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CHum 310
Digital Video and QuickTime


In the last decade or so, with the advent of ever faster computers and more sophisticated software, digital, time-based media have really begun to mature. It is common for computer users to download digital music and movie files from the Internet. Digital still cameras and digital video cameras are quickly becoming the tools of choice with both consumers and professionals. Digital playback devices like MP3 players and DVD players are rapidly overtaking older technology. They are popular because of their increased quality and capacity when compared to analog devices like audio cassette players and VCRs.

Not surprisingly, there are newer and more powerful computer-based tools emerging for the lay person and small developer that make creating and editing digital media faster and easier. LiveCode uses Apple's cross-platform QuickTime architecture to take advantage of the multitude of digital media types that are available by providing powerful and easy-to-use controls for integrating digital media into LiveCode projects.

QuickTime is a versatile and powerful architecture that works at the system level of Macintosh and Windows computers. It uses industry standard formats for displaying and editing various digital media formats. Let's take a closer look at the QuickTime architecture and its capabilities as we prepare to learn more about digital video and audio and about how to use it in LiveCode projects.


QuickTime is a software architecture that allows Mac and Windows users to play back many different formats of digital audio and video on their computers. Here is Apple's own overview of what QuickTime is:


QuickTime is a cross platform system-level software package for Macintosh, Windows and Java which adds the capability to play movies, synthesize music, display animations, view virtual reality worlds and add multimedia capability to the computer desktop.

QuickTime is implemented as a set of extensions on the Macintosh platform and a dynamic-link library (DLL) on Windows. It can process video data, still images, animated images (also known as sprites), vector graphics, multiple sound channels, MIDI music, 3D objects, virtual reality objects, panoramas and text. The number of data formats QuickTime recognizes is impressive. Currently, more than 70 different formats can be imported or exported and as formats are added, applications created today will work with them automatically.

QuickTime is readily extensible. It is built in a modular fashion made up of many software components installed and accessed through the Component Manager. These built-in components handle the most common multimedia tasks. Developers can expand on these capabilities by writing custom components to augment or completely replace QuickTime's capabilities if desired.

An important concept to remember is the idea of "time-based media" and how it can be manipulated. QuickTime is a generalized way to define time lines and organize information along these time lines.

[This overview is excerpted from Apple Computer's An Introduction to QuickTime™ for developers. It is a fairly detailed technical description of how to use QuickTime in software development. Fortunately the RunRev folks have made it much easier for us to access QuickTime features. -DNA]

Here is Apple's QuickTime support page, which gives links to lots of information about using and developing with the QuickTime framework.

Many media formats

Introduced in 1992, QuickTime originally handled only digital video, but over the years has been enhanced so that now QuickTime is capable of directly opening the most commonly-used video, audio, and still graphics formats. In addition, it can import and export many different formats. Click here for a complete list of supported formats.

We can get an idea of the range of formats and media types supported by using the QuickTime Player application. [demo here]

QuickTime Tracks

QuickTime can handle many different media types in a single movie document by using a Track-based architecture. There are various tutorials on the web on how to create different types of tracks.

The QuickTime Player application will allow you to look at the various tracks in a movie. Just open the .mov file and choose Show Movie Properties from the Window menu.

QuickTime 101 - Some examples of QT used in educational settings.

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