QuickTime Sprites Finally Take Flight

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The interactive-animation features buried within QuickTime 3 will soon get their day in the sun, courtesy of new tools from Electrifier (formerly Lari Software; 919/968-0701, http://www.electrifier.com ), Totally Hip Soft-ware (604/685-6525, http://www.totallyhip.com ), and others. These programs support QuickTime's new wired sprites–graphic elements that can perform defined actions based on user input.


After an extended paid beta period, Electrifier has finally shipped Electrifier Pro 1.0, a $595 program that lets designers integrate any QuickTime-supported media into an interactive movie. The program's long gestation has resulted in many refinements for an initial release, including a tab that provides an instant preview of your movie.

Electrifier lets you place graphic elements known as actors in a movie window. You can then assign actions to each element by dragging icons from palettes. These actions control how an actor will respond to mouse-clicks or behave over time. For example, you can attach a URL to a moving graphic, or define on/off buttons for playing an embedded QuickTime movie. Movies can incorporate the full range of QuickTime media, including QuickTime VR panoramas. A 30-day trial version is available from Electrifier's Web site.

Electrifier has already announced version 2.0 of the software. Set to ship by mid-year, it is expected to add features relevant to Apple's upcoming QuickTime 4 release. (Apple was set to unveil QuickTime 4 at the recent Macworld Expo in San Francisco but delayed the announcement for unspecified reasons. The new QuickTime will reportedly offer real-time streaming capabilities.)

Scripted Sprites

Totally Hip's new LiveStage software takes a different approach. Targeted at Web authors who might otherwise turn to Java, DHTML, or Flash to produce animations, LiveStage provides a QuickTime scripting language that resembles Macromedia Director's Lingo.

A LiveStage project consists of sprites driven by associated scripts. You can use expressions and variables to program complex behaviors, from simple mouse-over button effects to a complete game of Tetris or Minesweeper. It's all delivered to the user's Web browser as a single, compact QuickTime file.

Totally Hip offers a $199 developer release bundled with Web Painter 3.1, the company's Web animation program, and Apple's QuickTime 3 Pro software. The initial version will support only bitmapped and vector images, System 7 sounds, and MIDI sound files. You can build wired QuickTime VR movies by setting up sprites–such as navigational controls–in LiveStage and then using QuickTime Pro to composite them with a QTVR panorama. Totally Hip offers a save-disabled demo version of LiveStage on its Web site.

Although they support multiple data types, Electrifier and LiveStage rely on QuickTime's vector format to keep file sizes small. While LiveStage uses its bundled companion program, Web Painter, to generate still graphics in the vector format, Electrifier can directly import Adobe Illustrator files and convert them to the QuickTime format. Unlike bitmapped graphic formats, these files are minuscule and can be smoothly enlarged to full screen.

More Wires

Other vendors have introduced their own tools for creating wired sprites. Deep Forest Multimedia ( http://www.mountain-inter.net/~bmeikle/ ) is offering a demo version of its forthcoming WiredZone, which will sell for $99. Squamish Media Group ( http://www.smgvr.com/msVRmain.html ) has announced mapsaVR, a $99 program that lets you add sprite-driven directional indicators and navigation controls to multinode QTVR panoramas. A freeware program called Spritz ( http://home.earthlink.net/~dmcgavran/spritz/download.html ) lets you create wired QuickTime movies that function as simple interactive elements, such as a button bar for navigating a Web site. The program requires Mac OS 8.5.

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