Snow Leopard In Depth: QuickTime X

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QuickTime has been around since well before OS X, dating back to 1991, but this old dog gets new life in the next version of the Mac OS. QuickTime X, as the new release has been named, follows the theme of Snow Leopard by incorporating both refinements and new technologies. QuickTime player has a new interface that simplifies playback and new capabilities that enhance performance and allow you to create and share video content.

Black Bezels Are the New Black

The new QuickTime X features a simplified and “uncluttered” interface for playback. The playback controls have been removed from the bottom bar and have been moved to an on-screen layer when you mouse over a video. The general effect is that you only see the black title bar in Snow Leopard and the rest of the interface disappears so you can focus your attention on the video itself. A nice little touch and I think very easy for most people that are used to the keyboard controls from previous incarnations of QuickTime Player or iTunes.

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Video Killed the Radio Star

Or maybe video created the next YouTube star? In QuickTime X, the player application has been expanded to include video capture, either from the built-in webcam in your Mac or from a USB-tethered camera. QuickTime includes simple controls for trimming video so you can get just the right amount of lead-in for your next YouTube masterpiece, and then cut the lead-out just before your neighbor pops in to ask if they can borrow a cup of sugar. Just drag the yellow handles left and right to set the clip that will be exported.

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Sharing these videos to YouTube, MobileMe, email, or your iTunes library is a one-click affair.

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Technological Enhancements

QuickTime X is optimized for the critical HD codecs H.264 and AAC with a new foundation that should provide stutter-free playback on current computers. The player allows using hardware acceleration for H.264, which should help with HD video in that format. Also new is support for HTTP streaming, which allows QuickTime to stream content that is delivered by a web server, rather than just content from a specialized streaming server. This should help improve playback of videos from web accounts like MobileMe galleries. QuickTime X can also take advantage of new technologies in Snow Leopard like 64-bit addressing and Grand Central Dispatch to speed up performance.

Whither QuickTime Pro?

Absent from yesterday’s announcements was any mention of QuickTime X Pro. I am going to indulge my optimistic side and declare that the Pro version is no more and Apple is going to provide all the features of QuickTime Pro as part of the standard app in Snow Leopard. This is a welcome change in an age when multimedia playback, and even media creation, has been standard on the Mac platform for a good many years.

What About DVD Player?

I can’t help but wonder if DVD Player is going to get the same H.264 accelerated love from Apple, or if this feature is being folded into QuickTime Player. There is a new chapter navigation interface in QuickTime Player that would be great for DVD movies, too. Frankly, DVD Player needs to get caught up to the Blu-ray age and the H.264 improvements in QuickTime would be welcome in an HD-capable DVD Player.

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