I remember a few years ago when you had to download audio and video files from the Internet before you could play them.
This was very inconvenient, as the process took a half-hour or more. Then came streaming media, which let you listen or watch something almost immediately. What a relief that was. Yet now I am seeing a trend back to the original concept. Of course, many things have changed to make this possible — not the least of them faster computers and Internet connections, along with better compression techniques that allow smaller media files.
An example of this for audio would be MP3. I had heard about people downloading music from the Internet and then playing it at their leisure on their computer or on MP3 players. One of our Web site visitors asked me if I could provide our Chanted Rosary streaming audio in MP3 so he could play it on his MP3 machine whenever and wherever he wants. I knew that this seemingly simple request would involve re-recording our Chanted Rosary, finding a software program to convert it to an MP3 file and then making it available on our Web site. I saw this as one of those projects one places on the back burner, so I answered with one of those “someday” replies.
Then I started thinking about it. Here was a young person who wants to hear the rosary. That's impressive! So I moved the project to the front burner. I re-recorded the half-hour rosary, which became a 38-megabyte WAV file in my computer. Then I used the free MusicMatch Jukebox program (www.music-match.com) to convert it into a 3.5-megabyte MP3 file. With a 56K modem it would take approximately 10 minutes for a person to download this audio file from the Internet. Broadband connections would take even less time. The Chanted Rosary would be available to the world in almost CD quality. And, if one's computer has a CD-RW Drive, a CD of the Chanted Rosary could be made, also. (Of course, MP3 could be used to distribute talks as well as music.)
What about video? Video for Windows (AVI) files can get very large very fast. Until very recently, producing and editing your own videos on your computer was an exorbitant, if not impossible, proposition for home users. But that has changed. Falling computer prices, faster computers, giant hard drives and digital video cameras have accounted for a new video revolution. Microsoft certainly thinks so, as attested by its new consumer Windows ME (Millenium Edition) operating system with video-editing software. Suddenly, video production is affordable; the way has been paved for anyone to produce their own movies.
What about sharing these movies? As mentioned already, AVI file sizes easily reach gigabyte proportions. The Motion Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) that developed MPEG-1, on which MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer III) is based, has developed MPEG-4, which has become the standard compression for video used on the Internet. They are currently working on MPEG-7 and even MPEG-21 (don't ask me to explain what happened to versions 8 through 20!).
With current and newer compression techniques and broadband Internet connections, sharing video by downloading it on the Internet becomes a possibility. @Home Broadband Cable ISP provides this service already with ClickVideo, which it bills as “a showcase of the best on-demand video the Web has to offer.” With ClickVideo you can watch video or short films they provide or you can show off your directorial skills by posting your very own home videos. And with DVDRAM drives capable of storing gigabytes of information on a single disk, you can download and burn your own movie DVDs for DVD-player replay or to share with others.
AtomFilms' Web site delivers millions of video streams and downloads every month from their collection of over 1,000 film, animation and digital media titles. Their length varies from 30 seconds to 30 minutes. Also, they are syndicated to television networks, airlines, video retailers, Internet sites and broadband services. Recognize some of these names? HBO, Canal Plus, Sci-Fi Channel, United, Continental, Air New Zealand, Intel, British Telecom, @Home, Blockbuster and Warner Brothers. Time magazine said about them, “AtomFilms is drawing big audiences by putting movies on the Internet.”
Now, if AtomFilms can do this, so can Catholic organizations and individuals. And perhaps Hollywood will pick up some of these Catholic Internet films for television use. Perhaps we need a CatholicFilms Web site. There was a Catholic Films and Television Web site up a year ago, which now is defunct. Perhaps someone else will give it a try.
This week's recommended Catholic sites revolve around apologetics, that is, defense of the Catholic faith. At the same time these same sites can answer questions you may have about your own faith.
The Web site of Catholic Answers, founded by Register columnist Karl Keating (www.catholic.com), presents a comprehensive overview of what Catholics really believe — about God, creation, the Gospel, sin, salvation, last things, Scripture, the Church, saints, sacraments, and morals — with a particular emphasis on correcting falsifications about the Church that are leveled by fundamentalists and other anti-Catholic groups. Catholic Answers' radio program can be heard live on their site during the radio show's air time or at any time via an archive. You can also read sample articles from This Rock magazine on the site and order books and tapes.
How many times have you heard the question from our Protestant brothers and sisters, “Where is that in the Bible?” David Armstrong's Biblical Evidence for Catholicism site (http://ic.net/∼erasmus/RAZINDEX.HTM) tackles those kind of questions.
Doctrinal articles are grouped under 15 categories, including the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the papacy, just to mention a few. Also covered are topics like anti-Catholicism, Protestantism and converts.
Father John Noone, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo parish in Picayune, Miss., has put together a booklet based on questions parishioners have asked about the faith. I'm Glad You Asked is available online at www.scborromeo.org/glad.htm. Father Noone is also the author of To Tell You the Whole Truth, available at www.scborromeo.org/truth.htm.
For many more such sites see my online Apologetics directory at www.monksofadoration.org/apolo gia.html.
Brother John Raymond is author of Catholics on the Internet.