RealNetworks has released the source code for Helix DNA Producer, a digital-media encoder that is a component of its new Helix DNA multimedia solution.

Developers can use this code to build software used to compress audio and video files so they can be delivered over the Web and played back on a computing device, said Kevin Foreman, general manager of RealNetworks' Helix effort.

RealNetworks envisions multiple uses for the technology. For example, developers could use the source code to build a webcam that captures video of highway traffic, compresses it on the fly and delivers it to a Web site. It could also be used to build content-authoring software.

MP3 support Helix DNA Producer will allow content to be encoded in RealNetworks' audio and video formats, in addition to an open-source file format called Ogg Vorbis. RealNetworks said it plans to deliver MP3 support early next year.

"We expect that there will be other formats that the community will add over time," Foreman said.

In late October, RealNetworks released source code for the first Helix DNA component, a media player that can be installed on PCs running Microsoft's Windows operating system, as well as versions of Linux and Mac OS X.

Projects are under way to use the code for building media players for handheld devices.

"There's a lot of activity on PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) and cell phones on the client side," Foreman said.

Over 5,000 developers have joined the Helix DNA community, according to RealNetworks – up from 2,000 in late October.

Helix DNA Producer will be available initially for the Windows and Linux operating systems. An OS X version is in the early stages of development, but a release date has not yet been set, Foreman said.

RealNetworks is betting on the open-source development model to establish its media formats and related technology as de facto standards for streaming and playing back media on PCs and other devices. RealNetworks competes against Microsoft and Apple, who also make media players and server technology based on their respective file formats.

The Helix DNA Producer source code was made available Monday through the Helix developer-community Web site. Source code for a Helix media server should be released in the coming weeks.