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Parallel computing systems and network of workstations (NOW) are being used nowadays for on-line multimedia applications. The potential market of such applications seems to be large enough to justify a specific architecture oriented to support them more efficiently. Wave switching is a hybrid switching technique for high performance routers that combines wormhole switching and circuit switching in the same router architecture. This switching technique is very well suited for parallel computers and NOWs using optical interconnections. In this paper we propose the use of wave switching for applications like distributed multimedia systems or MPEG video encoding. These applications generate an intensive, bursty traffic together with a small percentage of control message traffic. For this kind of traffic, wave switching can considerably improve the throughput of parallel computing systems. Performance evaluation results for a MPEG video encoding application show a drastic reduction in latency and an improvement in throughput, making easier for these systems to support real-time constraints.