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QuickTime 2.0 & SampleSearch

This month, Martin Russ brings you not only the latest Apple News, but the full low‑down on QuickTime 2.0 and SampleSearch. Rumour also has it that he's been moving in breathtakingly high circles at the APRS, don't you know...

It was Marsha Vdovin, Digidesign's PR person, who gave me the idea: "Are you going to write this up like a society column?", she asked at the UK launch of Digidesign's TDM digital audio bus (we even saw a TDM bus: it was a short piece of ribbon cable with some high density IDC sockets on it!). Never one to disappoint a lady, what follows is inspired by magazines with considerably more 'image' than SOS...

It was a star‑studded gathering at Digidesign's UK headquarters recently. Gathered for a product launch after a busy day at the prestigious APRS exhibition, a host of names were treated to delicious food courtesy of world‑renowned Anton Mossiman's mobile catering: the chef cooked busily on a tiny electric ring; the chief waiter swished to and fro in an immaculate dinner suit that would have outshone Max Headroom; a wine waiter hovered constantly; and the waitress moved around the room, plying us with gorgeous morsels of Chinese banquet‑style food. For almost an hour, a mix of Digidesign executives (flown in especially for the occasion), journalists and musicians valiantly tried to avoid putting on weight, and then there were some blissfully short demonstrations, before we all got back to some serious chatting.

You weren't there? Well, you missed Chas Smith, Cliff Smith (of no relation), and Matt Causen, who together make up the majority of the UK Digidesign staff. Jet‑lagged executive Digidesigners from the States included Doug Proviser, Michele Felder, Trisha Bannister, Wendy Butler, Dino Virella, and of course, Marsha Vdovin as PR. Good to see a strong female presence, in marked contrast to most of the music business. If an autograph hunter had been present they would have had a busy time, with Alan Parsons, Sean Culley, Mike Collins, Julian Colbeck, George Petersen from Mix magazine, Yasmin Hasmi and Stella Plumbridge from Sypha, Blue Weaver from the Strawbs, and at least five other people whose names I didn't manage to catch... Oh, and Martin Russ, Ian Gilby, Dave Lockwood, Paul White and Brian Heywood from SOS Publications.

Cliff Smith's frankly all‑too‑brief demonstration showed the whole range of Digidesign digital audio/post production product range — mostly for Macintosh, but with some PC products too. "TDM is now shipping," said Chas Smith. We were treated to a superb 'Blade Runner'‑style Japanese coke advert, and gems of information like the PC ADAT I/O at about £900; the 'DSP Farm' for power digital audio users; PostView software which uses QuickTime to provide rapid manipulation of synced audio and video; the Digital Audio Engine (DAE); and a host of plug‑ins for the TDM bus, which open up the possibility of having a complete recording and post‑processing facility on a computer, including samples, sequencing, reverb, compressors and digital effects. Fun, fun, fun — and that was only the serious job of reporting it!


Whilst I was at the APRS, I found a lone figure demonstrating software on a Macintosh. It turned out to be none other than Mark Gilbert of Gallery Software, and he was demonstrating the latest version of his SampleSearch program.

SampleSearch is a simple idea, but one very nicely realised. It is designed to perform all those useful things that you need to do when you have a Digidesign/SampleCell setup, but which aren't so simple or are a bit slow if you do them conventionally. It could even be of use to Mac users who deals with lots of files regularly. Ever looked for a specific sample on a CD‑ROM? If you are relatively sure that it had 'Slap Bass' in the title, then using the Mac Finder will probably get you to lots of examples, but only one at once, with a wait whilst it scans the directory again each time. And having found a possible file, how do you then listen to it? SampleSearch searches and pops up a list of the found files much more quickly, and you can then do lots of things with them — like listen to them if they are sample files, for example, or add a copyright notice, or add them to a list of your favourites for rapid access later on, or... but you get the idea. If you've ever thought to yourself 'there must be an easier way to do this', then there probably is: SampleSearch. I was very impressed. Pictures say a thousand words, so take a look at the screenshots dotted around the Apple Notes column this month (Figures 1‑3)...

For more information contact Gallery Software on 081 200 8024 (voice and fax) or 0850 688204 (voice). Tell them that SOS's Apple Notes sent you...

Apple News In Brief

    According to market researchers Gallup, the recent UK CD‑ROM market looks like this. Which, considering the stormy waters Commodore are sailing through, makes interesting reading. It also explains why you do not see CD‑ROMs for Macs in anything other than Mac‑specialist magazines and shops. There again, another report from TFPL Publishing says that 80% of CD‑ROMs are for the Mac, whilst 22% of new titles last year were for the Mac.

Confused by how many audio channels you can get from a Mac hard disk recording system? Here's how it is for two Opcode products from TSC (071 723 7221).

  • Studio Vision AV with Apple Sound Manager 3.0 on a Quadra 660AV = 3 channels.
  • Studio Vision AV with Apple Sound Manager 3.0 on a Quadra 840AV = 4 channels.
  • Studio Vision Pro with Audiomedia card = 4 channels.
  • Studio Vision Pro with Audiomedia II card = 4 channels.
  • Studio Vision Pro with Sound Tools = 2 channels.
  • Studio Vision Pro with Sound Tools II = 4 channels.
  • Studio Vision Pro with Pro Tools = 4‑16 channels.

Also from TSC is Audioshop 2.0. By using this with Apple's Sound Manager 3.0, you can have digital audio recording and playback on all of the latest Macs, including AV models and PowerMacs — and with no additional hardware. There are also audio CD conversions to Mac and Sound Designer II file formats, as well as audio editing from CDs.

    If you shop around, now may be a good time to get a deal on non‑PowerMacs. Quadras are appearing at silly prices, and with any Quadra you have the option to upgrade to PowerMac later. Break a habit — buy The Mac or MacUser and get yourself a new Mac.
    After all the complaints about emulation speeds on Powermacs, developments may soon improve the Mac and PC emulation. Apple are close to releasing an improved Mac emulator offering high‑end Quadra performance, and a manufacturer best known for its Amiga PC and Mac emulators has been reported to be working on a PowerMac 486 PC emulator.
    Apple Software Despatch's attempt at an 'Instant Access' style, 'Encrypted software on a CD‑ROM' spin‑off company seems to have ground to a halt, gone to ground, and is being ground up, sorry, wound up.
    One thing that has remained in the latest update to QuickTime is the wonderful 'help' balloon containing a mock dictionary word definition:
    Expect a rash of applications which help the desktop sample user in the future. Converting audio CD to various sample formats is already catered for by AudioShop 2.0, and SampleSearch, amongst others, but these promise to be only the start of a whole host of plug‑ins and extensions which will enable you to manipulate audio in the digital domain. HyperPrism (available from TSC) is worth looking at if you want to see a fascinating user interface fronting some powerful real‑time tweaking.

How It Works: Quicktime 2.0

Apple Notes finally got a look at the brand‑new QuickTime system extension version 2.0 on the screenshot below. As promised, it gives faster and smoother animation, with lots less of those jerks and square blocks in the video. It is also quite a bit larger, taking up over a megabyte of your System Folder, but it does now have extended facilities including compatibility with the following:

  • Previous QuickTime for Macintosh versions.
  • Timecode.
  • MPEG (ISO standard video compression & decompression).
  • Indeo 3.2 (Intel PC Video).
  • MIDI (derived from General MIDI).
  • QuickTime 2.0 for Windows (due in the autumn).

In this context, 'faster' means full‑screen playback of a 640 by 480 pixel picture at 15 frames per second on a 68020 or better Mac, and half‑screen playback of a 320 by 240 pixel picture at 30 frames per second. QuickTime itself is a system extension that provides video and audio compression facilities: you can use any of several built‑in coders/decoders (called codecs), which are specially designed for particular purposes. For example, the JPEG codec is designed for use with photographs, and gives very high‑quality images with high compression ratios, but it takes time to do all the calculations. The Graphics and Animation codecs are intended to be used with computer graphics, and are fast enough to produce moving cartoon‑style pictures. The Video codecs (QuickTime and MPEG, amongst others) are designed to produce video at high frame rates (cinema films run at 24 frames per second, so video at anything faster than 15 frames per second is a good target rate), although the necessity to compress and decompress quickly does mean that image quality can suffer, and the compression may not be as great. It is also possible to make your own codecs and slot them into QuickTime, but this is definitely not a task for the beginner.

Audio compression has been available on the Mac for quite some time — since System 7.0 came out. The Sound Manager contains the MACE routines, which stands for Macintosh Audio Compression and Expansion. QuickTime takes the same approach as with video: you can select from a variety of coding methods, and you choose the one which is best in the circumstances. You can alter the number of bits; the sample rate; and the coding method, PCM/ADPCM etc.

Buried inside the QuickTime 2.0 software are the logos for General MIDI (GM) and Roland, as well as a picture of a keyboard, and a menu for selecting MIDI channels... Which brings us to an additional extension called QuickTime Musical Instruments. In just under half a megabyte, this file contains sample files and Instrument definitions for a limited set of GM compatible sounds. There are 43 defined 'INST' instruments, all copyrighted by Apple and Roland, with the usual mix of instruments, plus sound effects and the 'Dry' and 'Room' drum sets. These are tied to 128 'snd' files, which gives us an opportunity to actually see how a real sample set is built up — you can't usually go examining the contents of most ROM, but once inside a computer... Some of the sounds are ordinary samples — so resource IDs 155 to 186 contain five multi‑samples of a piano, whilst resource ID 3741 holds a slap bass attack, and resource ID 5668 is the orchestral thump. But many of the 'snd' files are just a few cycles, or just the attack portion, which are then glued together and looped, presumably using the 'INST' resources.

Despite the glee with which most hi‑tech manufacturers inform us about having four or eight Meg of PCM samples in ROM, Roland and Apple have apparently managed to squeeze a reasonable stab at a GM‑compatible sound set into half a Meg. Five piano samples sounds a bit coarse, but given the playback capability of many Macs (8‑bit at up to 22kHz, or 16‑bit for AV Macs), this may be okay — and having 8‑bit samples, at half the rate of the 16‑bit/44.1 kHz samples you might be more used to, will chop the storage down by a quarter to about a megabyte. Reducing the set of instrument sounds (and number of drum kits) to just 43 can presumably cut down the storage by half. I bet you didn't expect to learn about how sample ROMs are constructed in Apple Notes, did you?

The GM logo and 'compatibility' is intriguing, given that a Mac can only normally produce a maximum of four simultaneous audio outputs at once, without additional hardware — either QuickTime 2.0 is much cleverer than seems possible, or the polyphony is only four! With no QuickTime movies containing MIDI information available to me, I was unable to check this out. Expect a more detailed report in a future issue!