June 1, 2002

Take your Project from Dream to Stream: Delivering Content via QuickTime

Apple Computers, along with a host of other tech companies--including Sun Microsystems, Ericsson, NNT DoCoMo and Sigma Designs--presented new capabilities and possibilities for delivering content quickly and inexpensively at the QuickTime Live Conference in Los Angeles February 12.

Whether you’re a investigative documentarian who focuses on time-sensitive news coverage, an industrial filmmaker producing for corporate clients or an independent documentary filmmaker, QuickTime, and the recent technological announcements made at the conference, can help you deliver and get your footage seen on the Internet, a corporate intranet, CDs, DVDs and even cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

For filmmakers, one of the most attractive features of offering footage for viewing in QuickTime--rather than RealPlayer and Windows Media Player--is the lack of extraneous images. While all three media players are available for both the Mac and Windows operating systems, QuickTime Player has a simple translucent control bar at the bottom of the image. Both RealPlayer and Windows Media Player have much more cluttered visual interfaces that distract the viewer from the content. QuickTime Player also has a scaleable player option that allows the viewer to watch content in various screen sizes without losing the aspect ratio of the original footage.

As a creator and deliverer of content, QuickTime Pro (available from www.apple.com for $29.99) gives you a suite of editing and format file exporting capabilities that allow you to take one movie or audio file and export it to various media in different formats. Available formats include .mov, .jpeg, .aaif, .wav, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-3. Apple will eventually be releasing QuickTime 6, which will allow the exporting and viewing of files in MPEG-4 and Dolby .aac audio files. MPEG-4 delivers a much higher quality image and audio experience than is currently available with MPEG-3. The hold-up in releasing QuickTime 6 is due to the fact that negotiations between Apple and MPEG-LA (the owners of the MPEG-4 license) have stalled over the demand by MPEG-LA that viewers pay a royalty for every MPEG-4 movie they watch. Apple has agreed to pay MPEG-LA’s requested licensing fee for installing MPEG-4 in QuickTime but will not agree to the royalties MPEG-LA wants to charge to content creators and content viewers.

The importance of MPEG-4 is crucial to the future delivery of content for filmmakers as it opens up a range of new venues in which to have your movie seen. The introduction of MPEG-4 chips into DVD players means that you can stream your MPEG-4-encoded documentary over an Internet server to DVD players in millions of homes, and viewers see your documentary on their television with the audio and video clarity of the highest possible quality. MPEG-4 media can also be streamed to cell phones and PDAs, as strange as that may seem to some filmmakers. NTT DoCoMo already has 30 million subscribers in Japan who watch the evening news on their MPEG-4 enabled cell phones. And the roster of news organizations that stream content over QuickTime TV (CNN.com, NPR, BBC World, Bloomberg, ABC News and WGBH to name a few) shows that delivery of non-entertainment-based content over the Internet has already been accepted and adopted as an important means to reach viewers.

For many documentary filmmakers, distribution of their films can be one of the biggest challenges. It’s now easier to distribute your films yourself with the introduction of Apple’s free QuickTime Streaming Server and QuickTime Broadcaster. Both applications run from an Apple OS X server ($2,799 to $4,649) and allow you to stream your films from your own server on demand. Both the QuickTime Streaming Server and QuickTime Broadcaster have easy-to-understand administration controls for filmmakers who aren’t techno-geeks. If buying your own server isn’t an option financially or just doesn’t appeal to you, you can upload your film to an Internet provider’s servers for a monthly fee. Either choice of server allows worldwide access to your film by anybody at any time.

Getting your work onto the Internet can serve a few purposes. You can upload your entire film onto the Internet for viewers to watch. If you set up your own website portal for your film, you can charge a viewing fee that can be paid by credit card or electronic check. This can be done fairly easily in conjunction with your Internet service provider and some basic Web design. If you want to give possible production companies or distributors a look at some or all of the footage from a project for which you need funding or distribution, you can allow them to view footage by providing them with a URL. This limits the number of people who can see your footage because you’re providing the Internet address as people request it.

Protecting your film from unauthorized downloading is important, whether you’re offering it to a limited number of viewers or for general viewing. To stop unauthorized downloading, simply drag you movie file into QuickTime Pro and disable Saving Property. This disables the ability of a viewer to download your content--unless he or she is a fairly skilled hacker.

For more detailed information on QuickTime, QuickTime Streaming Server, QuickTime Broadcaster or QuickTime 6, go to www.apple.com/ .

 

Patricia Troy is an LA-based freelance writer. She can be reached at patriciatroy@earthlink.net.

Tags: