Sidebar 1 to 'Apple QuickTime 3.0 and the Avid/Microsoft Advanced Authoring Format ' Article
Windows Needs a Hardware Abstraction Layer

Or: What do digital video developers and end users really want and need from the Windows platform before metadata interchange? or "AAF can wait, we need HAL!"

While metadata exchange is a lofty and noble goal, most digital video developers working on the Windows platform would like Microsoft and its partners to give them a working hardware abstraction layer (HAL) first. One that would allow their edited clips to play back from a "cut list" without first rendering a new program file. A dozen different software engineering teams at hardware companies and software companies have struggled to avoid the Premiere "Make Movie" syndrome, which wastes time and disk space. Each company has had to write their own hardware-software specific drivers. With QuickTime for Windows, the QuickTime team has done this work once for all companies to use, on Mac and PC.

The second thing urgently needed on the Windows platform is media file interchange. While QuickTime provides some M-JPEG interchangeability, the ultimate answer lies in a standard compression file formats like DV and MPEG-2. QuickTime 3 includes native support for DV, including a software DV codec. Microsoft will add DV codec support to Windows 98. (See sidebar: MJPEG is history)

Some companies, like Adobe, felt forced to develop their own "media abstraction layer" for all platforms, out of concern that Apple might not have survived its abortive attempt to compete at the consumer level with the razor-thin margins on commodity PC clones, or that Apple might ultimately withhold its powerful and award-winning QuickTime technology from the Windows platform for fear of speeding an exodus of developers to Windows. Premiere 5.0 works on both platforms and with hardware independence via Adobe's hardware abstraction tools.

But now QuickTime 3 is available for Mac and Windows, and Apple is financially stable. Avid and Microsoft are flush with cash, valuable stock, and huge R&D budgets. They should just buy into QuickTime 3 and make their developers happy, then get on with the real challenge and market opportunity for nonlinear editing companies, to replace linear video tape editing, still over 80% of the editors at NAB.

Microsoft should license QuickTime for Windows, trading in part the ASF file format so Apple can stream QuickTime and the amazing Sorensen codec to ASF compatible players. And Apple should attend the EBU/SMPTE task force meetings on compositional metadata interchange to contribute their ideas. Apple has submitted QuickTime for committee consideration, but does not send a representative as far as I know (probably they are short-handed).

Posted: May 1998
Bob Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor
blamm@cync.com