Using QuickTime Pro 6 to export to MPEG-4

MPEG-4 is quickly becoming the format of choice for delivery of high-quality video to everything ranging from VideoCD, broadband and even 56Kbps dialup connections. The widespread adoption of broadband technologies has created demand for a format that can adapt to a variety of delivery speeds and viewing formats. MPEG-4, which was developed for this purpose, is set to become a standard for video delivered over the Internet as well as other devices such as PDAs and mobile phones. One of the advantages of MPEG-4 is that it provides a single consistent video format across platforms, devices and connections.

Apple’s QuickTime 6 offers strong support for MPEG-4, and the free QuickTime 6 Player is able to play MPEG-4 video. However, if you want to create your own MPEG-4 videos to share, you need to upgrade to QuickTime Pro 6. This column shows you how to use QuickTime Pro to export your video to this versatile format.

Getting QuickTime Pro 6

Once you have downloaded the free player (www.apple.com/quicktime) you will be prompted to upgrade to the Pro version, which costs around $US29.95. This is available only as a download, and once you have entered the registration key, a range of editing, import and export features will be added to your QuickTime program. You also get some useful transition effects to transform your video such as blur, edge detection and emboss, and wipes such as implode, push and slide.

Making an MPEG-4 movie

Creating an MPEG-4 video in QuickTime Pro 6 couldn’t be easier, for the default settings are suitable for most situations.

First, choose your video by clicking the File menu at the top of the screen and selecting Open Movie in a new player (-O) or Import. Once your video is showing, select File-Export (-E) and choose Movie to MPEG-4 from the export drop-down menu (see here for an example).

Before saving the MPEG-4 file, you may want to customise your movie using the Options settings (see here for a screenshot).

The default audio setting of 96Kbps should be suitable for most applications, although you can set the track rate at up to 256Kbps. On the video options, you can choose a frame rate from 8 to 30fps. The PAL setting is 25fps, which should be more than enough in most situations. The data rate can be anywhere from 32Kbps to 2048Kbps, but remember that a higher data rate means a larger file size.

The general setting allows you to choose your video resolution and video track rate. If you want to send your video over a 56Kbps connection, select Basic for the video track setting. If your movie contains mainly background noise and is not crucial to the video, select None for the audio track.

In the video setting, you may want to trade off resolution (size of the screen playback) over frame rates to achieve the right mix of quality and file size. The highest default resolution of 320x240 pixels provides a reasonably large screen to view video.

Streaming your video

If you want to prepare your video for streaming to a specific connection speed, select Compatibility in the MPEG-4 settings menu and choose the desired speed. Everything from 28Kbps up to a 1.5Mbps LAN connection is supported.

The option to make your MPEG-4 video compliant with the Internet Streaming Media Alliance (IMSA) ensures widespread compatibility for use on other devices such as multimedia disc players (CD, MP3 and MiniDisc). The streaming option settings provides the choice of either optimising your file for the QuickTime Server or opting for Basic settings.

The preparation of the file for delivery over a server is called hinting. Pre-recorded and live QuickTime movies must be hinted for streaming, which requires creating a hint track for each media track in the movie. The hint tracks, which are stored in the movie along with the video, audio, and other tracks, gives the QuickTime Streaming Server software the information it needs to send the movie data over the network. If in doubt, select None in this section and save your file as a self-contained movie. This will make the job a lot easier, as you only have to deal with a single file.

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