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In this paper, we introduce 4MPS, a metamodel for multimedia processing systems. The goal of 4MPS is to offer a generic system metamodel that can be instantiated to describe any multimedia processing design. The metamodel combines the advantages of the object-oriented paradigm and metamodeling techniques with system engineering principles and graphical models of computation. 4MPS is based on the classification of multimedia processing objects into two main categories: Processing objects that operate on data and controls, and Data objects that passively hold media content. Processing objects encapsulate a method or algorithm. They also include support for synchronous data processing and asynchronous event-driven Controls as well as a configuration mechanism and an explicit life cycle state model. Data input to and output from Processing objects is done through Ports. Data objects offer a homogeneous interface to media data, and support for metaobject-like facilities such as reflection and serialization. The metamodel can be expressed in the language of graphical models of computation such as the Dataflow Networks and presents a comprehensive conceptual framework for media signal processing applications. 4MPS has its practical validation in several existing environments, including the author's CLAM framework.