Washington Apple Pi

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March 1999 General Meeting Report

By Don Essick, Vice President, Macintosh Programs

Due to a confluence of circumstances, the topic for this meeting was in flux to the last minute. In the final week before the meeting, it turned into the annual WAP QuickTime Festival. Last month, I had asked Tom Witte to explain the process he used to create the WAP 20th Anniversary QuickTime movie. I had also planned for Pi President, Lorin Evans to give his annual State of the Pi and Fireside Chat. Well, there was so much interest in things QuickTime that Lorin was pushed aside until another day.

The meeting started as usual with the Question and Answer session, hosted as usual by Pi Secretary and Macintosh Guru, Lawrence Charters. As usual the questions were wide ranging and the answers informative to all. A very interesting discussion on clean installs and the necessity of re-installing applications was very informative.

Tom Witte then took the stage to begin the program. Tom explained that QuickTime is not your normal Macintosh application or file format; rather it is an Information Architecture that describes a QuickTime object. Most of us think of QuickTime as a method of playing movie clips on our Macs, but that is just the MoviePlayer application. QuickTime is really the architecture that allows MoviePlayer to display a QuickTime object as a movie on our screen.

The first QuickTime clip shown was the HAL 9000 Year 2000 commercial which Steve Jobs introduced at the January MacWorld in San Francisco. I think this was the first full-scale commercial ever produced for the Internet. It was so popular that it was transferred to video and Apple paid the going rate to show it during the Super Bowl later that month.

Next we got a look at the Lucasarts trailer for the upcoming Star Wars, Episode 1, The Phantom Menace motion picture, due to be released this summer. This is one of the most frequently downloaded large files on the Internet. I’m sure it has increased the downloads of QuickTime too. Following this we were treated to the obligatory system crash which seems to accompany most live demonstrations.

Next, Pi Member Dennis Dimmick demonstrated creating a QuickTime slide show from a folder of images. If you have QuickTime 3.0 you can do this by simply creating a folder containing the images you want with sequentially numbered names. You then select "Open Image Sequence" from the File menu and you’re off. QuickTime will ask you for a frame rate and create a sequencer application to show your images. If you want to create a self-contained QuickTime movie, you must export it as such. This will convert the original image to a compressed QuickTime file format using one of the many QuickTime "codecs."

A codec is an encoder/decoder application that compresses your raw video and/or audio to make it take up less space. It does this using mathematical formulas that determine which parts of the picture are "redundant" or can be derived from adjacent pixels. It then throws this information away and replaces it with a "key" that can be filled in dynamically when the movie is played. There are several codecs in the QuickTime arsenal. You might want to experiment with them to see which ones give you acceptable results for your purpose. If you use Sorenson, be sure that you are sending the file to someone who has a PowerMac and QuickTime 3.0. The Sorenson codec is licensed with QuickTime 3.0 and is not public domain like many of the others and will only run on a PowerMac.

Dennis then presented a QuickTime slide show he created for his family. This production was created using Adobe Premiere to integrate pictures and sound and to edit effects. The image pan and zoom filter was especially effective in preventing the images from seeming static. It was a beautiful movie with excellent sound and made me want to go out and get an AV capable Mac and the software to do the same thing.

Following Dennis, Tom Berens gave us a quick demo of LiveStage from Totally Hip. LiveStage is an application that allows you to create QuickTime animations with scripts to make them interactive. There was a bee that followed the cursor, a "Concentration" game and an iMac memory game. All very small applications using QuickTime "sprites" and scripts. Demo disks were available and two copies were given away as door prizes.

Tom Witte then closed with the 20th Anniversary movie production demonstration. Tom took us through the process of selecting clips, pasting them together, creating a background and mask and assembling all of the parts to create the final product. During this process he also demonstrated Media Cleaner Pro by Terran Interactive. This is a utility that provides complete sets of media options for creating QuickTime objects. Just select CD-ROM and all of the different QuickTime options generally used for CD-ROM production are set (similar to a style sheet in a word processor.) You can then fine-tune these pre-set options to your liking and save your rendered object.

The meeting closed, as usual with the door prize drawing. We gave away two copies of LiveStage courtesy of Totally Hip (http://www.totallyhip.com/) and Tom Berens, one copy of Media Cleaner Pro courtesy of Terran Interactive (http://www.terran.com/) , a copy of Claris Impact courtesy of the late Claris Corporation and Microsoft Office and Mactopia mouse pads and t-shirts courtesy of Microsoft Corporation who also sent free CD-ROMs of Internet Explorer 4.5 and Outlook 4.5 as promised. These were available at the check-in table in the lobby. Three NOAA Turning the Tide CD-ROMs (your tax dollars at work at http://www.noaa.gov/) and several books on Mac OS 8 and other things Macintosh by various authors and publishers.

Next Month: Adobe, topic yet to be announced. In May we hope to have Apple Computer and Mac OS 8.6 and possibly their new multimedia offering, FinalCut. In June, we take a break for the semi-annual computer show and sale. See you next month.

Send meeting comments to: don.essick@tcs.wap.org.

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Revised March 31, 1999 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi
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