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 ​FileExtMime ​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 ​FileExtMime ​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 ​FileExtMime ​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 ​FileExtMime ​Type
MIDI.mid, ​.midi, ​.smf, ​.karaudio/​mid
MIDI.mid, ​.midi, ​.smf, ​.karaudio/​x-midi
MIDI.mid, ​.midi, ​.smf, ​.karaudio/​midi
Other ​FileExtMime ​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.