The Titanic Triumvirate

Then, a Titanic trio of technologies reached critical mass simultaneously. The result of that convergence, as they say, is history.

Yes, friends, I'm going on the record as saying that this whole "edit professional-quality video for under three grand" idea exists almost exclusively because of three all-important technologies (two of them invented by Apple Computer and the third merely popularized by Apple).

QuickTime, FireWire, and SuperDrive are these three technological marvels. The combination of the three, mixed as only Apple could mix them, is the special sauce that lets us create pro-quality (more or less) DVDs on inexpensive iMacs.

And without them? Let's just say you might not be making DVDs; I wouldn't be writing this book; iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto, and iTunes might not exist (they rely on QuickTime or FireWire or both); and Apple might not be in business today. That's how important I believe these technologies are to Apple and to "video for the masses."

Here's how these parts fit together.


Reduced to the lowest common denominator, QuickTime is a file format. More technically (or at least according to that revered arbiter of the technical, the Apple Web site), QuickTime is software that allows Mac (and Windows) users to play back audio and video on their computers. But taking a deeper look, QuickTime is many things: a file format, an environment for media authoring, and a suite of applications that includes QuickTime Player, QuickTime Pro, the QuickTime browser plug-in, and more.


The current version of QuickTime at this writing is version 6. So when I say "QuickTime," assume the version I'm talking about is version 6 even if a new version (7?) is available by the time you read this.

So QuickTime isn't just a format or single program, it's a suite of programs, underlying technologies, architectures, and file format(s).

QuickTime's function is a bit easier to define. It's the part of the Mac OS that lets you create, save, manage, manipulate, and deliver rich-media documents. As a format, it's extremely flexible. QuickTime documents can include any combination of video, audio, interactivity, text, HTML, logic, and still pictures, to name just a few.

QuickTime has been under constant development at Apple for more than 10 years and has become a standard in both video and interactive media authoring and production. And its extensible architecture ensures that QuickTime will still be around 10 years from now it's designed to accommodate future media types and file formats, even ones that haven't been invented yet.


If QuickTime is the production facility for authoring rich media, FireWire is the truck that brings raw materials in and takes finished goods out.


FireWire is sometimes called IEEE 1394 or i.Link (mostly by vendors too cheap to pay Apple for use of the official FireWire trademark). Many FireWire peripherals (mostly scanners and storage devices, including the iPod) don't need AC power as long as they are connected to a Mac by FireWire. One distinguishing characteristic of i.Link is that it uses a four-pin connector, rather than the six-pin connector on your Mac. The missing two pins carry power to the device, so i.Link devices (mostly camcorders) can't take their power off the FireWire bus.

FireWire is a registered trademark of Apple Computer.


In simple terms, FireWire is a cable that lets you connect to your Macintosh things that need a fast connection like DV camcorders, scanners, hard disks, and DVD burners.

More technically (again, according to Apple), FireWire is "a high-speed serial input/output technology for connecting digital devices such as digital camcorders and cameras to desktop and portable computers."


Apple's recently introduced new and improved FireWire 800 on its high-end G4 Power Mac and PowerBook systems. It's named for its speed 800 megabits per second which is twice as fast as original FireWire.

I've yet to try it, so here's the party line, (again, direct from the mother ship in Cupertino, California):

FireWire 800 doubles the throughput of the original technology, dramatically increases the maximum distance of FireWire connections up to 100 meters and supports many new types of cabling, making it indispensable for transferring massive data files and for working with uncompressed high-definition (HD) video and multiple standard-definition (SD) video streams. And it's way faster than USB 2.0.

Before FireWire, the Mac high-speed interface standard was SCSI (short for "small computer systems interface"; pronounced "skuzzy"), an exceptionally temperamental bus that became exponentially more cranky as you added more SCSI devices. And each device had to be assigned a special SCSI ID number and there were all kinds of SCSI conflicts and…

Just trust me on this: FireWire is a walk in the park compared to SCSI. I have at least half-a-dozen external FireWire hard disks and they've mostly been reliable, blazing-fast, and trouble-free.

After SCSI came USB (short for "universal serial bus"), which was slow (fast enough for keyboards, mice, speakers, and such, but slow if used for storage) and much better-tempered, but not without its quirks. Soon after, FireWire arrived, and it moves data at up to 400 megabits per second (Mbps), up to 30 times faster than USB. Furthermore, unlike SCSI devices, most FireWire devices can be "hot swapped." That means you don't have to shut down or restart to add or remove most FireWire devices.

Just plug them in and they work. It's like magic. And you can connect up to 63 of them at a time on a single FireWire bus!


USB devices are supposed to be hot-swappable too, but USB hot-swapping doesn't always work.


A new and improved USB called "USB 2.0" is available now, but Apple has (thus far) chosen not to provide it as standard equipment on Macs and few Mac developers offer it. From all indications it's a loser. So ignore it unless you have a particular need for it.

There are PCI cards for Power Macs and PC cards for PowerBooks that offer USB 2.0 ports. But be aware that Mac OS X doesn't support USB 2.0 natively, so you'll need appropriate USB 2.0 driver software in addition to a card.

All of this taken together is probably why FireWire has become the interface of choice for today's digital audio and video devices, as well as for external hard drives and other high-speed peripherals.


Not all FireWire devices are happy with hot-swapping. Since there's no way for me to know what kind of device you have, all I'm going to tell you is to read the manual for your device to learn the correct procedure for connecting and disconnecting it.

FireWire is standard on every single Mac built today and is also built into almost every single digital video camera ever made. In just a few short years it's become the de facto standard for the video industry and is a big part of the reason Macintosh remains the platform of choice for anyone creating rich media, audio, or video.


To find out more about QuickTime and FireWire and there's lots more to find out visit and, respectively.


Last but not least, we mustn't overlook the contribution of DVD technology (it stands for "digital versatile disc" or "digital video disc," depending upon whom you ask). With inexpensive set-top DVD players sold on every corner, Apple driving the price of blank DVD-R discs down to $3, and many computers offering at least DVD playback, if not both playback and recording, it's no wonder that DVD is becoming the standard for digital media as well as for data storage and backup.

But in addition to being a big, fat, cheap storage medium, there's this: DVD is the first consumer medium to offer interactivity that isn't tied to a computer or a Web connection. With DVD, your interactive work, with its menus and buttons, can be played by anyone, using almost any cheap DVD player and TV.

So there you have it QuickTime, FireWire, and SuperDrive DVD-R the titanic triumverate. Now let's look at the actual process of making a DVD.

The Little iDVD Book
The Little iDVD Book
ISBN: 0321197747
Year: 2003
Pages: 62 © 2008-2017.
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