Birth of No Blues

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QuickTime Quickies

A couple of non-intuitive hacks for QuickTime audio

QuicktimeSmiley I'm a soundie.
So I frequently have to send music samples, progressive mixes, and other pieces of track to directors or clients for approval.

Since I'm also a lazy soundie, I've discovered a couple of ways to speed up the process... and save my clients a lot of download time.

This is the fourth article in my series on audio data compression, and it's the least technical. It's actually just a couple of tips. The key is Apple's QuickTime Pro, a $30 addition to their free QuickTime software for Mac or Windows. Among other things, it lets you have multiple audio and video streams as separate elements in the same file.

Picture Perfect

My clients often send me a QuickTime movie as reference picture. I build my mix against it, send audio back to them for their notes, make changes, send a revised version, and so on until everybody's happy.

But I don't send them movies. That's a waste of time and bandwidth. Since the picture stays the same through each generation, why not just send the track? The client doesn't have to be particularly technical (or run an NLE) to marry track and picture. They can do it all in the tiny QuickTime Pro app.

The basic moves are simple:


  1. Open the track I've sent them in the QuickTime Player.
  2. Choose Select All from the Edit menu (or use a keyboard shortcut). Then Edit:Copy. They can close the audio file now; they won't need it any more.
  3. Open their original movie file, the one with pictures they sent me.
  4. Choose Select All on that file.
  5. Choose Edit:Add to Movie.
They now have a movie with two soundtracks - the original, and the one I just sent. Then, if they choose Window:Show Movie Properties, they get a list of all the streams in the movie... including both tracks as separate entries. Either one can be disabled with a checkbox, or completely deleted.


This only works if both the picture and the new track are the same length; otherwise, there can be sync problems. But it's no big deal, since I know how long their original file was. And sync problems aren't intractable. If all else fails, you can sync in QuickTime Pro using leader and a 2-pop. But it takes longer.

You can also stack multiple tracks in the same movie - different musical treatments, or versions of a mix - and select among them from the Movie Properties window.

Some of my clients send videotapes instead of files, but this process can still work. It just means I have to digitize their picture (in QuickTime Pro) and pass it along with the first mix. After that, we use the above steps.


There are some other hacks visible in that last screenshot.

Note that what the client sent me wasn't a QuickTime Movie at all, but Windows Media... and I'm on a Mac. No problem. Just add the excellent Flip4Mac components, and QuickTime does Windows files.

And note that what I sent them was an mp3. QuickTime doesn't encode that format, but it can read it. Since my audio software can render mixes directly into mp3 (as well as into full res files), I save a step by sending clients that version instead of transcoding to another format.

Like I said, I'm a lazy soundie.