QuickTime is an open standard container for timed multi-media. It is free to implement. The NeXT guys made their own version of QT called NeXTTime, based entirely on the contents of a forty dollar book published by Apple. QuickTime forms the basis for the ISO MPEG4 specification.

What is not free however, are the codecs used by Quicktime (Sorenson Video, Fraunhofer MP3, QDesign Music, Qualcomm PureVoice, Cinepak, etc). This is the major stumbling block for the implementation of QuickTime on other OSes.

fondue: I think the copying-to-memory thing is so that:
  • scrubbing forward and back within the player is nice and quick, and
  • when you present the movie (full screen, no interface) it can loop without hiccups.

    I use a 1997-vintage PowerMac and the delay is barely noticeable even on 75 mb movies. The QT player's volume control is surprisingly bad interface design, but it functions in normal sync with other system sound controls.

    I've seen none of the other issues you mention on Macintoshes, so I suspect the problem is not in QuickTime but with Microsoft allowing Apple access to Windows APIs. (16-bit look, freezes, slow resizing, etc.)

    Although it's no substitute for a professional editor like Premiere or Final Cut Pro, the QT Pro player does playback and basic cut/paste/scale/crop/export editing pretty well. And it looks as good as the compression on the movie it's playing allows.

  • It is a fact that the Windows-implementation of QuickTime is rather bad because Microsoft have held back APIs and even took lengths to make QT perform worse than Mediaplayer (there are specific functions in Windows that prevent QT from working in an optimal manner - refer to the Microsoft Antitrust Testimonials by Avie Tevanian).

    Aside from that, some of the QT codecs are excellent (Sorenson, etc). The abysmal volume control mentioned has also been fixed in version 5 and is now much more convenient (wheel vs. bar).

    As a side-node, I have had bad experience working with QuickTime on PCs because of the aforementioned Microsoft-harrasment (sorry for sounding biased, I can't help it. Up/Downvote as you please), while having quite good experiences working with it on Macintosh.

    QuickTime is Apple's programming library and API in C and Java, browser plugin and file format for the display, playback, editing and creation of all kinds of multimedia. It is certainly Apple's most important technology after the Mac OS

    It is free to download, but distribution on CD requires a (free) licence from Apple, who will fanatically check the size of the logo on the CD, the colour, the size of the font used, how the installer is presented, etc...etc... Apple sell a Pro version that includes a version of QuickTime player that can edit and export files, but this is not required if you are using other editing tools that use QuickTime.

    Official versions are available for Mac and Windows only, but there are several free software projects to offer support on Linux as well.

    In May 1991, Apple announced the first version of QuickTime, available on Macintosh only. It was not until the web became more widely used, and partiularly when in 1994, Apple released a version for Windows, that QuickTime came into its own. The QuickTime plugin enabled web users to view content such as movies and sound that were starting to become available. Despite heavy competition from RealPlayer and Windows Media Player, QuickTime is more popular than ever. Over 100 million copies of QuickTime 4 were downloaded, and QuickTime 5 is on track to exceed that within its first year of release. A large proportion of this popularity is attributable to the fact that QuickTime is by far the most popular format for the delivery of movie trailers on the web. Trailers such as those for Star Wars : Episode I and Lord of The Rings were primarily available in QuickTime .mov format, and millions of people installed it in order to able to view these.

    It should be stressed that QuickTime File Format is not a codec itself, but a format for delivering a large number of other codecs. The format is based on the Macintosh resource fork, and is represented by a tree-like structure. Data and metadata is stored atoms, which are just containers. Branch atoms contain related several leaf atoms which hold the data itself. The actual media data is stored in tracks, so, for example, a movie clip may contain a video track, an audio track and maybe several text tracks for subtitles/closed captions.

    This format is very flexible, and openly documented, meaning third parties such as the QuickTime for Linux project can create software that reads and writes .mov files without the need for QuickTime to be installed. The format also forms the basis for the MPEG 4 standard.

    QuickTime supports a very large number of codecs and formats, and developers can create plugins to enable further formats. These can be automatically loaded when a file requiring them is encountered.

    These are the standard formats and codecs supported in QuickTime:

    Import File Formats

    Export file formats

    QuickTime supports a large number of video compressors or codecs, but the killer codec is certainly Sorenson. This is licenced exclusively to Apple and is a large factor in many decisions to choose QuickTime over other platforms for video. The Sorenson codec gives very good quality and relatively small filesizes, and is probably the thing that Linux and other non- Windows or Mac users miss most through not having official QuickTime. It is truly a great codec, Apple guards it jealously, with good reason. The full list of codecs supported for input and output, is below:

    Video codecs

    Audio Codecs

    QuickTime also supports SMIL presentations, and Apple has announced that support for official MPEG 4 will come in the next version.

    QuickTime is also fully scriptable, with its own language, QScript. this can be embedded with QuickTime movies, enabling developers to create mini applications that run through the QuickTime player. A movie can also hold an embedded skin track that can turn the QuickTime player into a easily-customisable 'shell' for your application.

    As well as the ever-popular QuickTime plugin and ActiveX control, and the much-maligned QuickTime player, many popular applications have QuickTime at their core, particularly on the Mac. Most video editing apps such as Adobe Premiere, as well as Apple's own iMovie and Final Cut Pro are based on QuickTime.

    File format lists from: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/specifications.html

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