MPEG-7 is a multimedia content description standard. This description will be associated with the content itself, to allow fast and efficient searching for material that is of interest to the user. MPEG-7 is formally called Multimedia Content Description Interface. Thus, it is not a standard which deals with the actual encoding of moving pictures and audio, like MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4. It uses XML to store metadata, and can be attached to timecode in order to tag particular events, or synchronise lyrics to a song, for example.

It was designed to standardize:

  • a set of Description Schemes (short DS in the standard) and Descriptors (short D in the standard)
  • a language to specify these schemes, called the Description Definition Language (short DDL in the standard)
  • a scheme for coding the description

The combination of MPEG-4 and MPEG-7 has been referred to as MPEG-47.

MPEG-7 is intended to provide complementary functionality to the previous MPEG standards, representing information about the content, not the content itself ("the bits about the bits"). This functionality is the standardization of multimedia content descriptions. MPEG-7 can be used independently of the other MPEG standards - the description might even be attached to an analog movie. The representation that is defined within MPEG-4, i.e. the representation of audio-visual data in terms of objects, is however very well suited to what will be built on the MPEG-7 standard. This representation is basic to the process of categorization. In addition, MPEG-7 descriptions could be used to improve the functionality of previous MPEG standards.

  • Provide a fast and efficient searching, filtering and content identification method.
  • Describe main issues about the content (low-level characteristics, structure, models, collections, etc.).
  • Index a big range of applications.
  • Audiovisual information that MPEG-7 deals is : Audio, voice, video, images, graphs and 3D models
  • Inform about how objects are combined in a scene.
  • Independence between description and the information itself.

There are many applications and application domains which will benefit from the MPEG-7 standard. A few application examples are:

  • Digital library: Image/video catalogue, musical dictionary.
  • Multimedia directory services: e.g. yellow pages.
  • Broadcast media selection: Radio channel, TV channel.
  • Multimedia editing: Personalized electronic news service, media authoring.
  • Security services: Traffic control, production chains...
  • E-business: Searching process of products.
  • Cultural services: Art-galleries, museums...
  • Educational applications.
  • Biomedical applications.

As more and more audiovisual information becomes available from many sources around the world, many people would like to use this information for various purposes. This challenging situation led to the need for a solution that quickly and efficiently searches for and/or filters various types of multimedia material that's interesting to the user.
For example, finding information by rich-spoken queries, hand-drawn images, and humming improves the user-friendliness of computer systems and finally addresses what most people have been expecting from computers. For professionals, a new generation of applications will enable high-quality information search and retrieval.

For example, TV program producers can search with "laser-like precision" for occurrences of famous events or references to certain people, stored in thousands of hours of audiovisual records, in order to collect material for a program. This will reduce program production time and increase the quality of its content.
MPEG-7 is a multimedia content description standard, (to be defined by September 2001), that addresses how humans expect to interact with computer systems, since it develops rich descriptions that reflect those expectations.

The Moving Pictures Experts Group abbreviated MPEG is part of the International Standards Organization (ISO), and defines standards for digital video and digital audio. The primal task of this group was to develop a format to play back video and audio in real time from a CD. Meanwhile the demands have raised and beside the CD the DVD needs to be supported as well as transmission equipment like satellites and networks. All this operational uses are covered by a broad selection of standards. Well known are the standards MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and MPEG-7.

Each standard provides levels and profiles to support special applications in an optimized way.
It's clearly much more fun to develop multimedia content than to index it. The amount of multimedia content available -- in digital archives, on the World Wide Web, in broadcast data streams and in personal and professional databases -- is growing out of control. But this enthusiasm has led to increasing difficulties in accessing, identifying and managing such resources due to their volume and complexity and a lack of adequate indexing standards. The large number of recently funded DLI-2 projects related to the resource discovery of different media types, including music, speech, video and images, indicates an acknowledgement of this problem and the importance of this field of research for digital libraries.

MPEG-7 is being developed by the Moving Pictures Expert Group (MPEG) a working group of ISO/IEC. Unlike the preceding MPEG standards (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4) which have mainly addressed coded representation of audio-visual content, MPEG-7 focuses on representing information about the content, not the content itself.
The goal of the MPEG-7 standard, formally called the "Multimedia Content Description Interface", is to provide a rich set of standardized tools to describe multimedia content.