Apple Plugs QuickTime at WWDC

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San Jose, Calif. -- Apple this week showed off enhancements that will extend QuickTime 4.0's Web reach.

At the Worldwide Developers Conference here, the company demonstrated new tags for QuickTime 4.0's updated browser plug-in that give Webmasters more control over QuickTime media on their sites. For example, one feature will let them throttle back a movie's download rate, smoothing the load on the network. Movie start and end times can be specified within the HTML code, and Webmasters will be able to chain together movies for sequential playback. Movies embedded in a Web page can be targeted to open in either the new QuickTime Player, another frame or a new browser window. While a movie is downloading, another tag can instruct the QuickTime plug-in to display a designated reference image from anywhere on the Web.

Meanwhile, Apple touted the browser plug-in's newfound support for the Flash 3 format; when a Flash animation containing an alpha channel was overlaid atop a QT movie, the buttons of the Flash movie served as the movie controller. QuickTime 4.0 accomplishes this feat by generating "wired actions" on the fly in response to Flash actions, then directing them to other QuickTime 4.0 tracks. (Stay tuned for more details about QuickTime 4.0-Flash 3 integration during the Macromedia International User Conference, which runs May 25-27 in San Francisco.)

QuickTime 4.0's ability to incorporate Flash 3 files may be an indicator of other media migrating to QuickTime. Apple was mum on any plans to extend QuickTime VR to display immersive scenes that employ anything besides a standard cylindrical projection. Nevertheless it's not much of a stretch to speculate that a media handler for LivePicture's spherical RealVR format or the IPIX fisheye projection could bring these technologies under QT's already broad umbrella.

Apple demonstrated QuickTime 4.0's improved ability to display undistorted panoramas; panning through a scene using the QuickTime 3.0 rendering engine yields a "shimmering" effect that QuickTime 4.0 eliminates. In addition, the new version fixes distortion in panoramas with large vertical fields of view. To demonstrate these enhancements, Apple highlighted a spectacular panorama, shot half-way up Yosemite's El Capitan by VR pro Scott Highton and composed using an experimental multirow stitching technology created by Apple staffer Ken Turkowski.

Meanwhile, QuickTime 4.0 streaming continues to gain adherents, judging from the popularity of Monday's Webcast of interim CEO Steve Jobs' WWDC keynote address. Of course, every technical advance has its bumps in the road; QuickTime guru Peter Hoddie described how the glut of users worldwide brought a secondary reflector site crashing down, flooding Apple's own servers and resulting in dropouts midway through the broadcast.

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