QuickTime 6 promises the ultimate encoding performance, based on the MPEG-4 standard. MPEG-4 will make files comparable in quality to MPEG-2 at a fraction of the file size. It’s hoped it will facilitate quality Internet video files at larger-than-postage-stamp sizes.
We exported a two-minute Final Cut Pro project using the MPEG-4 codec, and compared it with the same file encoded using both Sorenson 3 Pro and Cinepak codecs. Sorenson Video 3 Pro took 1 minute 50 seconds to encode, resulting in a 11.5MB file. Cinepak took 4 minutes 20 seconds, and produced a 11.7MB file – while the MPEG-4 codec took only 1 minute 40, and produced a 11.9MB file. Of the three files, both MPEG-4 and Sorenson codecs produced excellent results, while Cinepak produced noticeable artefacts.
At the time of writing, Apple has not qualified QuickTime 6 for use with Final Cut Pro 3, although we found no problems on our test system running in OS 10.1.5. This oversight by Apple is likely to be short lived, as QuickTime 6 is the default in OS X 10.2.
QuickTime Pro 6 is not a free upgrade, nor does it currently offer complete integration with existing software, such as Final Cut Pro. It will also be some time before most end users update their player software to version 6.
For the immediate future, therefore, encoders will still have to produce QuickTime 5 compliant files along with any QT6/MPEG-4 content. Unless you must upgrade immediately, it seems wiser to wait for these issues to be resolved before taking the plunge. QuickTime 6’s MPEG-4 format is, however, one of the most affordable, high-quality codecs available, producing results well on a par with more expensive codecs such as Sorenson Video 3 Pro.