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Welcome to the QuickTime 5: Visual QuickStart Guide.

In this book you’ll learn how to use QuickTime, QuickTime Player Pro, and a few other tools—remarkable yet inexpensive pieces of technology that have become standards in the multimedia industry.

We’ve been QuickTime users since its introduction in 1991 and completed our first book about the technology in 1992. We wrote that book, and have continued to write and teach about the topic, because QuickTime is such an elegant technology: It’s easy for beginners to understand and use, yet it provides tremendous power and flexibility as you learn more about it.

With the introduction of QuickTime 5 this year, the technology has become accessible to an even wider variety of users. And it’s more powerful than ever.

A Visual QuickStart Guide, with its emphasis on clear, illustrated, step-by-step instructions, provides a perfect forum for us to share our enthusiasm for QuickTime and QuickTime Player.

Whether you’re new to the world of QuickTime or a seasoned veteran, we think you’ll find this book a good learning and reference tool.

What Are QuickTime and QuickTime Player?

Unlike most pieces of software, QuickTime isn’t an application but an enabling technology: If it’s installed on your system, it enables many other programs to provide important multimedia features.

QuickTime enables other software to handle multimedia data (for example, video, audio, and animation) gracefully and simply. It allows media to be viewed, edited, combined, transformed, and manipulated in whatever way an artist, teacher, communicator, businessperson, video professional, or kid sees fit.

QuickTime Player is one of the many programs that derives its power from QuickTime. The Player, however, is not just any old tool. Called MoviePlayer until the introduction of QuickTime 4, QuickTime Player occupies a special place in the QuickTime world. Written by the creators of QuickTime, it was originally used for internal testing: If a feature was added to QuickTime, MoviePlayer was enhanced so that the QuickTime engineers could test and demonstrate that feature.

Over the years MoviePlayer (now QuickTime Player) has evolved into a powerful tool for playing, editing, and preparing movies for distribution. But much of its functionality isn’t immediately obvious—after all, the engineers knew where to find what they needed. This book will explain how you can gain access to all those features.

Anatomy of a QuickTime Movie

A QuickTime movie is the container that holds multimedia data. The movie may be a standard time-based movie (Figure i.1), which typically is played in a linear fashion (though it can also be accessed randomly). Or it may be a QuickTime VR movie (Figure i.2), which provides an immersive spatial environment in which users can move around in spaces or view objects from different angles by dragging and clicking in the movie image. The movie can even have interactive buttons and other elements, resembling a multimedia application more than a traditional QuickTime movie (Figure i.3).

Figure i.1. You can view a standard QuickTime movie much like a videotape, using controls at the bottom of the window.

Figure i.2. A QuickTime VR movie is one in which a viewer clicks and drags in the movie window to explore a space or object.

Figure i.3. An interactive movie has clickable objects (such as buttons) that cause changes in the movie.

Whether it’s linear or spatial, noninteractive or interactive, a QuickTime movie is a container that can hold many types of multimedia data. Most people associate QuickTime with video and audio, but it can also contain text, MIDI music, and animation (2D and 3D).

QuickTime stores different types of media separately in what are called tracks. Although you don’t need to know about this underlying architecture to view QuickTime movies, it helps to be aware of the different track types if you want to understand and tap QuickTime’s power and flexibility.

A video track—which generally consists of an image or sequence of images—is the standard track for holding visual data in QuickTime movies. Each image in a track is usually composed of pixels, or individual squares of color (but see the sidebar “Of Pixels and Vectors” later in this section).

A sound track is the standard track for holding digitized audio.

A music track contains what is essentially a musical score—information about a sequence of musical notes that QuickTime can play back. It’s analogous to MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), a standard in the electronic music industry. The storage space taken up by music-track data is very small compared with digitized sound.

A text track holds only text. Because tracks in a movie are synchronized, the text track provides a way to caption a movie, index it, or even include URLs that can cause a Web page to download at a specific point in playback. Text tracks are also searchable; viewers can search for key words to find precise points in the movie.

A 3D track holds 3D data, which includes geometric definitions of objects as well as descriptions of the objects’ surfaces (including texture and lighting). A 3D track works in conjunction with the tween track, which defines an object’s motion. (The term tween comes from the animation world, in which the keyframes are created first and then the in-between frames are generated.)

A sprite track contains graphic objects, or sprites, which can be pixel-based or vector-based, or can even contain 3D data. Animated sprites are stored only once in a movie file, and the path they follow across the screen is specified separately. (Sprite-track files are much smaller than most video tracks, which require new sets of pixels to be stored whenever an object changes positions in a scene.) Some sprites have associated actions and can act as interactive buttons; these are referred to as wired sprites. Sprites can be both animated and wired.

Some additional track types include MPEG-1 tracks and Flash tracks, which are created when an MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) version 1 file or a Flash file is opened with a QuickTime tool. (See “QuickTime Compared with Other Technologies” later inthis chapter for more information about MPEG. Macromedia Flash is an interactive vector-based animation format widely used on the Web.)

Of Pixels and Vectors

Computer graphics come in two basic types: bitmap (or pixel-based) and vector.

The pixels in a bitmap image are a pre-determined size. If you resize a bitmap image, you just stretch the pixels, causing the image to become fuzzy.

Vector images are composed of lines and curves, which are mathematically defined. When you stretch a vector image, the computer recalculates the image so that it retains its resolution. In addition, because it’s much more efficient to represent images mathematically, vector images require less disk space than bitmap images.

Most QuickTime video tracks and sprites in sprite tracks are composed of bitmap images. But QuickTime video tracks or sprites can contain vector-based images (also called curve media) as well. And QuickTime can handle Flash, Macromedia’s vector-based format.

A movie track is a track that can hold any type of media. This type of track is necessary when a movie is created dynamically and, thus, the content is not known ahead of time. A skin track is a track type new to QuickTime 5 that gives a custom look to the window in which a movie appears.

A single QuickTime movie can have lots of tracks—a mix of different track types or multiple tracks of the same type.

One of the great things about QuickTime is that it knows when to keep its tracks tightly linked and when to let them stand alone. When someone plays a QuickTime movie, the tracks play together, at the same time, synchronously. When it’s time to edit, however, you can treat the movie as a unified piece or you can alter individual tracks. There may even be instances during playback when you need to turn one track off and another on; QuickTime can handle this, too.

Streaming Tracks

With QuickTime you can do true streaming—or RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol) streaming—over a network. Only certain types of tracks can be streamed in this way, however; these include video, audio, text, and music. When you prepare a movie to be streamed, a special hint track is created for each of the streamable tracks. Hint tracks tell a video server how to send movie data over the network. When a movie is viewed as it’s being streamed, it contains a single streaming track (rather than its original tracks), which contains all the streamed data.

QuickTime Compared with Other Technologies

If you compare QuickTime with most other multimedia or video technologies, you’ll find that QuickTime offers much more to many more people. Not only can QuickTime movies hold video, audio, music, text, 3D and sprite animation, as well as interactive elements, but QuickTime can also play back media in many formats (currently more than 40; see the sidebar “Media Formats That QuickTime Can Handle” on this page). None of the other technologies can integrate as many media types. QuickTime works as well on the Internet as it does for CD-ROM and kiosk applications, and it provides an integrated solution for both Mac OS and Windows. Programmers can use QuickTime on multiple platforms without having to rewrite their code. They can also use QuickTime’s standard user interface elements for common functions, as well as extend QuickTime with their own features without having to worry about the basics. This means that users get better tools faster.

Take, for example, AVI files—the file type for Microsoft’s Video for Windows technology. Unlike QuickTime files, AVI files can contain only video and audio. Video for Windows has always been considered to be inferior to QuickTime—in the early ’90s, even Microsoft chose QuickTime over Video for Windows for such products as its best-selling Encarta. (In fact, Microsoft no longer supports Video for Windows.)

Another video format you may be familiar with is MPEG, a high-quality format used for years by multimedia professionals. MPEG was once difficult and expensive to create and could play back only on computers with special MPEG decoding hardware, so it was less useful as a technology for the masses. Now, however, MPEG encoding software has come down in price; hardware encoding options now run in the thousands of dollars; and slower software encoding options run in the hundreds of dollars or are even free. In addition, today’s faster processors mean that more computers are now powerful enough to play back some forms of MPEG in software without extra hardware. Many more computers can handle QuickTime, however. What’s more, the current incarnations of MPEG (MPEG-1 and MPEG-2) are restricted to video and audio. MPEG-4—a standard that won’t be finalized for about a year even though companies have released products using the label MPEG-4—will be based on QuickTime’s file format. (In case you’re wondering, there’s no MPEG-3; there’s an audio format called MP3, but it’s a variant of MPEG-1.)

Media Formats That QuickTime Can Handle

  • 3DMF

  • AIFF

  • Animated GIF

  • AU/uLaw

  • Audio CD (Mac OS only)

  • AVI

  • BMP

  • DLS (Downloadable Sound)

  • DV

  • FlashPix


  • GIF


  • KAR (Karaoke)

  • M3U (MP3 playlist)

  • MacPaint

  • Macromedia Flash 3 and 4

  • MIDI

  • MPEG Layer 1 and 2 audio

  • MPEG-1 (video)

  • MPEG-1 Layer 3 audio (MP3)

  • Photoshop

  • PICS

  • PICT

  • PLS (SHOUTcast)

  • PNG

  • QCP (QUALCOMM PureVoice)

  • QuickDraw GX

  • QuickTime Image File

  • SDP

  • SGI

  • SMIL

  • Sound Designer II

  • Sound Font 2

  • System 7 Sound

  • Targa Image File

  • Text

  • TIFF

  • WAV

QuickTime also holds its own among the newer technologies (such as RealMedia and Windows Media) that are being used to stream video and audio over the Internet. Several years ago these technologies held certain advantages because they offered “true” streaming and QuickTime didn’t. (See Chapter 16 for a discussion of different types of streaming.) Starting with QuickTime 4, however, QuickTime was able to handle true streaming as well. One QuickTime advantage for Web developers is that QuickTime movies can be reencoded as RealMedia or Windows Media files. This means that if you first create QuickTime movies, you can later decide to also offer RealMedia or Windows Media versions. RealMedia or Windows Media files, on the other hand, can’t be reencoded in any other format.

In the realm of immersive technologies, several developers offer products similar to QuickTime VR. Companies such as IPIX and MGI offer their own competing versions of immersive spatial technologies, but these don’t offer the full range of capabilities and smooth integration provided by the complete QuickTime architecture.

AVI and MPEG Playback

One important thing to remember about QuickTime is that it can be used to open, play back, and edit AVI files. QuickTime can open and play MPEG-1 files as well (see details in Chapter 9).

The World of QuickTime

As we’ve mentioned, many products either are based on QuickTime or support it in some fashion. Although we can’t begin to cover them all here, it helps to know what categories of tools are out there. We mention a few specific tools on this page and the next, but such references aren’t necessarily endorsements.

Tools for capturing QuickTime video and audio

Many tools exist for capturing audio and video from videotape, audiotape, or even a live video signal. Generally, you use these tools in conjunction with hardware inside your computer. This hardware may come with its own software to do the QuickTime capture. Most often, however, movie creators capture using their editing tool of choice. Most editing tools—Adobe Premiere, Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple iMovie, and Media 100i are some of the most popular—have a capture feature.

Tools for generating QuickTime tracks

You can also create QuickTime movies using standard media-creation tools. For example, many animation tools export their data as QuickTime video tracks, and a few can also export data as QuickTime sprite tracks. Macromedia Director is one of the best-known tools in this category. Also, the most popular Web animation tool, Flash, can export as a QuickTime video track or QuickTime Flash track.

When tools don’t create QuickTime tracks, they often save or export in a format that a QuickTime tool (such as QuickTime Player) can open or import. For example, many audio tools create audio files that QuickTime can open easily. QuickTime can also open standard Flash files, turning them into Flash tracks.

Tools for editing QuickTime video and audio

When you have a QuickTime track, you can use QuickTime Player (or any other editor that supports the track type) to combine and edit tracks to create something completely new. Video editing and effects tools (such as Adobe Premiere, Apple Final Cut Pro, and Media 100i) let you do things that QuickTime Player can’t, such as adding transitions between scenes. On the other hand, most video editing tools handle only a subset of the full range of QuickTime tracks, whereas QuickTime Player supports them all.

Tools for creating interactive QuickTime movies

A relatively new set of tools is useful for creating interactive movies—that is, movies with wired sprite tracks. Perhaps the most powerful is Totally Hip’s LiveStage Pro. Others include Interactive Solutions’ MovieWorks; Totally Hip’s LiveSlideShow; and even Adobe’s GoLive, a Web-page-creation tool featuring an excellent QuickTime editing tool that lets you program sprites.

Also, interactive Flash movies can be saved as interactive QuickTime movies. (These movies contain Flash tracks rather than sprite tracks.)

Tools for compressing and optimizing QuickTime movies

After you compose your movie, you must prepare it for delivery over a network or on CD-ROM or hard disk. In particular, video and audio need to be compressed.

You can use QuickTime Player or most video editing tools for basic compression. Other tools are used exclusively for compression and optimization; these include Cleaner 5 from Media 100 and HipFlics from Totally Hip.

Tools for integrating QuickTime movies with other media

Macromedia Director (which we mentioned as a tool that creates animations) is also well known as a multimedia authoring tool; it allows users to assemble sophisticated interactive presentations that contain many types of media. The QuickTime file format can be included in and controlled from a Director presentation. Other authoring tools, such as Macromedia Authorware and Tribeworks iShell, also support QuickTime in this way.

QuickTime movies can be embedded in Web pages; most Web browsers and many Web-page-creation tools offer QuickTime support. In addition, some simpler presentation tools, such as Microsoft PowerPoint for the Macintosh, let you include QuickTime movies in a presentation. Even such tools as word processors and spreadsheets may allow you to include QuickTime movies in their documents, though this feature is more common for Macintosh applications than Windows applications.

Tools for streaming QuickTime movies over the Internet

You’ll prepare movies for streaming by using the compression tools mentioned earlier in this section. To do true (or RTSP) streaming, however, you must have an RTSP streaming server. Apple offers free QuickTime streaming servers for several platforms. Also, RealServer 8 can even be used to stream QuickTime movies.

If you want to do live streaming, you’ll also need an application that can capture and stream the video. These tools include Sorenson Broadcaster (Mac and Windows), Evological CoolStream (Mac only), and ChannelStorm Live Channel (Mac only).

What’s New in QuickTime 5?

The most obvious change in QuickTime 5 is that QuickTime Player’s interface has been updated. Buttons have been moved, and there are no longer drawers to open. You’ll notice differences throughout this book but particularly in Chapter 2, where you’ll see that the methods for accessing Favorites has changed. Also in Chapter 2 and beyond, you’ll find that what used to be called the Movie Info window is now called the Properties window and that there’s a new Info window. In Chapter 4, you’ll see that the controls for QuickTime VR movies finally match those provided for linear movies. Chapter-list fans will be happy to see that there is finally a usable chapter-list implementation in the Player (see Chapter 10).

QuickTime itself also has some new features, which can be accessed from a variety of tools, including QuickTime Player.

New import capabilities (discussed in Chapter 3) allow QuickTime to import SHOUTcast streams (streamed MP3 files), Flash 4 files, and MPEG-1 on both platforms. New export capabilities allow you to export QuickTime VR movies for Internet playback in ways that previously required other tools; we’ll cover these in Chapter 16.

Downloadable Sound (DLS) and Sound Font 2 (SF2) files can be used with the QuickTime music architecture; we cover this topic in Chapter 14.

QuickTime 5 also breathes new life into QuickTime VR by supporting Cubic VR, which allows you to look directly at the floor and ceiling of a space. (Previous versions of QuickTime VR could handle only cylindrical panoramas, essentially allowing you to look only right and left.) We’ll go into a bit more detail about this subject in Chapter 4, but this new VR format really has no impact on QuickTime Player. Just as you could with cylindrical VR panoramas, you can view and slightly edit Cubic VR files but not create them with QuickTime Player.

An exciting new feature in QuickTime is media skins. As a media author, you can apply a media skin to your movie and thereby create a unique user interface for that movie. We’ll show you how to do this in Chapter 8, when we cover visual tracks.

Other improvements include an improved component downloader (see Chapters 1 and 16) and new options for embedding movies in Web pages (see Chapter 18).

Relatively transparent changes include a new version of the Sorenson Video compressor (which we discuss when we cover preparing movies for the Internet in Chapter 16) and an improved DV codec.

Finally, for the Mac OS, Apple has added lots more support for AppleScript, giving you the ability to automate many aspects of the QuickTime Player. We’ll help you install some QuickTime AppleScripts in Chapter 1 and point out throughout the book where these AppleScripts are useful.

QuickTime on Windows and Mac OS Computers

QuickTime 3 was the first fully cross-platform release of the program. Although you could play back QuickTime movies on Windows computers in earlier versions, you couldn’t create or edit them. Now you can have virtually the same experience on either platform.

In this book, we use screen shots from the Mac and Windows platforms interchangeably, because just about all the menus and dialog boxes contain the same content on both platforms.

When keys, names of screen elements, or procedures differ between the two platforms, we note both options—for example, “Press the Option key (Mac OS) or the Alt and Ctrl keys (Windows) to…”

In the few cases in which a feature is available on only one platform, or when the sequence of steps to follow is significantly different, we’ll label the section as “Mac OS Only” or “Windows Only.”

Mac OS Numbers

Mac OS X is actually a different operating system from the classic Mac OS; it’s not just an upgrade. As a result, there are operating-system-level differences that we’ll point out in the book. Because some of those differences affect the look of QuickTime, we’ll intersperse Mac OS X screen shots.

Throughout this book, when we use the term Mac OS, we mean Mac OS 7, 8, 9, or X. When we say Mac OS X, we mean just that. When we refer to Mac OS 9, however, we’re using this as shorthand to mean Mac OS 7, 8, and 9.

What You’ll Find in This Book

Now that you have some idea what QuickTime and QuickTime Player are, you’re ready to move on to Chapter 1, which shows you how to get up and running with these pieces of software.

Beginning with Chapter 1, this book is divided into three parts: Chapters 1 through 5 show you how to view QuickTime movies without changing them. Chapters 6 through 14 detail the vast array of techniques for editing movies, including manipulating tracks independently. And Chapters 15 through 19 examine movie distribution, with an emphasis on Web delivery.

If you’re new to QuickTime, you’ll probably want to use this book as a primer: Go through it from beginning to end, making sure to work through all the step-by-step instructions. As in all Visual QuickStart Guides, we’ve used lots of screen shots to illustrate instructions and speed learning.

Even if you’re already familiar with QuickTime or QuickTime Player, you should still find this book a useful reference. You can look up specific tasks in the Table of Contents or Index. And in some cases, the screen shots may be all you need to accomplish what you set out to do.

As you use this book, we hope that you’ll come to enjoy QuickTime and QuickTime Player as much as we do. There’s a lot to learn, so let’s get going.

Staying up to Date

Although everything in this book was accurate at the time of its writing, QuickTime is not standing still. If you really want to keep abreast of changes in QuickTime, QuickTime Player, or other related technologies, we suggest that you visit our Web site, Judy and Robert’s Little QuickTime Page, at http://www.judyandrobert.com/quicktime/.

We will also post updates to this book at http://peachpit.com/vqs/quicktime/.

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