3.6 Multimedia and Digital Media

Chapter 6 of the book covers the creation and manipulation of digital media, including images, video, audio, and digital documents. Technical concepts such as digital sampling and lossy compression are explained with clear examples and diagrams, while practical exercises help students to fully understand the material. This chapter covers ITGS syllabus section 3.6 Media / Digital Media, and links to 1.1 Reliability and Integrity and 1.4 Intellectual Property. Textbook support resources include:

  • Bitmap graphics
  • Digital photo manipulation
  • Image storage
  • Compression techniques
  • Vector graphics
  • Common multimedia file formats
  • Digital audio
  • Digital video
  • Desktop publishing and word processing
  • Effective presentation techniques


  • Digital effects in the movies
  • Virtual actors
  • Copyright, Intellectual Property, and Fair Use
  • Published and broadcast information
  • Digital citizenship: Online safety
  • Digital citizenship: Cyber-bullying
  • Digital citizenship: Etiquette and behaviour
  • Digital citizenship: Digital literacy


Image manipulation

Dove Evolution and the Digital Manipulation of Models

Digital manipulation of models' photographs is a commonly discussed example. In 2006 Unilever launched its Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, designed to highlight natural beauty. The advertisement (video) shows the transformation of a model using both make-up and digital computer manipulation. It makes an interesting lesson starter when teaching digital manipulation of models. Can you believe your eyes in the digital world? is a BBC article and video that deals specifically with the digital manipulation of models' images and the possible impacts. A mascara advert featuring Natalie Portman was banned after it was realised images had been manipulated in Photoshop.

On the same topic, in 2009 French MPs proposed a law that would require 'health warnings' on any advertising images that had been digitally manipulated. This proposal became law in late 2017, requiring images that had been digitally manipulated to carry a label to that effect.

Finally, this fun link shows celebrities 'Photoshopped' to look like ordinary people.

Digital image manipulation relates closely to the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course.

Updated: 2017-10-23
Image manipulation

Digital Manipulation Ethics - Unhate Campaign

In 2011 fashion label The United Colors of Bennetton launched its 'Unhate' campaign and gathered immediate controversy. The campaign - aimed at reducing the 'culture of hatred' around the world - featured manipulated photos of world leaders kissing. Examples include a photo (which was later pulled) showing the Pope kissing Egypt's Sheikh al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb. Another featured Barack Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The photos can be viewed here (the image of the Pope was pulled but can easily be found elsewhere). They are excellent examples of how far digital manipulation can be taken, and with a mature class can be used as a good basis for a discussion of digital editing ethics.

Digital image manipulation relates closely to the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Image manipulation

Famous Image Manipulations

Myriad websites contain examples of "the best" (or worst) digital manipulations: some of the more notable examples include The Guardian's When Photoshop can get you into Trouble, Iran 'faked missile test image',

 When Photoshop can get you in trouble (Guardian) On The Economist's Cover, Only a Part of the Picture (NYTimes) French MPs want health warnings on airbrushed photographs (Telegraph)

Digital manipulation can also have significant legal impacts: in a very worrying case, the Guardian reports that the Metropolitan Police deliberately manipulated a photograph submitted as evidence in court, in order to exonerate themselves in the accidental killing of civilian Jean Charles de Menezes.

Digital image manipulation relates closely to the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Spotting digital manipulations

Spotting digital manipulations

The Fake or Real? gallery from PBS and Photo Tampering throughout History are good starter resources for this topic. The article Digital Forensics - 5 ways to spot a fake (Scientific American) is another essential read.

This PBS Nova video describes new software which uses mathematical techniques to look for tell-tale signs of image manipulation (such as cloned regions). Four and Six is a company that produces software to authenticate digital images, and identify techniques commonly used by digital forgers. Their website contains a lot of detailed information about the processes they use. Similar techniques are also used in art authentication (PBS).
Updated: 2014-10-03
ITGS TOK lesson

Lesson resources: ITGS and TOK

The BBC article How fake images change our memory and behaviour ties in closely with ITGS and the Theory of Knowledge course. The article explains experiments in which false memories have been implanted in subjects' minds by showing them manipulated photographs of events that never happened. In one instance, 50% of subjects 'remembered' childhood events that never happened after being shown manipulated photos. A very interesting and new angle on manipulated images.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Image representation

Lesson plan: Image representation

Computer Science Unplugged has many excellent lesson plans for engaging, kinesthetic lessons. Their image representation lesson takes a similar approach to the activities in chapter 6 of my textbook, and should help boost ITGS students' understanding of data storage and compression methods. Their text compression lesson can be paired with this activity, or studied another time.

The site has a detailed lesson plan, required resources, and even videos of the activities in action.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Vector graphics lesson

Vector graphics practical lessons

These lessons use the open source vector graphics editor Inkscape to help students understand the difference between vector graphics and bitmap graphics. Although the editor has quite a steep learning curve, I found it an effective way to help students learn these concepts.

Lesson 1 Uses Internet tutorials to introduce students to Inkscape. Several tutorials with different difficulty levels are featured (including creating a guitar and creating a Pac-Man ghost).

Lesson 2 asks students to create a business logo using Inkscape. They can create an idea of their own or base their design on a famous brand.

Lesson 3 summarises what has been learnt, including the differences between vector graphics and bitmap graphics and the situations in which vectors are most commonly used.
Updated: 2014-10-03
3D graphics lesson

3D graphics software

The following programs are useful resources for teaching practical graphics lessons, helping students to understand the key differences between bitmap graphics and vector graphics, and techniques such as texturing. Using these programs can be a good introduction to the Digital Effects in Movies section. Such is the power of modern graphic techniques that hyper-realistic CGI is increasingly being used by marketing departments in place of traditional product photography.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Digital movie effects

Digital Effects in the Movies

Myriad sites explain how Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) is used to create special effects, alien environments, and even entirely new creatures in modern cinema. Digital Synopsis has a good overview of numerous films before and after special effects have been applied. It's a great way to see the basic setup of green screen, texture mapping, and other relevant technologies.

Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) have been pioneers of visual effects for decades. In addition to this digital effects breakdown of Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens, their YouTube channel has videos for many of their films, including Kong: Skull Island, Deepwater Horizon, and Warcraft. The ILM website is another must-visit.

Pixar are also leaders in this field, and their web site houses excellent resources that shouldn't be missed. How Stuff Works covers ILM's The Perfect Storm, while Popular Mechanics covers Transformers.

Lord of the Rings: Digital Horses and Black Swan Effects Reel are two behind-the-scenes style videos. And, of course, no discussion of film special effects would be complete without an article about the special effects in Avatar (BBC).

Updated: 2017-10-23
Virtual actors resources

Virtual actors

Virtual actors are digital 'actors' that supplement or even replace human actors. The Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) explains the Light Stage technology that is used to create digital scans of an actor's face. The BBC Click video Hollywood 'craves digital versions of actors' is an amazing resource: can you spot the difference between the real Emily and the CGI Emily? The video Is this a video of a human? is also excellent.

More recently there have been several examples of digital recreations of actors performing in films. Star Wars: Rogue One featured digital recreations of both Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin).

Updated: 2017-10-23
Digital citizenship - online safety

Digital Citizenship: Online safety

Know your internet-speak? is a quiz for parents testing their online knowledge.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre's ThinkUKnow is a great resource for all age groups and includes sections for parents and teachers. NetSmartz is another well respected site covering topics such as social networks, cyberbullying, online predators, and 'sexting' through articles, animations, and video. Internet safety lessons urged for five-year-olds (BBC) and How dangerous are networking sites? highlight the importance of online safety.
Updated: 2014-10-03

Digital Citizenship: Cyber-bullying

Cyber bullying cases

Cyber bullying can have severe impacts for its victims and serious consequences for its perpetrators. Below are several cases. These cases often relate and cross over with Etiquette and behaviour online.

Cyber bullying solutions

From a parent perspective, it is possible to purchase a mobile phone SIM card which can be controlled from a parent's computer - blocking use of the phone or certain features at specified hours, and preventing contact to and from specified individuals.

Governments are another stakeholder in the issue and some have tried to take action - New Zealand has passed new cyber-bullying laws, for instance.

Social media companies have a role to play in preventing cyber bullying - Policing social media contains resources describing how inappropriate online content is dealt with.

Cyber bullying resources

Updated: 2017-10-23
Digital citizenship - online behaviour

Digital Citizenship: Etiquette and behaviour online

Examples abound of employees being sacked for inappropriate behaviour online. One of the earliest examples was the Queen of the Sky (The Register), sacked by Delta Airlines for posts on her personal blog. Virgin Atlantic have also sacked crew (BBC) for social media use. Other relevant examples where people have lost their jobs include:

Business and Employment


Legal impacts

 What you can and can't say on Twitter and 10 legal risks in tweeting from or to the UK attempt to clarify the issue of freedom of speech online.

Finally, How easy is it to delete yourself from the web (Guardian) is an essential read, making it clear that the impacts of revealing too much data (or inappropriate data) can last a very long time - something that all IB students should consider.

This topic is closely linked to online filtering, censorship, and surveillance issues.
Updated: 2018-05-21
Digital citizenship - digital literacy

Digital Citizenship: Information literacy

November Learning is a fantastic resource for teaching information literacy and source assessment, with lesson starters and activities. The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus and the Alt History Wiki are two more excellent resources that contain credible-looking but totally false information.

While Wikipedia is often criticised for containing inaccurate information (see its own page on academic use), The Top 10 Reasons Students Cannot Cite or Rely On Wikipedia delves into much more detail, including analysing how the site's editor system works. One interesting case is BP, who were accused of re-writing the environmental section of the company's Wikipedia entry to paint them in a more favourable light.

Plagiarism: The Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V boom (BBC) discusses the challenge of detecting plagiarism. The impacts of plagiarism can be severe: students can easily be kicked out of school or university for the offence. Not only students are affected - many famous stakeholders including a German minister and the International Baccalaureate themselves have been accused of copying without attribution. Perhaps they should have read Acadia University's Plagiarism tutorial first, or watched Plagiarism explained by CommonCraft (video).

TurnItIn is a well-known plagiarism-checking service: this page from Indiana University explains how it works.

Information literacy is closely related to the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Multimedia software

Lesson resources: Useful Software

The following free software is useful for the practical exercises in this chapter:
  • Paint.net - Bitmap image editor with some powerful tools (Windows).
  • GIMP - Bitmap image editor with more powerful features that Paint.net, but takes some getting used to (Windows, Mac, Linux).
  • SqirlzMorph - free morphing software (Windows).
  • Inkscape - open source 2D vector graphics editor (Windows, Mac, Linux)
  • Google Sketchup - free 3D graphics editor.
  • Audacity - Open source audio editor (Windows, Mac, Linux).

Students may also find these tools helpful in their ITGS internal assessment projects.

Updated: 2014-10-03
ITGS banned words game

Lesson resources: Banned words game

Banned words game - This game is similar to 'Taboo' or 'Forbidden Words'. Each card contains an ITGS key term which students must explain to the class without mentioning the 'taboo' words listed on the card. The aim is to improve students' ability to explain key ITGS language and have a little bit of fun. Works well as a starter with the class split into two teams. I find printing the cards on coloured paper and laminating them works best.

Download the Digital Media cards or the blank cards to make your own.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Virtual field trips

Use of IT in Teaching and Learning: Virtual field trips

Major museums and sights around the world offer online virtual tours for students and tourists who cannot visit in person. Excellent examples include:
100 Incredible & Educational Virtual Tours You Don't Want to Miss is a simply amazing list of similar resources - browsing it for even a short amount of time should help ITGS students understand the positive impacts of virtual tours and interactives tours for teachers and students.
Updated: 2014-10-03

Image, audio, and text compression

The Computer Science Field Guide from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, has a very comprehensive section covering image, video, audio, and text compression. It is written for high school students and includes plenty of clear examples, images, and even interactive applets to help students understand all aspects of compression. It goes into more detail than is strictly necessary for the ITGS syllabus, but nevertheless is still an excellent resource.

Updated: 2015-04-16
Colour depth and bit depth

Colour depth / Bit Depth

Section 5.5.2 of this long article covers the effect of bit depth on image quality and file size. What really makes this page a great resource is the interactive elements on the page, which let students experiment with matching different colours at different colour depths, and help them to see the effect on the image. A highly recommended resource.

Updated: 2015-06-05