In the early 1990’s, when ‘multimedia’ was the big buzzword among personal computers, Apple created QuickTime as a complement to its QuickDraw graphics rendering & manipulation system. Apple wanted to do for time-based media (ie. movies, sound) what it did for graphics – that is, make manipulating movies as easy as cut, copy & paste. And so, in early versions of QuickTime, you could do exactly that, without paying a penny; within the standard QuickTime MoviePlayer application, you could select start & end points, chop & change at will, and even copy & paste movies into other applications that supported QuickTime. You could paste a QuickTime movie into a word processor document just as easily as if you were pasting text!
Granted, a lot of movies were postage-stamp sized in those days, and there’s not really a lot of practical use for movies in word processor documents, but boy it was fun – just because you could do it.
Eventually QuickDraw fell by the wayside to make way for Quartz in Mac OS X, but QuickTime lived on – and it went from being an optional extension to becoming an integral part of the Mac system. Nowadays, if you want to do any cutting, copying, pasting or other basic editing of QuickTime movies, you have to cough up money to Apple to unlock these features.
But what’s not generally known to the average user is that these features are only locked within Apple’s standard QuickTime Player application. Enterprising third-party programmers can freely tap into QuickTime’s full feature set and offer them to their users in other applications. One such result is this week’s treat for Mac AND Windows: MPEG Streamclip. Read on…
In addition to all that basic cutting, copying & pasting you used to be able to do, MPEG Streamclip’s main speciality is importing, playing back, editing and converting MPEG & other streaming movie files, including MPEG-2, the format used for DVD video. You can import streaming video from sources such as YouTube, and convert between different video formats for playback on iPods and other portable media. The video conversion dialog box lets you tweak just about every little aspect of the process, including compression codec, size ratios, de-interlacing, etc. And the best part? All this power comes to you absolutely FREE.
One caveat, though: To do anything with MPEG-2 files, you’ll need to buy the QuickTime MPEG-2 component from Apple (currently A$39 at this time of writing). Fortunately, if you don’t have need of MPEG-2 functionality, Streamclip will still work perfectly well without it.
But you’d be surprised how much use MPEG-2 gets: Not only is it used for DVD video, but many camcorders and TV Tuner cards also record and store video in this format (I once flatted with a guy who regularly recorded TV shows on his computer. We used MPEG Streamclip to play & convert the saved files). If you find yourself dealing with MPEG-2 video a lot, I think you’ll find it’s worth the cost.
MPEG-2 related considerations aside, MPEG Streamclip remains a useful and powerful piece of software, especially for the price. With YouTube and portable media all the rage nowadays, MPEG Streamclip will have your video importing and conversion needs covered. More information as well as downloads for Mac and Windows can be found at the developers’ website.