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QuickTime Logo QuickTime is Apple's multi-platform, industry-standard, multimedia software architecture. It is used by software developers, hardware manufacturers, and content creators to author and publish synchronized graphics, sound, video, text, music, VR, and 3D media.

QuickTime 3 is the current version for both MacOS and Winodws. The latest free downloads, and more information, are available at Apple's QuickTime site.

QuickTime offers support for a wide range of delivery media, from WWW to DVD-ROM. It was recently announced that the MPEG-4 standard (now in design) will be based upon the QuickTime file format.

QuickTime is also widely used in digital video editing for output back to videotape. As Codec Central is focused on multimedia delivery, that is beyond the scope of this site. However, we have included a list of software codecs used in capturing digital video, as a convenience to the reader.

World Wide Web
QuickTime is widely used for putting movies on the World Wide Web, due to the fact that it is free, easy to use, and has a very large installed base. There is no dedicated QuickTime server software at this point; any HTTP or FTP server (Mac, Windows, or UNIX) can support QuickTime's "progressive download" method, also known as "Fast Start". However, at this point QuickTime does not support broadcast of live events, or "true streaming".

New codecs in QuickTime 3 are much better suited to WWW usage than anything previously available for QuickTime. These include Sorenson Video, QDesign Music Codec, Qualcomm PureVoice, and H.263.
Progressive download lets users watch movies without having to completely download first. If the movie was optimized for the bandwidth of the user's connection, this may mean they start watching the movie immediately.

If the user has a slow connection, or if the movie was made at a high data rate, there will be a delay before the movie starts playing.
QuickTime is the dominant architecture for CD-ROM video. It enjoys an impressive market share due to its cross-platform support, wide range of features, and free licensing. QuickTime is used on the vast majority of CD-ROM titles for these reasons.

DVD-ROM is quite similar to CD-ROM in many respects, so the same codecs still work fine. There is room for improvement, however, and new codecs are on the way that promise to provide substantially better DVD-ROM playback.

Kiosk, Presentation
QuickTime is a good choice for kiosks, as it integrates well with Macromedia Director, MPEG, and a range of other technologies.

Similarly, QuickTime movies are commonly used for presentations played on portable computers, whether in presentation software like Persuasion, or as stand-alone full-screen movies.

Media Types and File Formats Supported
QuickTime supports many media types, including audio, video, text, MPEG, music (a superset of MIDI), curve media (similar to Shockwave Flash), VR (panoramas and objects), and 3D.

QuickTime 3 will support more file formats than ever, including:
  • Digital Video - AVR (Avid Video Resolution)*, DV*, M-JPEG, MPEG-1, OpenDML*, QuickTime Movie, Video for Windows (AVI)*

  • Audio and Text - AIFF/AIFC, AU, Audio CD Data, DV, MPEG Layers 1 and 2, Sound Designer II, System 7 Sound, WAVE

  • Still Image - BMP*, GIF, JPEG/JFIF, MacPaint, PhotoShop*, PNG*, PICT, QuickDraw GX Picture, QuickTime Image File, Silicon Graphics Image File*, Targa Image File (TGA)*, TIFF*

  • Animation and 3D - 3D Meta File (3DMF)*, Animated GIF*, FLC/FLI*, PICS*

  • Other - Text, Standard MIDI, General MIDI, Karaoke
*These file formats require QuickTime 3

QuickTime Video Codecs
(Primary Use)
Pros Cons Availability
Plays on wide range of machines ('486/'040 or better), generally gives acceptable image quality Doesn't work well under about 30 KBps, slow compression, mediocre image quality Included in QuickTime
Sorenson Video
Very good image quality at low data rates Very slow compression; playback requirements higher than Cinepak Included in QuickTime 3
Eidos Escape
High video quality, fast compression High data rates; current QuickTime version has some limitations Available through Terran
Well suited to the Web, good at data rates between 2 and 30 KBps Needs at least a mid-range PowerMac or Pentium for optimal playback Available from Iterated Systems
Indeo 3.2
Slightly better than Cinepak when compressing "talking heads" video, compression is a bit faster Not well suited to Web data rates, more color artifacting than Cinepak Free from Intel
Indeo Video Interactive 4
Excellent image quality (similar to MPEG) Requires fast Pentium for playback Included in QuickTime 3 for Windows (no Mac version yet)
Very good image quality at high data rates Not well suited to 2x CD-ROM or Web data rates current status unclear
Good for testing edits, doesn't "top out" at higher data rates Not generally useful for final delivery Included in QuickTime
2-dimensional animations
Lossless at 100%, produces smaller files than the None codec Files may be quite large at 100% quality Included in QuickTime
Photographic still images
Generally has good image quality, works well for "slide show" type movies with very low frame rates relatively slow decompression; limited usefullness for motion video Included in QuickTime
Component Video
Video capture
Can improve capture frame rate, can help eliminate degradation when used as interim storage format Not generally useful for final video delivery Included in QuickTime
Video editing
At 100% quality, image degradation is minimal Requires large amounts of CPU power, large image and/or high frame rate movies don't play smoothly without special hardware Included in QuickTime 2.5
2-dimensional animation
Generates a compressed image 1/2 the size of the same image compressed by the Animation codec Slower decompression than the Animation codec Included in QuickTime
Lossless, can extend the capabilities of other codecs Produces huge files, movies usually won't play smoothly Included in QuickTime
Excellent image quality Majority of systems can't playback (requires special hardware or very fast computer) Included in QuickTime 3 for Mac (no Windows version yet)

QuickTime Audio Codecs

(Primary Use)
Pros Cons Availability
Low playback requirements; works well on most samples Relatively high datarates Included in QuickTime
QDesign Music Codec
WWW music
Full bandwidth, 16-bit, 44.1kHz stereo over a 28.8K modem Not as well-suited for voice as PureVoice Included in QuickTime 3
Qualcomm PureVoice
WWW voice
Excellent speech reproduction over a 14.4K modem Not well-suited for music Included in QuickTime 3

Software codecs for video capture cards

Codec Comments
Media 100 Each codec allows files to be used without capture hardware
Radius VideoVision Studio
Avid Media Composer

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