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July 23rd, 2009

QuickTime (QT) has been part of the Macintosh Operating System (OS) for so long that some people think it’s always been there. Not so. It was introduced in 1991, toward the end of System 6’s life, so the first OS into which it was fully integrated was System 7. For those of you who go back that far with the Mac, like we do, System 7 will be remembered as a true milestone for Apple and its user base. Many of System 7’s features survive to this very day, in Mac OS X, the system that powers CRE’s rental inventory of Macintosh laptops, desktop towers and servers.

System 7 introduced cosmetic changes to the GUI (Graphical User Interface) as well as plenty of changes “under the hood.” That little right-pointing triangle in front of folder icons, the one that reveals and hides the folder’s contents? Introduced with System 7. AppleScript and aliases, both powerful tools and both still going strong, also debuted with System 7. Still, the major contribution that it made was QT. By version 2.0, it was available for Windows, too, where it found generally good acceptance.

The “Pro” debut

Way back when—Mac OS 8.5, when QT was at version 3—Apple developed a new QT distribution scheme. It would now come in two distinct flavors, QT and QT Pro. With the basic version, you get a basic set of A/V capabilities that enable watching QT movies and working with a few other sound and image formats. That’s about it, except for a handy QT plug-in for your web browser. QT Pro, however, empowers you to create and edit QT movies and sound recordings, as well as do a lot of handy tasks that have endeared it to A/V professionals everywhere.

QuickTime (Basic) QuickTime Logo

With the version of QT that is included with Mac OS X, you’ll get such solid if unsurprising capabilities as:

• Viewing all versions of QT movies both on and off the Internet

• Working with different audio and video file types

• Changing the resolution and display size of movies

• Printing movie frames

• Watching QT TV programs

QuickTime Pro

When you pay for the QT Pro upgrade, more features become available.  One of the most popular and powerful features is the ability to record and edit original QT movies (they’re called movies whether they contain audio, video or audio-and-video). QT Pro not only gives you all the capabilities of the basic version, but some very potent features such as:

• Full-screen video playback

• Viewing files from a greater number and variety of formats

• Recording original QuickTime movies (audio, video or both)

Editing and saving movies in multiple formats

• Copying and pasting material of different formats into QuickTime

• Enabling QuickTime movies to be streamed over the Internet

• Doing sharpening, color tinting and other effects and filters

• Creating a slide show from a sequence of still images

If you work with multimedia files, just the ability to save what you open into other file formats always made the upgrade worthwhile. However, it is not at all clear that Apple is continuing the two-tier QT distribution model. Today, as Apple prepares to release Snow Leopard 10.6, its new iteration of OS X, rumors are flying that “QuickTime X” will be one no-cost version with some, but not all, of the A/V bells and whistles that many media pros rely on every day. A lot of our creative friends, the kind who do a month’s worth of work in a week or two with a CRE PowerMac G5 plus Kona card, are going to miss QT Pro, and in a big way.

Not a sword, a Swiss Army knife

QT—whether basic, Pro, X or some version still under wraps—was never developed to be a full-fledged movie editing application like Final Cut Studio, Adobe Premiere or Sony Vegas. It is not a four-foot, gleaming, razor-sharp battle sword with which to slay mountains of digital video. Aja IO HD RentalIt’s a pocket-sized Swiss Army knife for trimming, splicing, dicing and chopping up bits and pieces of images or sound files when you don’t have time to fire up the AJA Io HD and Final Cut.

Still, the final word has yet to be given on its fate. Apple is mum for now, but developers who are working with pre-release versions of Snow Leopard are leaking some details. The most leaked news concerns the apparent abandonment of QT Pro, and the migration of only part of its great tool set to the new QT X.

So, will this be another one of those “downgraded upgrades” from Apple HQ, like the recent removal of Firewire ports from the laptop line that has since been remedied? (Need Firewire ports? Rent a MacBook Pro laptop from CRE). It could be much noisier than that one, as there are more people using QT than use their Firewire ports. Whatever happens, we’ll cover it for you, although you just might hear the screaming all the way from the Apple boardroom.

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