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why QuickTime • encoding qdesignusing poster moviesmidigraphy

QuickTime supports a wide variety of audio and visual file formats, but the kind we're interested in are those which lend themselves to the Web. That means midi files using QT musical instruments and the impressive audio codec from QDesign called - not surprisingly - QDesign.

There are plenty of other systems for handling audio and midi on the web, some of which are rated more highly by musicians for their sound quality and musicality. Beatnik (which, like QuickTime has a set of instruments and the ability to create new ones or embed samples) the Yamaha MIDplug and the new Yamaha audio codec SoundVQ are all popular. RealAudio doesn't really cut it in the quality stakes, although it's often used.

But QuickTime has two major advantages over all these; it's a multi-media engine which can support vector graphics, virtual reality, karaoke, text tracks, film and animation as well as music, full support for live streaming audio and video without special server software is imminent, and it has the highest installed user base of any software outside of Microsoft itself (no wonder Microsoft are worried).

encoding qdesign

QDesign is an impressive piece of software which reduces your audio file by a ratio of anything up to 100:1, and it's built into Quicktime. You do it like this:

Import your 16 bit audio track into Movie Player. go to File > export... and choose 'QuickTime Movie'. In the Open/Save dialogue box click on 'options'. In the resulting window check the boxes 'Fast start for the Internet' and 'Compress movie header' and then click on 'settings'. in the resulting window. select 16 bit, 44.1 kHz and mono or stereo, and in the pop-up compression list select QDesign. The 'option' box will now activate. Click on it and select your bitrate. If you want your music to play almost immediately on a good 28.8k connection, select 24kbit/s. now OK your way back out again and save the file. Go for a long walk in the country - this is processor intensive stuff.

using poster movies

If you want to put several music tracks on one page, rather than having them all attempting to download at once, use the poster movie technique. This exploits Quicktime's ability to link one movie to another, so that the second loads in the space occupied by the first when your visitor clicks on it.

Make a graphic file with some text and/or image which will become the clickable link. Make sure that the size is the same as the movie you want to play, ie if you want the audio file to show only the controller and be 150 pixels long, then make your graphic 16x150. (You don't have to do this, but it makes your page design much more straignforward) Import the graphic into movie player and save it as a movie. This is your poster movie.

Now embed your new poster movie into your web page with the following code or variation thereof:

<embed src="poster.mov" controller="false" width="150" height="16" href="funky.mov" target="myself">

Because the poster movie is targeting itself the funky.mov track will drop into the same space on the page when the poster movie is clicked and start loading. This way you can have multiple movies on the same page without the visitor's modem grinding to a halt.
Remember, the href path to the referenced track should be relative to the poster movie, not the page it's on.


All the midi music you hear on this site was written using a wonderful piece of shareware called Midigraphy, by TONTATA, directly on my Mac without any midi hardware whatsoever. Yes, I have a studio, but when I want to work with Quicktime midi tracks I can just power it up and away.

Midigraphy is sometimes simple, sometimes complicated, sometimes frustrating, but mostly it's very sophisticated, and most important, it's shareware and it costs only 20 dollars! It can directly address QuickTime Musical Instruments without any other extensions (eg Open Music System or FreeMidi) and export .mov files so you can transfer your music to other QT loaded machines without midi software.