Apple QuickTime is the worst H.264 codec in the world
UPDATE 10/7/2008 - Unsurprisingly, the 1080P QuickTime movies work fine on a Mac Mini! Apple simply won’t write good Windows software.
One of the most interesting developments in the digital camera space is the convergence of HD digital video on to traditionally still cameras. We saw this first with consumer point-n-shoot digital cameras with 720P capability and now we’re seeing professional grade cameras like Canon’s EOS 5P Mark II implement 1080P video capability. The downside of this is that nearly all of these camera makers are adopting Apple’s QuickTime MOV format and this is highlighting the gross inefficiencies of Apple’s video playback software.
(We won’t get started on the hundreds of critical vulnerabilities in Apple QuickTime that endanger your computer)
Apple’s codec is so poorly coded – at least the Windows version – that my Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz desktop system with NVIDIA 8800GT can’t play 1080P H.264 QuickTime movies (2 samples on bottom of this page) smoothly. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has even told me that he gets rough playback on his high-end Intel QX9650 Quad-core desktop with ATI 3870 crossfire dual GPU. This situation is ludicrous because it’s possible to play Blu-Ray H.264 1080P videos on a low-end dual-core computer with a low-end $35 ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics adapter.
This just doesn’t affect 1080P video clips, it affects 720P video clips that consumers are far more likely to deal with. Those clips do not work well on dual-core computers with integrated Intel graphics adapters. You can forget about using an Intel Atom NetBook with 945 integrated graphics to play back 720P clips from your point-n-shoot camera smoothly and you can forget about using typical desktop systems with common Intel integrated graphics.
Interestingly, the 3rd party QuickTime Alternative DOES indeed play these 720P clips smoothly on low-end systems and 1080P clips on dedicated discrete graphics systems, but the audio does not work. I’ll try to email the QT Alternative developers to see if they can fix this.
Meanwhile, Adrian will run a test on his Mac Mini to see of the Mac version of Apple Quicktime is equally incompetent. I would not be surprised if it turns out to work well because Apple likes to point out the inferiority of the Windows platform by personally ensuring it to be true. Apple for example criticized Windows for being virus prone only to prove it by shipping a Windows virus with the iPod. Apple criticized Windows for being bloated with Crapware only to prove it by shipping iTunes. We’ll have to see what Adrian finds on his Mac Mini.