The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Nov/13

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QuickTime is deprecated? What does that mean in practice?

There as been some discussion – and a little panic – as the news has leaked out from developers that “QuickTime is deprecated”. What does that mean and what affect will it have on video professionals? When an OS API (Application Programming Interface) is deprecated, developers are warned to not write any new code using that API, because at some future (usually unspecified) time, the API will go away and the code won’t run.

I last wrote about QuickTime in What is Apple doing with QuickTime? two and a half years ago in Feb 2011, when it was obvious that QuickTime’s time was over. If you read through that article it will be obvious that QuickTime has been on the way out for some time. In fact most of QuickTime was deprecated several years back. Developers have been warned to not use the original 32 bit QuickTime Carbon API for some years, even where there wasn’t a more modern, QTkit equivalent to use. (We ran into that with Matchback Magic in early 2010.)

The writing was on the wall when the development QTkit (the 64 bit version of QuickTime) slowed to a stop, as I outlined in the earlier article. The rise of AVFoundation (and below that Core Media, Core Audio, Core Animation etc) was absolutely the best indicator that QuickTime was going away.

My guess was that they attempted to port the basics of QuickTime to iOS devices and found the old code to not perform well and not worth the effort to port, given the age of QuickTime and its changing role within OS X. QuickTime was designed in an era before GPU acceleration, which is very important on iOS devices, and now on the desktops as well. It was apparently easier to start over with a modern, GPU focused media framework, than trying to update the 20 year old QuickTime.

Anyhow, the word is that the final part of QuickTime – the QTkit API – is now officially deprecated. Right now, this means nothing changes for end users. Developers need to move their code off QuickTime to the more modern alternatives.

More importantly: the MOV file format is not going away. There is full support for MOV in the modern media frameworks, although going forward there are some limitations on codecs. Once again, the evidence has been very clear that “legacy” QuickTime codes like Sorenson Video, PhotoJPEG, Cinepak and Animation were also going away, having been hidden from view (as an encode option) for many years, because there are better options.

On the plus side, the newer QuickTime Player X – built on the modern foundations only in Mavericks – plays MOV, MP4, MTS (if you open it directly) but with limited codecs. If QuickTime Player X encounters a MOV with an obsolete codec, it will convert it automatically to either a H.264 MOV, or a ProRes MOV.

Install Final Cut Pro X and support is added for additional codecs needed for professional video work.

It does appear that Apple are not permitting third party extensions to AVFoundation or AVkit for codecs in the very open way that QuickTime did. Install the codec on the system it works.

Balancing that though, is that the world has congregated around H.264 (and later H.265) for distribution, and a lot of production needs, in various wrappers. There’s no good reason to use another codec for distribution purposes.

For production, I think we can be assured that support for production codecs will continue with Final Cut Pro X, which has an open API for third party camera manufacturers to add support for their media.

Longer term – in some future version of Mac OS X – QuickTime will not be installed. At that time, Final Cut Pro (Classic) and QuickTime Player 7 (not X) will stop working. I will certainly miss the Swiss Army Knife tool that QuickTime Player Pro has been, but third parties like Digital Rebellion and Telestream are building pro players for the likes of us.

But that day is not here yet. If you’re a developer, you need to get away from QuickTime. If you’re a user, even a media professional, you won’t notice any difference other than QuickTime Player X bringing your classic media forward so it will continue to be playable.

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16 comments

  • Robert DeSaeger · November 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you Philip, this article was extremely well written
    robert

  • Tim Johnston · November 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Quicktime Player 7, with options for timecode readout and JKL playback/shuttling, was an excellent in-between tool for both consumers and professionals. I think that Quicktime Player X, having neither of these functions, and its transport-control panel appearing *in front* of the video, will not be a tool for professionals without an overhaul.

    I’m hoping the Telestream / Digital Rebellion answers are soon and affordable.

    • Charlie · November 19, 2013 at 4:56 pm

      “Quicktime Player X, having neither of these functions, and its transport-control panel appearing *in front* of the video, will not be a tool for professionals without an overhaul.”

      There’s a new in-between app now, and it’s free. iMovie. Just saying’ ;-)

      • Author comment by Philip · November 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm

        Not even in the same class as QT Player 7 Pro. Simple editing – copy a section of a movie no matter what codec, paste into another movie. Position, time add annotations – all in the movie.

        iMovie is fine but it’s not QT 7. They are just different.

        • Charlie · November 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm

          Agreed. I’m actually looking forward to the video enabled version of Switch. The audio version is really nice, and Telestream appears to know their stuff…

  • Jim · November 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    What about playback of other production codecs (DNXHD, XDCAM HD, AVC-Intra etc. in a .mov wrapper) and even MXF files?

    Apple could really help the pro market by being open here. That’s if they were interested in the pro market (which they aren’t).

    • Author comment by Philip · November 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      I don’t take you seriously when you have a different name than in your email address, and when you go for the baiting “which they aren’t” proving that you don’t really have a useful opinion, just parroting other people.

  • Frank · November 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I use the Animation codec for intermediate files that I export from Media Composer. These files get compressed to MPEG-2 or H264 for broadcast. Will I be able to play these Animation files in the future? What should I use instead…PNG? I am on a PC, so I am also wondering if PC software vendors have a replacement for QuickTime. Thanks for another good article.

    • Author comment by Philip · November 22, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      As Animation is a QT codec that is not supported in AVFoundation, you will not be able to use those files if – in the future – QT is removed from the system. I think it will be a while before that happens (at least 2 probably more OS releases). In the future use ProRes 4444 instead. That has a guaranteed future.

      PC vendors never had a good media framework other than QT which is still 32 bit on Windows (and will never be revised of course). While AVFoundation.exe comes up in a google search, I don’t think it’s real. Adobe rolled their own media engine, as has Avid, and Telestream have a player but there’s no system-wide frameworks like there are on OS X that I know of. Happy to get new information from someone who knows better.

      • TJ in Phx · December 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm

        I suspect that someone like Sony Creative or Magix will need to fill this gap on the Windows side.

        Telestream’s Episode, while nowhere near as cost-effective as QT Pro, is definitely the answer for both Windows and OS X users who need serious transcoding and platform compatibility. I’ve looked at other solutions, but they all fall short in either encoded results, performance or compatibility between platforms.

        • Author comment by Philip · December 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm

          These are all excellent applications but they don’t replace the OS-wide infrastructure that is QuickTime. I do not think their will be anything new going forward so each company will roll their own. And I’m sure they’ll do a great job of the encoding and basic editing side.

  • kinomedia · December 12, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    As someone who started with QuickTime 2, capturing video off of a Betacam edit deck a few frames at a time with “Grab Guy”, this really seems like the end of an era. I too was an early Media 100 editor (at Grolier – You might remember seeing my name amongst the Media 100 Beta Group) and a large part of the magic was, and is, the QuickTime ecosystem. That’s what made the Mac the only real choice for video and multimedia work. Without it? Well, the choice is not as obvious.

    From what I’ve heard, here and elsewhere, the Mac is going to be a far less hospitable place for people like me who still spend time down at the multimedia end of that continuum. I still need flexibility. I need an ecosystem of tools, not distribution formats.

    I hear many people saying “Embrace the new! Dare to learn new things!” (um, your buddy, Larry Jordan.) But that’s not it. It’s the removal of functionality that I have a hard time seeing as progress. I have approximately 500 clients uploading video every week and it’s not all vanilla H264. I still need the Swiss Army knife.

    • Author comment by Philip · December 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      I don’t think QT will go away any time soon. Almost certainly through the next OS upgrade. I even wonder if they can ever truly remove the classic QT altogether?

    • Author comment by Philip · December 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      There are also standardized production codecs supports – the ProRes family for example. And production versions of H.264 (AVC-Intra for example).

      But there’s not the free-for-all to add codecs like there was in QT. IN the modern world it’s up to Apple to add a codec or component. That said for the mainstream uses, the new foundations are pretty good.

  • Noe · December 30, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I am working since 20 years in the video art and animation area…. I am absolutely shocked !!!

    I have big project archives with thousands of quicktime movies (Cinepak, DV-PAL, FotoJPEG, Animation, H264…) it would take me many many month of work to search them all and convert them, and nobody would pay the bill. That would be an absolute catastrophic nightmare!

    Do we have to convert all of our work and project archives every 20 years ???? That’s completely crazy.

    • Author comment by Philip · December 30, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      I think budgeting for a complete convert of project archives every 20 years would be about right. That’s a full technology cycle: as you’ve found with your 20 year collection. The solution is to keep at least one partition on a computer that will run the last OS that supports QT fully. BTW, they disabled encoding to “legacy codecs” more than five years ago. You can’t even optionally turn it back on like you could for a while. (I believe it can be done with a terminal command iirc). Keep that OS and QT version, on an untouched partition and keep the machine running for as long as the material remains valuable. I would make the side (perhaps snide and it isn’t really intended to be) comment that if it is really valuable then it is worth the time converting.

      Although QT Player X now auto converts in Mavericks, the files it produces are humungous – way bigger than the source, and to a more efficient codec. But doing some batch converting of old archives seems like an excellent intern activity this coming summer. ;)

      In 20 years, what would you play the DV tapes on? Do you still have a DV Player, even just a couple of years down the track?

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