QuickTime gains 720P Apple TV high-definition export mode

QuickTime gains 720P Apple TV high-definition export mode 1

In an undisclosed and largely unnoticed update to its QuickTime video playback and conversion software, Apple has quietly added an “Export to Apple TV” feature capable of creating high-definition videos viewable on the Apple TV accessory. Unlike Export to iPod, which currently creates sub-DVD-quality 640 by 480 videos, Export to Apple TV creates not only full DVD-quality 720 by 404 videos, but also 1280 by 720 videos. These videos are viewable in iTunes, but cannot be transferred directly via iTunes to an fifth-generation iPod.

The 1280 by 720 pixel resolution, also known as 720P, is one of several high-definition video formats supported by current televisions. Using the H.264 video compression codec, Apple TV supports 720P playback at 24 frames per second – the frame rate used by movies, not TV shows – at substantially higher bit rates than prior iPod- and iTunes-created videos. A 2.5-minute 720P sample we converted with QuickTime yielded a 4214kbps, 76-Megabyte file from a 5708kbps, 102-Megabyte original, suggesting that feature-length, 90-minute HD movies formatted for Apple TV will require around 3 Gigabytes of hard disk space.

Notably, Apple has not yet announced plans to sell HD movies through the iTunes Store, and has not gone out of its way to advertise Apple TV’s 720P video playback functionality. It has instead focused on the device’s ability to play iTunes Store and iTunes library content – typically formatted at 1/3 the device’s peak 720P resolution – as well as music and high-definition still photography.

  1. …there we go. now THAT makes apple TV more worthwhile; so long as there’s a “legal” (mutterpainintheass) way to get my DVD’s onto my computer and then streamed to the apptv.

    Until this point, I wanted NOTHING to do with apptv; a mac mini hooked up to the tv made MUCH more sense, if more $$.

  2. Nice find.

    Unfortunately, Apple TV, iTunes and QuickTime still are missing 5.1 audio. Until then, it’s hard to compete against other sources that can provide 5.1 audio. I didn’t see anything about 5.1, did anyone else? What am I missing?

  3. AAC is one of Apple’s Quicktime standards. It was jointly developed with Dolby using their their AC3 format. Quicktime fully supports exporting multi-channel suround sound.
    For the time being, Quicktime Pro exports up to a maximum of 5.1 channels. You would have to use FCP to go higher. If you wanted DTS output you would have to buy the codec. Hope that clears up the sound issue!

  4. Movies bought from the iTunes store have 5.1 sound, Steve Jobs said this when they released Movies on iTunes last year.

  5. Great find Jeremy. I did have faith that Apple was the forward-thinking company that makes smart decisions with the end user in mind. This comes alot closer to making AppleTV worthwhile.

    How long would it take to download 3+GB from iTMS? Maybe overnight? Seems awfully long, especially for those who are struggling in maintaining 300kps download speeds. Where’s Fiber?!?!

    My main question is when will I be able to burn my DVDs to my Mac so I can use it as a true home media server? Seems to me Jobs needs to decide whether he wants to cannibalize iTMS sales by allowing us to import our DVDs into iTunes while maintaining min 480p resolution, and eventually import our 720+p HD movies too. I dont have alot of faith in this happening. Those that really want this will need to resort to illegal measures.

    I personally have no intention of ever buying film content on iTMS b/c i always like to have a hard copy of my more expensive media. But the ability to use AppleTV as a true home media server trumps all… count me in if/when this happens!

  6. @OnlyShawn
    A Mini hooked up to a TV is much less user friendly than the TV, which integrates with iTunes as seamlessly as an iPod.

    While the TV can theoretically play 5.1 AAC audio, there aren’t any consumer Amplifiers capable of decoding AAC Audio. The TV has to decode the 5.1 AAC to 2.0 PCM before it can transfer the audio to the Amp.

    The Solution to both problems would be some soft of software which emulates an TV on a Mini, but can support Analogue 5.1 Decoders like the Griffin Firewave.

  7. Using the default AppleTV export option my tests found the following:
    – When saving 1920 x 1080i (30fps) content (broadcast or Canon HD HV10 recordings) QT creates a 960 x 540p file (which is half size).
    – When saving 1920 x 1080p (24fps) content (a downloaded Movie preview) it creates a 1280 x 720p file.
    I am not sure why it saves the files differently, but it appears to be detecting the frame rate and changing the encoding accordingly.

  8. So much for the format war. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD had better come to terms quickly or the game will be up before it really gets going. I can see HD content available online for less than having to spend thousands of $$ for a HD Player and new media. I’m seeing the future – HD is the format – disk players will be sooo turn of the century.

  9. For now your AppleTV won’t hold a candle to blu-ray. Most Blu-Ray movies I watch are 43mbs/sec in playback.

    There’s HD, then THERE’S HD. Even on the best TV (I own a fantastic one), with fantastic cable streaming very low compressed 1080i, it really looks bad when you pop in a blu-ray film.

    The same goes for the movies from the AppleTV the reason Apple didn’t come out with this device earlier. People have HDTV sets, they want super high quality video. If your 802.11n signal is very clean, you could probably get 50mb/sec (not counting hard drives)

    So for now the AppleTV is fantastic it’s a bridge for content, however we all are wondering about how we get 1080p content across. Even the sony playstation has 3 very fast cores and a 500 video card, and it’s not streaming from wireless computers 😉

    It will get there, this is the first device in a long line from Apple.

    The first thing I plan to do when my AppleTV arrives is take out the OS, Copy over the AppleTV “Application” if possible (or whatever it is) and then upgrade the OS since the graphics card can do 1080p out technically, and I like to play with things, but for now there practicality unless you live in an area with Verizon FIOS of downloading 3GB movies quickly and storing them is a logistical nightmare.

  10. I want to rip all of my TV Show DVDs, along with my Music Video DVDs, so I can play music videos randomly, you know, like they used to do on MTV.

  11. To Court Kizer: Apple TV HD is not ready for prime time, and it wont be until we get some decent broadband here in the US so we can download 3GB in less than 8 hours like they can in Seoul and Tokyo. Even then, why buy 720p movies from iTMS that are not even not real deal HD? And you cant even burn a hardcopy for archiving. The HD ability of AppleTV is worthless except for being able to stream home movies to my TV.

    I do however watch my DVDs, and I would love to save a couple hundred of my DVDs on a 3TB Mac Pro (which by the way is closer to $3000 than $5000) with a built in striped RAID (free setup in OSX) and have instant access to my collection. What I DON’T need is another stinkin’ huge component to put under my TV (DVD carousel) like its 1998 and Blade just came out.

    I can drop 10 DVDs onto my Mac within a couple hours, then render them to mp4 while I’m sleeping and at work. Not a big deal bro. And 480p on 60″ does not look horrible. Its definitely not great, but its ok. And surely you wouldn’t suggest replacing 200 DVDs with blu-ray or hd-dvd versions. Smoking crack much?

    The beauty of technology is that you can mold it to fit your purpose, whatever that may be. I could care less what its designed to do. I don’t want iTMS content. But I might integrate AppleTV it into my current system and use it to fit my needs, just like your mom will (nothing sinister here). And when FIOS comes to my neighborhood, I’ll reconsider my setup.

  12. Actually you can burn backups of your digital music and video collection to CDs and DVDs but DVDs can only be burned for archival purposes.

    You can burn an audio CD of songs you bought on iTunes — thus stripping the FairPlay DRM (copy protection technology) out of the tracks — if you re-import the tracks from CD to iTunes the re-imported tracks will be DRM free.

    You can also Back Up your purchases to Disc — protecting your digital music and video investment is possible but you cannot play DVDs burned in iTunes containing videos you bought off the iTunes Store in your DVD Player as they are only for archival purposes.

    So you can burn a hardcopy fo archiving — iTunes has a feature Back Up To Disc that can be used to do just that.

    However, there is no known way at present to strip the copy protection from iTunes protected videos out so you can enjoy DRM free iTunes video like you can strip DRM from iTunes music files by burning audio CDs or using third party software tools to strip the DRM from iTunes without neccessarily stripping the tags and metadata etc.

  13. How about Apple just sending you a HD movie via the mail on a standard DVD. (cost for Apple: 5 cents for the disc plus 39 cents for postage, alot cheeper than Apple buying tons of bandwidth) This now opens HD Media up to everyone. If you want to watch your purchased disc you need iTunes and/or an Apple TV.

    Let’s just say as an example its called a “iTunes Disc” or “iDisc” that you just unlock the disc with your iTunes account. This would also give customers a backup of all of your HD media purchased from iTunes too.

    Once bandwidth to the home increases or is cheaper, customers can then download HD content from the internet. Apple can give customers “download via internet” or “send the disc” options in iTunes. Just a thought!

  14. When I upgraded my Quicktime, it Bluescreened me until I could go in under safe mode and time travel back to the spot before the new Quicktime got in…

  15. @tkoonce

    That’s a pretty interesting idea. It sounds kind of old tech AOLish, but it is a very practical solution to the bandwith problem. A least it would be very nice to have as an option.

  16. Cool. Maybe this will make it easier to export for my Playstation 3??

    Regarding the AppleTV, I think it’s a good idea, but I think I’ll spend my $300 for a used MacMini to do the same thing plus everything else a Mac can do.

  17. I just tried encoding a .vob file with this and there was no sound – what did I do wrong? I’ve got the Quicktime Pro MPEG-2 plugin

  18. 740×404 is NOT full DVD quality. 854x*** (NTSC) and 1024x*** (PAL) is the full DVD resolution. Why? Because anamorphic widescreen video is stretched to display it in the correct aspect ratio. Even though the native resolution is 720×480 (for NTSC), the resulting image would be 854×480 when properly stretched. No point arguing this fact as I can provide all the evidence there is. Go google it or Wikipedia it.

  19. Joshua, you mean this bit on Wikipedia :

    “Though many resolutions and formats are supported, most consumer DVD-Video disks use either 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio MPEG-2 video, stored at a resolution of 720×480 (NTSC) or 720×576 (PAL).”


  20. “24 frames per second – the frame rate used by movies, not TV shows”

    This statement is incorrect, scripted drama have been shot on film since the 1950s. So CSI, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, 24, etc are all 24 frames per second.

    Therefore Apple TV is capable of displaying 720p24 versions of all most high quality television shows.

    It’s studio based shows (e.g. cheap sitcoms, news, etc) and sports that are video based and need 60 fields per second.

    720p24 is the format Microsoft uses for Xbox 360 Live Marketplace movie and television downloads in “HD” format. If Apple were to offer similar service the only difference would be that Microsoft use their VC-1 codec whereas Apple would use H.264 (otherwise known as AVC).

  21. @ Andy

    That’s all true. Here’s some more:


    Quote from previous link: “Anamorphic video is
    best displayed on widescreen equipment, which stretches the video back out
    to its original width. Alternatively, many new European 4:3 TV’s can reduce
    the vertical scan area to restore the proper aspect ratio without losing
    resolution (an automatic trigger signal is sent on SCART pin 8). Even
    though almost all computers have 4:3 monitors, they have higher resolution
    than TVs so they can display the full widescreen picture in a window
    (854×480 pixels or bigger for NTSC; 1024×576 or bigger for PAL).”

  22. I currently have my favorite tv shows in avi format and use frontrow to view them on my 24inch iMac. Will it be possible to view these shows using an tv? How can I get iTunes to sync them? Does this QT pro conversion feature help me at all?

  23. OnlyShawn:

    The Apple TV is not designed to be a jukebox for wirelessly playing your DVDs. Why deal with signal loss when you know damn well you have a DVD player hooked to your TV set already. Besides are you going to rip all your DVDs into computer? Buy an expensive RAID array, hooked to a $5,000 Mac Pro tower?

    I have 500+ DVDs, Transfering one to digital form on a computer takes sometimes as long as two hours (when there is lots of macrovision and css to break), which in Apple’s case is illegal.

    It just doesn’t make sense to build a digital DVD “jukebox” for any reason, except if you want to look cool and have all your DVDs to select from on your giant TV screen. But most people don’t have the hard disk space for 5 DVDs let alone the average (small) collection of 40 of them. You could buy (5) 250 Disc DVD carousels, and hook those up just as easy..

    Besides why do you want to use the AppleTV for DVDs? After owning a 60″ LCoS TV I can’t stand watching anything from my DVD collection, I’ve been collecting them as blu-ray and making backup copies (technically illegal), but for the server I want to build it’s going to take $5,000 or so to put together a machine that handles lots of disk space to digital store all my archives.

    The AppleTV is for consumers. It’s perfect for my mom, and all the people who want to get there digital photos on the TV, or play music with an entertainment system. It works great.

  24. there seems to be no “export to apple tv” option on my version of quicktime player 7.1.5. is the pro version required? (also, i’m only running OSX 10.3.9.)

  25. My sense is that Apple is not going to try to offer 720p or 1080i/p downloads (except for trailers), nor will they encourage ripping DVDs and other video optical media to hard drives.

    Apart from the copy protection issues, the amount of hard drive space required for just a handful of high-def films would dwarf that used by even very large music collections. Meanwhile, as others have noted, unless you live in Korea or are one of Verizon’s FIOS customers it will be some time before broadband speeds will be up to downloading HD films of any length.

    Another practical point is to distinguish between how movies are consumed and how music is consumed. You might listen to dozens of songs from your music library in a day, and listen to hundreds of songs over a month. You’re unlikely to watch more than one movie a day, maybe 10 in a month (unless you’re unemployed.) While an iPod or iTunes adds major convenience in terms of navigating a large music collection, it offers fewer benefits over popping that one disc in while the popcorn is popping. So the benefits of a video jukebox for feature-length films is not as great as for music. It’s about the medium, not about what the technology might be coaxed into doing.

    Here’s a more likely scenario:

    – Apple seems to be lined up mostly in the Blu-Ray camp. They also are rumored to be encouraging studios to include iPod-format versions of movies on their Blu-Ray disks, as an added feature.

    – Meanwhile, the motion picture industry is in the midst of another format war, BD vs HD, and they seem unlikely to break the stalemate themselves. Consequently, there isn’t much content out there in either format.

    – Enter the industry-redefiner: Apple, Inc.

    I’m predicting that Apple will strike a deal with the studios:

    1) The studios will embed H.264 versions of movies, for the iPod, on Blu-Ray disks. This benefits both Apple and the studios (makes the disks even more attractive), while it costs them next to nothing.

    2) Apple will introduce the next-generation AppleTV. It will include some enhancements to the current model. The biggest change will be to include a Blu-Ray player, controllable by the Apple Remote within the AppleTV interface.

    3) Apple will sell millions of these boxes over a couple of years, burying HD DVD and ending the format war.

    Incidentally, I do NOT expect Apple to offer a DVR in the next AppleTV. To work effectively these things need to be hooked up to a cable or satellite receiver, and the cable and satellite companies are already all over the DVR market, giving Tivo a run for its money.

    At the end of the day, you’ll have two devices connected to your HDTV: A DVR/Receiver from your chosen cable or satellite provider, and an AppleTV that plays Blu-Ray discs & DVDs (upscaled) while streaming content that you’ve downloaded from the iTMS or moved into your iTunes library (video, music, etc.)…

  26. RonRosell,

    I like your thinking. Please forward your ideas to Apple in case they are clueless about where to go next with AppleTV (which I am sure they are not).

  27. RonRosell, your have a clear vision of what might be coming up.

    I totally agree with all you say and if in deed Apple were to come up with such a device…. I’ll use my current TV unit in an other room and keep the new baby for the big movie room 🙂

    Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long before Jobs start working on his “passtime”, as he called it in a recent interview.



  28. hello everyone, i was wondering if someone can help me. I’m currently working in Hi-def hvx, panasonic (i know backward), working on final cut pro. My footage on my monitor looks spectacular, but when i release it online, even on hi def sites like vimeo, it seems to lose quality. I’ve been playing around with the settings, but can’t seem to keep the same footage. Can someone tell me why the bigger studios can export to dvd and don’t seem to lose any quality?

    Also having a problem with exporting to dvd, i’m using dvd studio 4, and for some reason the dvd’s are recording but only playing in the mac and no where else, does anyone have idea about this?

  29. so as i am not a techie can u answer a question for me please:

    I am about to but a new compact digital camera so i can take movies as well as stills of family etc and dont want to bother with a camcorder due to size etc etc.. i have seen that panasonic now have comapct digital cameras that supposedly capture video movies in HD format at 1280×720 at 30fps in quicktime format

    does this mean i can simply transfer these videos from camera to itunes and then apple tv and watch them in HD res ?

    or will i need to go through some complicated conversion process?

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