Notes on Apple's New Broadcast Software

by Scot Hacker

Lots of talk about Apple's beta release of QuickTime 6 with MPEG-4 support, but few people are talking about the new free broadcasting software they released alongside QT6.

If you're not familiar with the genre, broadcast software sits between your video camera and your streaming server software (which may run on a dedicated QuickTime Streaming Server machine or on the same machine, if your webcasting needs are light). Its job is to resize/scale the incoming video, decrease the framerate, run it through a given video codec, and do similar bandwidth-reducing magic on the audio channels. More sophisticated broadcasting software accepts feeds from multiple cameras and lets you insert scrolling credits, external audio sources, audio and video stored in files, graphics, etc., directly into the live feed.

We've been looking for the perfect broadcasting software for our needs at the jschool, and have been looking forward to this release with curiosity. Notes on the beta:

  • Very slick, easy to use, OSX compatible. Seemed totally stable in the two hours I ran it. Worked fine with the DV audio, no need for external iMic input.

  • Does do archiving - simultaneously saves the live feed to hinted QuickTime for later (asynchronous) use on the streaming server.

  • Built in MPEG4 support worked excellently. Licensing issues could still cloud MPEG4 feasibility, but the technology is there. The stream was very high quality for the bandwidth. Sending MPEG4 streams requires people to upgrade players and plugins once again - might be best to wait a year on that for client ease of use, but we can discuss later. Sorenson also worked as expected.

  • The downside is no mixing - no ability to mix multiple camera feeds, or scrolling titles, graphics, or anything else into the feed in real time (though we could still do that with a physical in-line video switcher.

It's not yet clear whether Apple will do a Pro version with mixing capabilities in addition to this free version. For now I recommended that we use this free version for future conferences, and skip the live mix-down. It would be nice to have, but not essential. This gets us what we need without digging at the budget.

Side note: This now counts as another category where Apple is stepping into territory previously owned by 3rd party developers. Only the high-end broadcast software vendors will be able to offer anything Apple isn't already offering. iTunes kills 90% of the 3rd party audio player market, FCP threatens Avid, threatens Eudora, Broadcaster threatens CoolStream and LiveChannel. Anyone see where this is going?


2002-06-07 09:00:22
Threat to other developers...
You can - just in this case - have another point of view on this issue:
With this _free_ broadcaster Apple is widening the audience for this new area of computer usage and opening it to the consumer. This may make some more people interested in streaming QuickTime. And this is in my opinion a good move.