QTKit Capture - Specifying Media Compression Settings

Q: How can I compress media being captured to a movie file when using the QTCaptureMovieFileOutput object?

A: QTCaptureMovieFileOutput is the concrete subclass of the QTCaptureFileOutput object that writes media to QuickTime movie files (.mov) and represents the output destination for a QTCaptureSession.

The method responsible for configuring media compression settings for the QTCaptureMovieFileOutput object is named conveniently enough setCompressionOptions:forConnection:. This method accepts a QTCompressionOptions object (the object encapsulating preset compression settings) and a QTCaptureConnection object for the media being captured.

Note: Instances of QTCaptureConnection encapsulate individual media streams that can be provided by QTCaptureInput objects and received by QTCaptureOutput objects.

When calling setCompressionOptions:forConnection:, a QTCaptureConnection object is retrieved by sending the message connections to an instance of QTCaptureMovieFileOutput. This method is inherited from QTCaptureOutput and is used to retrieve QTCaptureConnection instances representing individual media streams.

- (void)setCompressionOptions:(QTCompressionOptions *)compressionOptions
                forConnection:(QTCaptureConnection *)connection


Sets the options the receiver uses to compress media on the given connection as it is being captured.


compressionOptionscompressionOptions - A QTCompressionOptions object detailing the options being
used to compress captured media, or nil if the media should not be compressed.

connection - The QTCaptureConnection connection containing the media to be compressed.


This method sets the options for compressing media as it is being captured. If compression cannot
be performed in real time, the receiver will drop frames in order to remain synchronized with the
session. If the receiver does not recompress the output media, this method should be passed nil.
The default value is nil.

To configure an instance of a QTCaptureMovieFileOutput object to compress the captured media, first create a QTCompressionOptions instance specifying how you would like the media compressed (using one of the preset identifiers below), then simply call setCompressionOptions:forConnection: passing in the initialized QTCompressionOptions instance and the QTCaptureConnection for the media stream to be compressed.

Note: QTCompressionOptions objects describe compression settings for different kinds of media.

Listing 1: Setting compression options for Video.

QTCaptureSession            *mCaptureSession;
QTCaptureDeviceInput        *mCaptureDeviceInput;
QTCaptureMovieFileOutput    *mCaptureMovieFileOutput;
NSError *error;


mCaptureSession = [[QTCaptureSession alloc] init];

// find a video device and add it to the session
QTCaptureDevice *device = [QTCaptureDevice defaultInputDeviceWithMediaType:QTMediaTypeVideo];
if (device) [device open:&error];

mCaptureDeviceInput = [[QTCaptureDeviceInput alloc] initWithDevice:device];
[mCaptureSession addInput:mCaptureDeviceInput error:&error];

// create the movie file output and add it to the session
mCaptureMovieFileOutput = [[QTCaptureMovieFileOutput alloc] init];
[mCaptureSession addOutput:mCaptureMovieFileOutput error:&error];

// set the compression options for the movie file output
QTCaptureConnection *connection  = [[mCaptureMovieFileOutput connections] lastObject];
QTCompressionOptions *compressionOptions = [QTCompressionOptions

[mCaptureMovieFileOutput setCompressionOptions:compressionOptions forConnection:connection];


Listing 2: Setting compression options for Audio and Video.


NSEnumerator *connectionEnumerator = [[mCaptureMovieFileOutput connections] objectEnumerator];
QTCaptureConnection *connection;

// iterate over each output connection for the capture session and specify the desired compression
while ((connection = [connectionEnumerator nextObject])) {
    NSString *mediaType = [connection mediaType];
    QTCompressionOptions *compressionOptions = nil;

    // specify the compression options according to the media type
    // (note: a list of other valid compression types can be found in the
    // QTCompressionOptions.h interface file)
    if ([mediaType isEqualToString:QTMediaTypeVideo]) {
        // use H.264
        compressionOptions = [QTCompressionOptions
    } else if ([mediaType isEqualToString:QTMediaTypeSound]) {
        // use AAC Audio
        compressionOptions = [QTCompressionOptions

    // set the compression options for the movie file output
    [mCaptureMovieFileOutput setCompressionOptions:compressionOptions forConnection:connection];


A QTCompressionOptions object can be created with any of the following identifiers, each representing a set of options that determine how media will be compressed.

Video compression options identifiers ( QTMediaTypeVideo ):

These compression options are appropriate for high quality intermediate video that
requires further processing.


These compression options are appropriate for medium and low quality video that will be used for
delivery to destinations such as the internet.

Audio compression options identifiers ( QTMediaTypeSound ):

This compression option is appropriate for lossless audio that requires further processing, or is
intended for high fidelity destinations.


These compression options are appropriate for audio delivered with lossy compression.

For music and other high quality audio.


For voice recordings.


If a codec required by a specific compression option in not installed, calling compressionOptionsWithIdentifier: will return nil and the identifier will not be included in the array returned by compressionOptionsIdentifiersForMediaType:. For example, the QTCompressionOptionsLosslessAppleIntermediateVideo identifier requires that the Apple Intermediate Codec is installed on the system.

Note: Currently a QTCompressionOptions object cannot be configured with custom compression options.


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Document Revision History

2008-02-13Describes how to configure a file output object to save compressed captured media.

Posted: 2008-03-11

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