or streaming, flyers, billboards, films, and so on. With the exception of television, these are all things that exist in the world that we can touch. Granted, billboards are more difficult to actually touch, but they are basically a large canvases to communicate/inform/entertain. All of the above examples are what we call analog forms of media. Television is unique in this group in that it has gone through a digital transition in recent years. People might remember smaller boxes with glass tubes that had something called “rabbit ears” that can receive a television broadcast. In the mid-1990’s the transition to digital broadcasts allowed higher resolution, meaning better quality video, for our new and larger LCD TVs. In general, to receive a television broadcast you need either a cable or satellite service, or a digital antenna that can receive signals over the air.

I don’t want to get too technical yet, but the examples above all have a digital counterpart that we are transitioning to. We are reading newspapers on the Internet instead of on paper. We send emails that can take the form of a digital flyer. Films are being made with digital cameras and other technologies, and existing films are being converted to digital versions. Even some billboards on the side of the road are using digital components that allow multiple messages to be displayed on a single billboard with LCD-TV-like technology. So there are obviously many answers to the question about what you think of when you hear the term digital media.

So, we are going to start with the most recognizable form of media that comes in a digital format – Television, or TV for short. Let’s jump to it.