QuickTime Conservation

Welcome to Race Rocks, Garry Fletcher says. Use the Web to visit the windswept islands off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. Watch and listen.

Then stay away.

It took Fletcher 20 years to persuade the Canadian government to protect Race Rocks, a group of small islands that jut from the north shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The islands, Canada's southernmost point, teem with sea lions, seabirds, and anemones.

`biology instructor at Lester B. Pearson College in Victoria, British Columbia, established racerocks.com last year. His idea: if he brought Race Rocks to the masses via streaming media, maybe the masses wouldn't come by, spooking seals and seagulls and banging boat anchors on the reefs.

Three cameras film live, continuous shots in QuickTime of lolling sea lions, dive-bombing pigeon guillemots, and spectacular sunsets. Web visitors can even control Camera One to make it zoom in on sights.

Three cameras film live, continuous shots in QuickTime of lolling sea lions, dive-bombing pigeon guillemots, and spectacular sunsets. Web visitors can even control Camera One to make it zoom in on sights.

Feeds from each of the stationary cameras go to an iMac running Sorenson Broadcaster software. One Power Mac G4 streams archived video, and another is used to edit footage in iMovie and Sorenson. Meanwhile, Camera One's remote features run on a Mac 7300.

Racerocks.com has a mobile Webcasting unit: a Sony digital video camera connected via FireWire to a PowerBook G3 equipped with an AirPort card. Footage can be shot anywhere in the islands and surrounding waters, transmitted to an AirPort Base Station on the biggest island, and boosted with an external antenna.

Fletcher and his students even wired the island for sound by sticking a stan-dard Mac desktop microphone out of a window. "We've put it in a plastic bag," Fletcher says. "It's amazing how it picks up the seal sounds and the gull sounds."

Fletcher's students use this mobile filming system during the summer months to create live Webcasts of tide pools and other ecosystems. And divers have used the same camera-connected by cable to a support boat-to capture images of sea lions cavort-ing in the deep.

A thousand visitors go to racerocks.com each week for the sights and sounds. But they're lucky Fletcher's setup doesn't deliver one of the sensations of Race Rocks: the smell. "It can be fairly ripe at times, especially when the sea lions pile up next to the docks," says Fletcher.

Garry Fletcher works with his iBook
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