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This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on June 15, 2001

(Issue 1924, The Computer Goes Hollywood)

Hollywood depends on the computer for a growing number of uses. Ever since Atari 800s were used to help generate some of the graphics for "Tron" 15 years ago, computers have played a greater and greater role in the making of movies.

But increasingly, computers are being used to help promote movies as well. More and more movie trailers are making their way online, allowing you to check out upcoming films at your own convenience.

QuickTime movie previews

Given Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs' other hat – as owner of Pixar, the animation studio that brought us the "Toy Story" movies – it ought to be no surprise that Apple has used Jobs' connections to create a top-flight movie preview site to show off its QuickTime media player.

The QuickTime player has the best picture quality of any of the major formats – better than Real, far better than the Microsoft Media Player. But that quality carries a price – QuickTime files take a while to download, especially if you have a dial-up account.

If you have cable or DSL, bookmark this page – you can see previews for just about every major release from every studio. And Apple often has exclusive trailers, with scenes not available elsewhere – as this is being written, there is an exclusive QuickTime trailer for "Jurassic Park III" different from the one in theaters.

You will, of course, need the QuickTime player – there's a fully functional free version available for both Macs and Windows, and you can get it from

This is Real Networks' movie preview site. It doesn't have as many movie previews as the QuickTime site, but the RealVideo files aren't as big, so for those with dial-up connections this may be a better option. Again, though, file size relates directly to quality – the narrowband downloads don't look nearly as good as the QuickTime files. (There is also a broadband option, but I wasn't able to try that to see how the quality was.)

As with QuickTime, you must have the Real player to view the movie trailers at their site – and there is a free version of the player you can download (

Most of the movies featured here have links to the official site, plus links to past wire service stories on the movie, interviews with the stars, etc.


This movie preview site is hosted by AOL. It is not only the deepest (having by far the most movie trailers available for viewing), but also the best organized – upcoming movie previews aren't listed alphabetically or by studio, but by release date. That way, you can plan for which movies you want to see before they come out – nice touch, that.(Movies already in theaters are arranged alphabetically, which makes sense, too.) It also offers you a choice of Real or QuickTime – something neither of their sites will obviously do.

In addition to the previews, Moviefone also offers synopses and interviews, as well as a look at

MSN movie guide

Microsoft's movie guide is more oriented toward behind-the-scenes looks and interviews with stars, but the biggest films also have previews available. They are in – you guessed it - Microsoft's Media Player format, which is a free download for both Windows and Mac. (However, unlike the QuickTime and Real trailers, which will detect if you are missing the player and take you to the download page, Microsoft's site only detects if you are missing the player – I didn't have the latest version – but doesn't have an auto-download feature. Rather annoying.)

On the up-side, once you've viewed the trailers, read the reviews, and decided what film you want to see, the Microsoft site then will take help you find a nearby theater showing that movie, and even list the showtimes.