Figure53’s QLab software for Mac OS X has gotten some attention lately —though probably not enough—for its live, timeline-based audio playback. As a competitor for such products as Stage Research’s SFX software, QLab has a number of advantages, but probably the most important of these is cost-effectiveness—it’s a free download in its basic form.

But the reason QLab makes it into this Projection Now is that it’s not just for audio anymore. Figure53 has just released a video plug-in for the software that has launched it into an entirely new—and desperately eager—market. Though the Pro Video package is not free, at under a hundred and fifty dollars it’s easily the cheapest professional grade software playback solution for video. While there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles in the system (no rotation parameter, no screen geometry, no blending modes…), QLab does everything a designer needs for a medium-scale show: timed fades on multiple layers, editable fade curves, looping, aspect ratio adjustments, etc. It can output to up to eight displays (although even a loaded Mac Pro might have trouble with that many) and supports any file that Quicktime does, including still images and even MIDI music files.

QLab is the advance guard of a next generation of Mac-compatible applications that will be appearing soon. With its object-oriented development framework, Cocoa, and the triple threat of the CoreAudio, CoreImage, and Quartz Extreme development tools, Apple has made the development of full-featured applications wonderfully accessible to a brand new tier of developers—the users.