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Interactive QuickTime Authoring

Part 1: The pilot episode, where we attempt to explain what's going on here By Kevin Schmitt
As incredible as this may sound, one day I found myself thinking. There are, after all, twenty-four hours in a day, and once I wake up I do have a good three, maybe four hours to kill. So between the time m'stories come on and the daily dates I keep with the Honorable Judges Judy/Larry Joe/Mablean/Joe Brown/Mathis/Hatchette, I do try to fire up the old noodle every once in a while in a mostly futile attempt to come up some intriguing stuff for you, the valued reader. On one such occasion recently, while the Hormel Chili (no beans) was slowly bubbling its crimson, nitrate-y goodness on the stove, I got to thinking about QuickTime.

I don't know about you, but I've always felt that QuickTime was destined to be much more than just a way to watch movies on your computer. And while I'm thrilled to see that QuickTime has more or less found a popular niche as the technology of choice that may Hollywood studios use to deliver their latest trailers online, I've always wondered why the whole interactive element of QuickTime seems, to a large extent, somewhat underutilized. After all, QuickTime has shrugged off its revolutionary-but-humble beginnings and has evolved over time into a powerful, cross-platform media layer. So why, if the capability is there, do we not see more interactive projects with QuickTime at the core?

I'm not dumb enough to think that I'm smart enough to have the answer to that last question, but it seems to me that there are several inherent pros and cons to choosing QuickTime as the basis of (or at least a major component in) interactive projects. And it may just be that the cons overshadow the pros.

On the plus side, QuickTime gives you identical playback as well as authoring on both Windows and Macs. This is huge, since you don't have to be tied to any one platform for development. QuickTime content can also be deployed both offline and online, meaning it's pretty easy to move a Web project to CD or DVD, or vice-versa.

Plus, QuickTime has an extensible architecture in a couple of different ways.

First, QuickTime's capabilities are constantly being extended through third-party codecs that Apple provides through the QuickTime updater application, and second, when the time comes that QuickTime itself gets a version rev, QuickTime practically becomes a plugin to supported applications, seamlessly giving those apps all the functionality of the new QuickTime version without upgrading each package individually.

Ah, but the cons, the biggest of which is unlike programs like Director, the final QuickTime MOV file isn't self-contained. Director, for example, will package up a nice little projector for you which contains all of the movie assets (provided, of course, that they don't rely on some outside technology) as well as the Director player, and turns it into a native Windows or Mac application which will play ever-so-nicely on a user's machine without much of a fuss.

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