Emory Report

 November 10, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 12

Technology Source

Updated QuickTime will integrate varied multimedia applications

To paraphrase an old saying: "Behind every good multimedia-capable computer is the Apple application QuickTime." QuickTime, the multimedia processor used on the majority of today's desktop computers, is an unsung hero. If you consume, develop or otherwise employ multimedia content on your Windows, Mac or Sun system, chances are you have some version of QuickTime loaded on your machine.

So what is QuickTime? In a nutshell, it's the software responsible for coordinating hardware, software and a variety of different file formats and media types, including video, sound, graphics, text and MIDI music. In other words, whenever you use an application to display, edit or otherwise use digital media, that application may call on QuickTime's capabilities to import and manage the necessary media files. Just as Netscape loads a specific plug-in (RealAudio, Shockwave, etc.) to extend the functionality of its browser, most media-intensive applications rely on QuickTime to extend their capacities. Some typical QuickTime-aware applications you probably already use are Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Office (specifically PowerPoint). More creative types may be familiar with Adobe's Photoshop and Premiere and Macromedia's Director, Authorware, or SoundEdit16. QuickTime is used also in many videoconferencing technologies, from White Pine's CU-SeeMe to Apple's VideoPhone.

At its current level, QuickTime 2.5 is one of the most significant and universal pieces of software in multimedia. With the upcoming version 3.0 expected very soon, Apple's inconspicuous little software promises to alter multimedia even further. Incorporating support for even more media types and file formats into an open, extensible architecture, QuickTime 3.0 will work as a mediator between the most prevalent media types and formats and the hardware and software that support them. QuickTime 3.0 will boast an unprecedented list of supported file formats, including PICT, JPEG, GIF, Photoshop File Format, Bitmap (BMP), SGI IFF, QuickDraw, MPEG-1, AVI, MOV, DVC, OMF, Open DML, FLIC, AIFF, WAVE, Sound Designer II, MPEG Layer-2 Audio and Sun AU.

By combining QuickTime's unsurpassed capabilities with access to a growing list of file formats and media types, Apple enables any QuickTime-savvy application to take full advantage of all the services, file formats and media types the application supports. Therefore, software will no longer need to support every applicable media file format; it will simply support QuickTime, which will provide turnkey access and control over most media formats and types. And because QuickTime employs open architecture, support for new media types and formats can be added quickly and easily, ensuring the durability of both QuickTime and the unique relationship between developer and user, application and content.

As conventional one- and two-way modes of communication gradually give way to more dynamic systems such as videoconferencing and the web, computer users will rely increasingly on communications infused with multimedia-opting for combinations of voice, sound and video over isolated words. It then becomes important that software architecture seamlessly coordinates the many hardware devices, software tools and media content users will need. Once again, it seems the folks who brought us GUI and "ease of use" lead the way, years ahead of schedule. In the words of Apple's Steve Bannerman, senior product manager for QuickTime, "QuickTime is cool. QuickTime is everywhere." Indeed.

The preceding article is available in its entirety at http://userwww.service.emory.edu/~ jmartin/article.html and was written by Jamie Martin, Learning Technologies, Information Technology Division.

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