5 Arrives: QuickTime Available for Download

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Las Vegas is a city obsessed with improving upon the original. That's why you see hotels and casinos springing up that try to recreate 1950s Vegas glamour without those messy mob ties or capture the splendor of places like ancient Rome without the frequent Visigoth attacks.

So it's only fitting that Apple would pick the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas to unveil some improvements of its own. On Monday, the computer maker announced that QuickTime 5, the latest version of its core multimedia software, is now available for download, along with the $30 QuickTime Pro software.

Our Feature Presentation

Most of the features in the latest version of QuickTime are already widely known, thanks to Apple's demo at last fall's QuickTime Live conference and subsequent public preview releases. To recap, the shipping version of QuickTime 5 features:

  • Media Skins Using QuickTime 5, digital media authors can design custom interfaces, controlling the way their content is displayed. Apple has a tutorial on how to use the Media Skins feature at its Web site.
  • Enhanced DV Codec Improvements to the codec mean that iMovie and Final Cut Pro users will see more accurate images when they edit digital video.
  • Cubic VR This feature lets users view 360-degree environments. QuickTime 5 gives users the ability to completely navigate a spherical VR environment in contrast to the more constrained cylindrical views offered in previous releases.
  • MPEG-1 Streaming QuickTime 4 only played local MPEG-1 files. The new version adds RTP/RTSP streaming capability, allowing users to watch high-quality video without having to download an entire file.
  • Interface Improvements Apple has ditched QuickTime 4's Volume Wheel in favor of a slider. The drop-down Channel Drawer has been replaced by a window.
  • QuickTime 5 also includes support for Creative Labs' Sound Fonts -- packages of high-quality, custom samples that extend the basic MIDI sounds in your system. That feature is great for developers who want to add to QuickTime's already useful music synthesizer.

    QuickTime 5 was supposed to include support for Sorenson Video 3, but tests of the video compression standard uncovered performance problems. QuickTime 5 supports Sorenson Video 2. Video 3 will ship in 30 to 60 days; a QuickTime update will follow.

    Like the consummate Vegas showman who always leaves the audience wanting more, Apple demonstrated two QuickTime features at the NAB show that didn't make it into version 5 -- support for industry-standard MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 encoding and decoding. QuickTime support for MPEG-2, the compression used in DVD movies, is not entirely new; Apple has shown it running under QuickTime before. At this week's demo, both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 appeared robust and stable; they'll most likely be included in future versions of QuickTime.

    Apple lists the downloadable version as QuickTime 5.0.1. The company included QuickTime 5 RT (real-time) on the Final Cut Pro 2.0 CD about a month before Monday's release. QuickTime 5 was also included with the Mac OS X. Apple says that future releases of QuickTime 5 will replace the temporary RT version.

    One thing QuickTime Pro 4 users should note: you won't be able to use your old serial number with QuickTime 5. You'll need to purchase a new license.

    Apple also announced Monday that QuickTime Streaming Server 3 will ship sometime next month. The latest version of the open source streaming server includes skip protection and a Web-based interface that can be used locally or remotely to configure server settings.

    Apple didn't limit its Monday product moves to QuickTime. The company also bought Focal Point Systems, makers of FilmLogic. The editing tool lets filmmakers working with 35mm and 16mm film electronically edit their work on a Mac.

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