Promises and a leaked Alpha was all that we got from IBM and Apple when we needed QuickTime support in OS/2, so it was up to someone else to come up with an alternative. MainActor for OS/2 was able to display QuickTime movies, but with no support for QuickTime VR (navigable, 360-degree panoramas) nor any MMOS/2 codec, it was still impossible to view embedded QuickTime movies in Netscape or in other MMOS/2 aware programs. Fortunately we have a second option, and that's QuickMotion from Practice Corp. In the latest version, 2.0, QuickTime not only supports QuickTime VR, it also supports clickable hot spots and multi-node QuickTime movies.
If you've been happily running with PROTECTONLY=YES, you're gonna hate the installation process. Since Practice wanted a secure means of distributing and ordering their software electronically they chose to package the installation files with a Windows-based scheme called "ZipLock". The package comes as one big, self-extracting executable archive with a Windows-based front-end, of which you will need to run in a Win-OS/2 session. This front-end provides the first stage of the installation (unpacking the files to a temporary directory) and also acts as the "Electronic store" that you can later purchase the software from. For this electronic purchasing step you'll need to have configured Win-OS/2 to work with OS/2's TCP/IP stack.
Once the demo or registered version has been unlocked and extracted to a temporary folder, you then drop back into OS/2 and run the INSTALL.CMD script that will start OS/2's Multimedia Install utility. From there on the Multimedia Install program will copy all the necessary files to their appropriate locations, install the Netscape plug-in and create a set of desktop icons. QuickMotion comes with a registered version of AnPoCODEC too -- a bonus that lets you view Windows AVI files that default Warp didn't already cover.
As a short note, CODECs are modules of code that enable MMOS/2 to CODe and DECode files in many different formats. They are preferable to standalone players since any MMOS/2-aware application (GIF, 13k) will inherit the ability to read those formats too.
If you've already installed the Plug-in Pack that's distributed alongside Netscape for OS/2 then you've already got a "stub" plug-in that's supposed to play QuickTime movies in web pages by calling on MMOS/2. This "stub" wasn't much more than a placeholder, and won't function initially. The installation of QuickMotion's CODECs will fix that, but its own Netscape plug-in (GIF, 57k), called QuickFlick, offers much more functionality -- especially when it comes to QuickTime VR.
QuickFlick has a few simple configuration options, accessed by going to Netscape's about:plugins page and clicking on the "Properties" button next to the QuickFlick logo. Here you can tell it to display the first frame of the movie as soon as possible, and how to position non-embedded movies.
QuickFlick has the ability to start playing movies before they've fully downloaded, and will show a little marker on the progress bar to indicate where it thinks it will be able to start playing without catching up on the unloaded portion too early. You have the ability to play, pause, fast-forward and rewind through the movie. It also supports looping, if the movie's author has set that particular property.
QuickTime VR is a wonderful addition to the QuickTime API that allows viewing panoramic "Virtual Reality" scenes. Usually these scenes are made by stitching together a series of photographs that represent a 360-degree view from one spot. The viewer can then pan this scene with the mouse, looking left, right, up and down or zooming in and out. This method can also be inversed, letting you look around a single object, seeing it from all sides - a highly useful tool for virtual stores that want to let customers examine a widget over the internet before buying.
In QuickMotion, QT VR cannot be handled by MMOS/2 on its own due to the advanced navigation and therefore such movies must be played either through the standalone player (GIF, 31k) that QuickMotion installs, or through the Netscape Plug-in. One pleasant feature of QuickFlick (both the plug-in and the standalone viewer) is the ability to save any frame of a QT VR panorama to a GIF or other picture file. This frame saving ability isn't available for regular movies, however.
The next major new feature in this version of QuickMotion is the support of Multi-node movies (movies with more than one "chapter") and clickable hot spots that can take you to another node in the movie, or another web page (something that can lead to pretty funky navigation schemes, especially for art-gallery sites).
These hot spots, when used in QuickTime VR, will stay in one place relative to the panorama. So as you rotate your view, the hot spot slips in and out of reach. Panoramas of a room can have hot spots around the doors and windows -- each leading to a new room and a new panorama. Imagine using that to sell your house on the internet!
For the impatient, QuickMotion allows you to begin navigating the first node of a multi-node movie before the remaining nodes have finished downloading.
It's hard to find faults with QuickMotion's advertised benefits, since it is a well made plug-in and CODEC. The only major problem you're likely to have is with the Windows-based ZipLock distribution and electronic purchasing part, for this we wince and cringe a little, but it's a small evil to momentarily bear for the world of content that QuickTime opens up.
The only disappointments really are the lack of support for some of the newer, or more obscure aspects to the QuickTime API. It doesn't support QuickTime 3.0, QuickTime VR 2.0, recording, changing frame rates or multiple decompression methods. These and other limitations are covered in the product's documentation, however, and we hope Practice will see it in their means to address these in the future.
Chris Wenham is the Senior Editor of OS/2 e-Zine! -- a promotion from Assistant Editor which means his parking spot will now be wide enough to keep his bicycle and a trailer.
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