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.