MPEG-4 Sharpens Apple QuickTime 6

Review: Quicktime 6, with added MPEG-4 support, is a major upgrade for video and audio authoring.

Although Apple Computer Inc.s QuickTime format (see screen) is typically number three in market share behind the streaming media products from RealNetworks Inc. and Microsoft Corp., the release of Version 6 greatly increases QuickTimes position as the format of choice for media authors and those looking for excellent interoperability.

Much of this capability comes from QuickTime 6s full support for the MPEG-4 format, which not only adds excellent quality video at much smaller file sizes but also does a much better job of handling lower bandwidth connections. This makes MPEG-4 and QuickTime 6 an excellent option for delivering video to non-PC devices, including some cell phones.

Additionally, the use of MPEG-4 instead of a proprietary format at the core makes QuickTime 6 attractive for those looking to provide media to diverse audiences and devices. QuickTime 6 also supports the MPEG-2 video format, currently the default format for high-quality digital video and DVDs.

On the audio side, QuickTime 6 supports the MPEG-4 audio codec AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), which provides good quality audio at much smaller file sizes than with MP3. Some competing products can equal this, but only through proprietary formats.

New features in QuickTime 6 include an Instant-On feature that speeds initial playback of media files and much better buffer handling. In eWEEK Labs tests, the process of scrolling back and forth within a streaming video file was very smooth.

The QuickTime Streaming Server, which has been based on open-source code for years now, is free and runs on Linux, Solaris and Windows servers, as well as on Mac OSX. This interoperability, along with its ease of use and deployment, makes the server an excellent and cost-effective system for delivering high-quality streaming media content.

For those who need to do live broadcasts, Apple also offers the QuickTime Broadcaster, which runs only on Mac OSX Server. Broadcaster is a very intuitive and powerful application for creating and delivering live video broadcasts using MPEG-4 technology.

The free QuickTime 6 Player is available for Mac and Windows operating systems. Apple, unlike RealNetworks, does not provide a version of the player for Linux or other Unix operating systems.

Also available is the $29.99 QuickTime Pro, which provides basic authoring and editing capabilities for media. Current users of QuickTime Pro will be disappointed to find that they will need to purchase new keys for Version 6.

Technical Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at

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