I had a strange reaction the first time I launched Live Channel. It was, "How'd they do that?" Live Channel (from Channel Storm) is a QuickTime broadcasting application for the Macintosh. It's announcement, back in July, boldly promised a live, real-time QuickTime streaming solution that could easily substitute for an entire broadcast studio.
It wasn't a lie.
Live Channel is, in fact, a real-time QuickTime streaming front end, server and studio all wrapped up into a package no larger than 900 KB--including the documentation files. When I say "real time," I'm not just referring to playing a QuickTime movie in real time. Even the basic QuickTime Player application can do this. I'm talking about multiple QuickTime files, multiple audio files, multiple graphics, multiple live video and audio feeds and multiple overlays, all of which can be switched in real time, combined in real time and transitioned in real time--dissolves, wipes, you name it. All in software. And all in a package, once again, smaller than 1 MB. To hammer the point home, this entire broadcast studio and streaming server can fit on a floppy disk with room to spare. You do remember what a floppy disk was, don't you?
The Live Channel interface. Click image for a larger view.
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Somebody hand me a hanky
Now, I'm not the kind of guy who gets all blubbery and sentimental. Sure, I got a little fogged up watching Joy Luck Club. I'll admit it. But, in general, I would say I'm not the kind of guy who falls apart at an emotional moment. But this program really brought the memories back. You old timers out there know what I'm talking about. Remember when you could fit both the Mac OS and Microsoft Word on a single floppy disk and boot your Mac Plus or Mac SE from that disk? O, the memories. I'm welling up just thinking about it.
But then software development took a lame turn, and everything had to become huge and slow. Now a stupid, little text editor like Microsoft Word takes up 80 MB on my hard drive (not counting whatever that behemoth planted in my System Folder), and my System Folder takes up more than 300 MB. And for what? I tell you, my 8 MHz Mac SE running System 6 felt more responsive than today's fastest computers running the latest OS. And it crashed a hell of a lot less than OS 9.
But perhaps I digress.
The point is that Live Channel is not just sophisticated engineering. It is unique in today's market for its economy and performance. Remember, to do practically anything that involves QuickTime in real time, you need an add-on board. Even Apple's own Final Cut Pro can't do simple transitions in real time without the Matrox RTMac card. You can't even adjust the brightness in a QuickTime movie without sending the QuickTime Player application into a tizzy. I'm not picking on Apple. It's the same all around on every platform: bigger, slower software year after year.
And this is why, when I first launched Live Channel, I asked out loud, "How'd they do that?"