Thursday, October 25, 2007, 07:10 am PT (10:10 am ET)
Road to Mac OS X Leopard: QuickTime, iTunes, and Media Features
New QuickTime Features in Leopard
Apple earlier announced that Mac OS X Leopard would support the Open GL 2.1 specification and provide "a dramatic increase in OpenGL performance by offloading CPU-based processing onto another thread which can then run on a separate CPU core feeding the GPU. This can increase, or in some cases, even double the performance of OpenGL-based applications." This directly benefits QuickTime, because everything it draws is an Open GL surface.
Leopard also offers significant enhancements in H.264 encoding and provides support for alpha layer transparency in H.264 video playback. The new QTKit Capture features makes it easy for developers to add video recording support to their applications using an attached iSight, USB (VDC), or FireWire (IIDC) device such as a DV camcorder. Apple uses this itself in the new Picture Taker Panel and in Photo Booth, which not only takes snapshots with effects (and four shot multi-strip photos, below), but also now captures video, which it can save as a typical movie or export as an animated GIF for use as a buddy icon. Photo Booth also does the same background effects of iChat, described in Road to Mac OS X Leopard: iChat 4.0.
iChat Theatre—used to perform document sharing from iPhoto or Keynote as part of a video conference—is also a feature powered by QuickTime. Third party applications can integrate with iChat using the Instant Messaging framework and Core Video and Core Audio APIs; the Instant Messaging framework compress their content using H.264 and send it across the network as video.
While not a part of QuickTime itself, Leopard's Image Kit is a new Cocoa framework powered by Core Image and Core Animation. It provides powerful imaging services for developers for finding, browsing, and viewing images in a collection, previewing and setting Core Image filters on an image, as well as rearranging and rotating images in a group view. An example of this functionality is provided in Preview, detailed in Road to Mac OS X Leopard: an extensive look at Preview 4.0.
Quicktime Applications in Leopard
The new QuickTime player tones down the brushed metal using a standard Leopard window appearance, but retains the rounded panel chin of its predecessors. However, Apple has positioned iTunes as the general purpose media playback client for the system, and has abandoned the idea of QuickTime TV to instead focus on the Internet radio, podcast, and video store support within iTunes. In addition to iTunes, the new Front Row provides an alternative media player interface, which is now identical in layout to the Apple TV, apart from not providing any special support for playing YouTube videos.
And of course, videos can also be played directly in the Finder within Cover Flow (above), by mousing over the preview and clicking the play icon that appears, or by hitting the spacebar to bring up Quick Look. Related features of the Finder were detailed in Road to Mac OS X Leopard: Finder 10.5.
QuickTime Streaming Server
In Leopard Server, QuickTime Streaming Server is now a 64-bit application, and provides support for Icecast-compatible MP3 audio streaming, native MPEG-4 and 3GPP (mobile device) streaming, support for Instant-On video streaming that lets users start watching faster without all the buffering, and even scrub back and forward within an on-demand stream and still resume immediate playback updates.
It also now supports "streaming thousands of simultaneous movies encoded at 1280x720, 24p, 5mbps from a single Xserve," streaming live or on-demand video using H.264 compression, use of server-side playlists for streaming a set of media files as if it were a live broadcast, and relay support for high volume streaming using multiple servers.
HD-DVD and Blu-Ray
Users looking for HD disc DRM in Leopard might have to make do with Vista; it appears Leopard provides no built in support for either the leading Blu-Ray or the struggling HD-DVD format, at least not for commercial DVDs such as movies. The overhauled DVD Player in Leopard can play back non-encrypted HD-DVD discs created in Apple's own DVD Studio Pro, but that's largely because it uses the same file structure as regular DVDs, and hardly a feature for would-be HD movie watchers (and not new; Tiger's DVD Player can as well). The key sticky bit is a lack of DRM support for the new disc formats, which is understandable given Apple's strategy for online video through iTunes, and the fact that no Macs ship with HD disc players yet.
Macs already support both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray drive hardware; third party software could be used to play back DRM encrypted HD discs, and in the case of HD-DVD, unpack movies compressed with Microsoft's proprietary VC-1 codec. The barrier seems to be a lack of interest.
As noted in the article Origins of the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD War, only around 150,000 standalone HD disc players have sold on either side of the isle, which makes the Zune look like a brilliant success in comparison. Narrow down that market to users with Macs, and its obvious why no third parties have jumped at the opportunity to license the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray DRM and write a software player for the Mac; there's no market. Anyone with a 50" HDTV screen worthy of playing Blu-Ray can probably afford to buy a PlayStation 3 to watch their movies.
That should leave Mac users hoping for expanded options in iTunes, but there's yet no official word on HD downloads or movie rental options. Of course, those options are all unrelated to the launch of Leopard, as little or nothing related to iTunes ever appears in advanced developer releases before being launched publicly.
Check out earlier installments from AppleInsider's soon to conclude Road to Leopard Series: System Preferences, Parental Controls and Directory Services, What's new in Mac OS X Leopard Server, Dashboard, Spotlight and the Desktop, Safari 3.0, iCal 3.0, iChat 4.0, Mail 3.0, Time Machine; Spaces, Dock 1.6, Finder 10.5, Dictionary 2.0, and Preview 4.0.