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MPEG-4, the newest generation of MPEG compression standards is the first object-oriented coding standard in the world. It integrates scene and object descriptions into the bitstream to provide object reusability. From a technology point of view MPEG-4 includes coding objects of natural and synthetic content so that a wider spectrum of applications can be developed. With respect to media transmission, it communicates with networks via standardized interfaces, and therefore can adapt to a variety of network protocols. To design an architecture for a generic standard that covers broad areas, the designers should have a knowledge-base in various fields, so that the solution can be efficient and complete. We use Microsoft multimedia architecture, Directshow/sup TM/, to devise a total solution for MPEG-4 systems. Three major components (MPEG-4 server, player control and real-time encoder) are addressed; moreover, the modules required in each component and the corresponding functionality and mechanism are also discussed. The proposed architecture provides a useful framework for MPEG-4 software and hardware designers to follow.