Apple’s QuickTime software is widely used for handling movies and other kinds of data on both Mac OS and Windows-based computers. With QuickTime, even a relatively slow computer can handle video or sound material that changes rapidly in real time. And on the Mac OS, you can play movies and perform other QuickTime operations in applications that weren’t designed for such purposes.

Alternatives to QuickTime

RealPlayer (RealNetworks), accommodates various files, as well as real-time streaming of sound and video via proprietary formats such as RealAudio, RealVideo, RealPix and RealText. The later RealOne Player for Mac OS X works with AIFF, AU, AVI, MP2, MP3, SMIL, SWF and WAV files, although these are also accommodated by modern versions of QuickTime.

  What QuickTime Provides

With QuickTime installed you can view or listen to various files containing images, movies, sounds and music. In the Mac OS you can use any QuickTime-aware application, such as PictureViewer or QuickTime Player, to look at these files, as well as:-

In a QuickTime-aware Application you can:-

  1. View QuickTime movies, complete with any available sound track
  2. Listen to a MIDI music sequence, which can form part of a movie. This can be played on the computer itself via Roland’s General MIDI (GM) sounds, as supplied, or you can use other protocols and an external synthesiser connected via a MIDI interface adaptor. Suitable protocols include the Core MIDI element of Mac OS X, as well as FreeMIDI (Mark of the Unicorn), MIDI Manager (Apple) or Open Midi System (Opcode) in Mac OS 9.x.
  3. Open or import all the file formats that are acceptable to QuickTime, as well as the sound tracks stored on an audio CD or the musical sequence in a MIDI file or Karaoke file.
  4. Export files in all formats supported by QuickTime, with the option of using one of many compression codecs that reduce the size of a file while retaining acceptable quality.
  5. Create or edit sound samples in a sound application and adjust the overall volume or balance. Sampling can use 8 or 16 bits, be at any sample rate and be in mono or stereo.
  6. Modify imported movies by adjusting the hue, saturation, brightness, sharpness, black level or white level content. The result can be saved in a new document.

In All Applications you can:-

  1. Add a preview image to a document from within an application’s Open dialogue.
  2. Automatically employ QuickTime compression for handling PICT files.

QuickTime Pro

Unfortunately, the free version of QuickTime supplied with the Mac OS doesn’t have all of the features described above. Most significantly, it lacks the ability to export files in different formats from a QuickTime-aware application. However, you can upgrade your existing version of QuickTime to the full product, known as QuickTime Pro, by simply purchasing a key code from Apple.

Supported Formats

Version 5 of QuickTime plays over 200 different types of media files and data. It supports a huge range of file formats, some of which are used with real-time streaming on the Internet. For this reason, QuickTime also accommodates both Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) and Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP), both of which are required for such streaming.

The most significant file formats are listed in the tables shown below. In most instances, the filename extensions shown are the common three-character variety, although alternatives are used.


3DMF.3dfQuickDraw 3D image
BMP *.bmpWindows bitmap
Cubic QT VR Panorama -Virtual Reality (VR) with movement in all directions
FlashPix.fpxOpen standard for fast digital images
GIF.gifTraditional Web bitmap
JPEG *.jpgPhotographic bitmap with lossy compression
MacPaint *.macMac OS bitmap format (outdated)
Photoshop *.psdPhotoshop document (bitmap)
PICT *.pctClassic Mac OS bitmap or vector image
PNG *.pngModern Web bitmap
QuickTime Image *.qifNative QuickTime format (QTIF)
SGI Image *.sgiSilicon Graphics bitmap
Shockwave Flash 4.swfWeb vector format, also used for animations
TGA *.tgaTarga bitmap
TIFF *.tifStandard DTP bitmap
* Also available for file export


AVI *.aviWindows format
DV Stream *.dvDigital Video (DV), used with VCRs
FLC *.flcFLC and FLI formats
Image Sequence * -Sequence of graphics files (export only)
Shockwave Flash 4.swfVector animation for Web
MPEG-1 •.mpgQuarter-size image, high-quality sound (Mac support only)
MPEG-2 •.mpgFull-size image, high-quality sound as used on DVDs
MPEG-4.mp4Advanced multimedia format
OMF -Open Media Framework version of AVI
OpenDML -High-quality standard from Avid
PICS.pcsSequence of Classic Mac OS PICT images
QuickTime Movie *.movNative QuickTime format

* Also available for file export

Requires QuickTime™ MPEG Extension file in the Classic Mac OS


AIFF *.aifAudio Interchange File Format, standard Apple format
Audio CD data -Sound track from CD (Mac support only)
MPEG Layer 2.mp2Used for MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 movies
MPEG Layer 3.mp3MP3 format used on Web
MPEG-4.m4aMP4 file using Advanced Audio Coding (AAC)
ShoutCast MP3.mp3Sound streaming for the Internet
System 7 Sound *.sfilStandard Classic Mac OS sound
Sound Designer II.sd2Used by application of same name
Wave *.wavWindows format
µLaw *.auSun Audio format
* Also available for file export

  Music and Others

Karaoke.karMIDI musical sequence
MIDI *.midMIDI musical sequence
Text.txtPlain text
Timecode -Duration of recording in hours, minutes, seconds and frames
* Also available for file export

  QuickTime Codecs

The content of a document is often compressed to save space. Unfortunately, there are numerous different compression systems available, even within a single file format. So your applications must also be able to understand the compression system used in each document as well as the file format.

Codec and Filter Files

The software used to compress or decompress a file is known as a coder-decoder or codec. Many of these codecs are built into QuickTime itself, while others can be provided as separate files.

Determining an Unknown Codec

Sometimes, when opening an odd file format, QuickTime Player shows a white movie window and a dialogue saying something like Required compressor can’t be found. If this happens, leave the window open and select Get Info from under the Movie menu. Then set the pop-up menus as shown below. Hopefully, the Data Format information will help you obtain a suitable codec for your file.

Standard Codecs

QuickTime accepts files created using the following codecs:-

Graphics and Movies

Animation *Run length encoding (RLE)
Apple BMP *Bitmap image, compatible with Classic Mac OS
Cinepak *For high frame rates, may require powerful computer
Component Video *High-quality YUV format
DV-NTSC *Digital Video (American NTSC standard)
DV-PAL *Digital Video (European PAL standard)
DVCPRO-PAL *Professional Digital Video (European PAL standard)
Graphics *Simple 8-bit images
H.261 *High-quality video, fast decoding
H.263 *Improved version of H.261, slower decoding
H.264/AVC * †Advanced Video Coding (AVC)
Intel Indeo Video 3.2Older video compression system
Intel Indeo Video 4.4Older video compression system
Intel RawOlder video system
Microsoft RLERun length encoding (RLE), as used in Windows
Microsoft Video 1Used in Windows computers
Motion JPEG A *Broadcast-quality video
Motion JPEG B *Variation of Motion JPEG A
None *Large file size but highly compatible
Photo-JPEG *Photographic images
Planar RGB *Simple images
PNG *General purpose, as used in PNG graphics files
Sorenson Video *Powerful compression for Internet
Sorenson Video 3 * •Development of above Sorenson Video 2 standard
TGA *Used in TGA graphics files
TIFF *Used in TIFF graphics files
VideoOptimised for real video images

* Also available for file export

Real-time coding not supported in QuickTime 5

Mac OS X 10.4 or higher only


24-bit Integer *Linear coding, no compression
32-bit Integer *Linear coding, no compression
32-bit Floating Point *Linear coding, no compression
64-bit Floating Point *Linear coding, no compression
Adaptive Multi-Rate (AMR) *ACELP-based predictive speech coding for GSM/G3PP phones
Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) *Physcoacoustic music coding, MP4 standard
ALaw 2:1 *2:1 lossy compression
Apple Lossless *†Lossless, CD quality using 60-70% of the data
Code Excited Linear Predictive (CELP) *Predictive speech coding, MP4 standard
IMA 4:1 *4:1 lossy compression, audible effects
MACE 3:1 *3:1 lossy compression, audible effects
MACE 6:1 *6:1 lossy compression, highly audible effects
MP3 *Physcoacoustic music coding
MS ADPCMMicrosoft, used on Windows computers
QDesign Music 2 *Real-time music coding
Qualcomm Code Excited Linear (QCEL) *Predictive speech coding
Qualcomm PureVoice *9:1 or 19:1 real-time speech coding
µLaw 2:1 *2:1 lossy compression

* Also available for file export

Similar to the Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC)

  QuickTime and the Internet

QuickTime lets you experience multimedia files received over the Internet, including real-time radio and television broadcasts sent using Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP). To see such material in your Web browser you must install the QuickTime Plugin file. In the Classic Mac OS this file should be placed in the Internet Plug-Ins folder, inside the System Folder.

At the time of writing, the QuickTime plug-in supports the following files:-

Graphic FileExtensionsMime Type
BMP image.bmpimage/x-bmp
MacPaint image.pntg, .pnt, .macimage/x-macpaint
PICT image.pict, .pic, .pctimage/pict
PICT image.pict, .pic, .pctimage/x-pict
PNG image.pngimage/png
PNG image.pngimage/x-png
QuickTime image.qtif, .qtiimage/x-quicktime
SGI image.sgi, .rgbimage/x-sgi
TGA image.targa, .tgaimage/x-targa
TIFF image.tif, .tiffimage/tiff
TIFF image.tif, .tiffimage/x-tiff
Movie FileExtensionsMime Type
AutoDesk Animator (FLC).flc, .flivideo/flc
MPEG media.mpeg, .mpg *video/x-mpeg
MPEG media.mpeg, .mpg *video/mpeg
QuickTime Movie.mov, .qtvideo/quicktime
Video For Windows (AVI).avi, .vfwvideo/x-msvideo
Video For Windows (AVI).avi, .vfwvideo/msvideo
Video For Windows (AVI).avi, .vfwvideo/avi
Sound FileExtensionsMime Type
AIFF audio.aiff, .aif, .aifcaudio/aiff
AIFF audio.aiff, .aif, .aifcaudio/x-aiff
GSM audio.gsmaudio/x-gsm
MP3 audio.mp3audio/mpeg
MP3 audio.mp3audio/x-mpeg
MP3 audio.mp3audio/mp3
MP3 audio.mp3audio/x-mp3
MP3 audio.mp3audio/mpeg3
MP3 audio.mp3audio/x-mpeg3
MPEG audio.mpeg, .mpg •audio/mpeg
MPEG audio.mpeg, .mpg •audio/x-mpeg
QUALCOMM PureVoice.qcpaudio/vnd.qcelp
WAVE audio.wavaudio/x-wav
WAVE audio.wavaudio/wav
uLaw/AU audio.au, .snd, .ulwaudio/basic
Music FileExtensionsMime Type
MIDI.mid, .midi, .smf, .karaudio/mid
MIDI.mid, .midi, .smf, .karaudio/x-midi
MIDI.mid, .midi, .smf, .karaudio/midi
Other FileExtensionsMime Type
RTSP stream descriptor.rtsp, .rtsapplication/x-rtsp
SDP stream descriptor.sdpapplication/sdp
SDP stream descriptor.sdpapplication/x-sdp

* Also .m15, .m1a, .m1s, .m1v, .m2v, .m75, .mp2, .mpa, .mpm, .mpv and others

Also .m1a, .m1s, .mp2, .mpa, .mpm and others

©Ray White 2004.