Quicktime is dead … and Apple knew it (wrap that with MXF)

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For today’s creatives the significant dependence on IT presents a huge conundrum. Whilst many have benefited from the freedom of expression and reduced barriers to entry presented by tech there has been an equal angst demonstrated across the social media sphere about where we are being led and for what purpose.

One of the latest conspiracy tales is Apple’s decision to stop supporting QuickTime for MS Operating Systems. Many think this was a cynical move designed to undermine their competition. Others delved into the liabilities and costs of maintaining security patches. And, to be fair, Apple themselves were very shy in coming forward about the reason for this move which didn’t help much.

However, in my recent upgrade to the most stable OS (El Capitan), whilst researching its likely impact on the various apps I use, I found this statement from Apple on their website. This brief on “Pro Video Formats” seemingly acknowledges that Quicktime as a platform has passed its sell by date. Why else would a competing ‘media container’ format be given such a platform?

For those of us using video editing apps (NLEs) QuickTime’s use as a video data container is not as efficient as the competition it seems. Added to this media formats like H264 and AAC no longer require an ‘enabler’ like QT. I will confess here that for some time I was under the impression that Apple’s Pro Res was a self contained codec. However, it appears that Pro Res is wrapped in QuickTime’s .mov format and so, equally but more efficiently, could be wrapped in MXF.

So why is this important?

We only have to look at another great conspiracy theory concerning Apple’s decision to ditch FCP7 for FCPX just as the former was gaining significant traction among broadcast and film production houses. FCP7 was ‘pro’ software available to the masses. And, Pro Res was the Bonnie to the FCP7 Clyde. FCP7 being a 32bit program with ability to utilise only 4gb memory had major processing limitations. What use is software if it is unable to take full advantage of the hardware it operates on?

So FCPX arrived, like a new born baby clumsy at first though now having grown into a precocious teen, full of confidence and new ways of thinking about how the world should work. Well in this case, how to take best advantage of the power being provided by the i7 macbooks and iMacs and as well as the 12 core Mac Pros stuffed with memory.

From a video media perspective QuickTime now appears dead too. It just no longer offers the benefits over the competition it once did. File sizes are larger and camera manufacturers like Canon and Sony use MXF extensively with their pro cams. So no conspiracy there then. Just another tale of technology marching on and users trying to keep up.

I was prompted to write this having just upgraded from Yosemite to El Capitan which doesn’t include much about QuickTime in its feature set.

I still maintain a legacy FCP7 app on my computer which works in the most part on El Capitan except now there is no more “log and transfer” function. I have FCPX which I dabble with for its speed of processing render files but I’m not overly happy with the audio functions. I use Resolve for aspects of grading and file transcoding. Motion is great for titles and straightforward graphics. Most clients, however, require Première and After Effects experienced users and they submit or receive projects this way … “Those who pay the piper call the tune”. Premiere handles MXF files great and now so does FCPX. No need for transcoding as part of the work flow.

As an aside, I have not updated to OSX Sierra as most of the software above is not fully supported by this release yet. From my experience it takes about a year of updates for a version of OSX to achieve stability. I’m also wondering whether this may be the last upgrade my old 4.1 come 5.1 mac pro can handle.

Which worries me because of the current status of UK Mac prices. Perhaps my next holiday should be Canada. I can travel there, spend a weekend and purchase a MacPro and that all in cost would be the same as buying said model here in the UK.