TweetFollow Us on Twitter

REALbasic Development

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Programming

Rapid Development with REALbasic

by Erick J. Tejkowski

Extend REALbasic to suit your needs


Long the "Holy Grail" of computing, video is finally coming of age in the computer world, but Mac users have known this for some time. QuickTime has been around for awhile now and so has sophisticated video hardware for the Mac. With the explosive growth of the web in recent years, hundreds have wired their web servers with a variety of video camera devices, broadcasting to the worldviews of local scenery, photos from home, or pictures of the family pet.

Luckily, Apple has been involved in one way or another with desktop video from the start. With pioneering technologies in software and hardware, multimedia has usually appeared first, not to mention the best, on Macintosh desktops.

This article will continue in that tradition and describe how to make a web-based camera that will periodically post photos to a web site for the world to see. The reader will also discover how to incorporate these abilities into their own designs, including stop-motion photography, home surveillance, and other fun experiments.


Since this project is a bit more hardware related than usual, a brief discussion about the programs requirements might be in order. First, there is a question of video hardware. For a camera, any typical video composite signal is fine. Video hardware that produces composite video usually has S-Video and/or RCA jacks like those on your home stereo. Since most people have a video camcorder these days, we will focus on them. Web cams also make a fine choice, as do digital cameras (if they have composite video output). If you have no camera, but would still like to experiment, a VCR will do as a video source. Unfortunately, QuickCams© will not work for this project, nor will USB devices. These have more sophisticated software requirements, and as such, do not fit into this beginner's style article.

In your computer, you will need a video-input card. Any AV Mac will do, as will as any third party video cards available on the market. Again, it will need a composite video input to interface with the camera described above. To set up your hardware, simply connect the composite video output of the camera to the composite video input of the video card.

To create the software, a few decisions had to be made. To better illustrate the beauty of REALbasic's simplicity, it was decided that the reader should be able to create a working application with only a modicum of effort and expense. Thus, to expedite the capture of video, we will use Apple's own video technology. The Apple Video Player, available with most versions of the MacOS including compatible 68K versions, will bear the responsibility of capturing the video. True capture capabilities can be added to REALbasic, but they are not free and are a bit more complex to program. They will be discussed later, however, for those programmers wishing to expand their video horizons. To interface with the Apple Video player, the REALbasic application will use AppleScript. Since AppleScript is installed with the operating system, this requirement should also not be much of a problem for most users.

The final consideration before embarking on this project was the subject of FTP. Once the photos are captured, we will want them to be transferred to a web site for viewing by a web browser. FTP is not really a beginner's topic. Although several classes already exist that will help you in your FTP endeavors, this project will remove the added complexity of adding FTP to your application. Furthermore, the solution will preclude the need to purchase space on a web server. Like it or not, many beginners do not have FTP accounts at their disposal. How will all of these objectives be met? (.... Enter drum roll....) iDisk! In case you haven't heard, iDisk is part of the greater iTools services offered by Apple on their web site. Registration affords you an email account, 20MB of disk space on the server, personalized greeting cards, and a host of other features. The best part, however, may be that it's completely free! For those of you who have not made the jump to MacOS 9 (a requirement for registration), check the reference section at the end of this article for suggestions about how to use iTools with older operating systems.

For this project, we will utilize iDisk. iDisk is a 20MB partition on Apple's web servers for you to store files. On the disk, you can store text, video, pictures, and more just as you normally do with web servers. iDisk is a bit different though in that you can also mount your iDisk directly on the desktop! The mounted iDisk acts just like a hard drive in the Finder. You can copy, delete, and "Get Info" to your heart's content. Now, the issue of FTP merely becomes a matter of saving a file to a disk, something that can be accomplished in REALbasic with only one line of code. The operating system takes care of the rest for us. To reiterate, Listing 1 details what you will need for the project. One final note to make is that this project can even be completed using a demo version of REALbasic, though your applications will expire after five minutes of use.

Listing 1. Project Requirements

	A video camera.
	A Mac with a video input card.
	REALbasic version 1 or 2
	Apple Video Player
	Apple iTools/iDisk Account

Building the Project

The code for our video capture will be built in two parts. To begin, we will create an AppleScript that will tell the Apple Video Player to take a photo. Next, we will build a REALbasic project that uses the script as well as adds functionality of its own. The REALbasic project will be responsible for controlling how often the video capture takes place, converting the PICT file to a JPEG, and finally creating the web page and saving it to the iDisk.


To start, launch the AppleScript Script Editor and enter the code in Listing 2. The script is fairly self-explanatory with two possible exceptions. First, the entire script is enclosed within an on run{x} . . . end run handler. The handler is necessary for the script to work with REALbasic. To test the script in the Script Editor it is necessary to remove or comment out the on run handler. The {x} variable is used to indicate the path for the destination file. By default, the Apple Video Player creates PICT files only. This is not really a problem, because REALbasic can help us. To make the photo compatible with the web and to slim down the file size, we will convert the PICT file into a JPEG from within the REALbasic application.

The second topic that might require some explanation is the replacing yes statement. This means that when the file is saved it will replace a file with the same name. For the purposes of this project, this will suffice. A new photo will be captured periodically and replace the previous photo. If you would like to take a series of photos then the code would read replacing yes.

Listing 2. The Apple Video Player AppleScript.

on run (x)
	tell application "Apple Video Player"
		save video in x replacing yes
	end tell
end run

It should be noted that the Apple Video Player has a relatively extensive list of scriptable features. For example, instead of capturing a photo periodically, the script could easily be set to capture QuickTime movies. Be sure to take a look at the Apple Video Player dictionary by selecting the File...Open Dictionary and menu in the Script Editor to custom tailor the script to your needs. Before closing the Script Editor, be sure to save the file as a Compiled Script, naming it something functional like CapturePhoto.


The final step in the video surveillance system is to build a REALbasic project. Begin by starting the REALbasic application. A new project is created automatically. Go to the Finder and drag the AppleScript created earlier into the REALbasic Project window. Next, open Window1 and create two variables by selecting the Edit..New Property menu. Name the variables as shown in Listing 3. Create a new method called CreateWebPage and enter the code also shown in Listing 3.

Listing 3. Window1 Properties and Methods.

	timersetting as integer
	thepict as picture
	Sub CreateWebPage()
	Dim f As FolderItem
	Dim TStream As TextOutputStream
	Dim d as date
	Dim myURL as string
	d=new date
	//create the web page here
	//with the current time on it
	//replace "myidisk" below with your own iDisk name!!!
	TStream.WriteLine "<html><head>"
	TStream.WriteLine "<title>My Surveillance Camera
	  </title>"TStream.WriteLine "</head>"
	TStream.WriteLine "<body>"
	TStream.WriteLine "Current Time:"+d.abbreviateddate+" "+
	  d.longtime+"<br>"//this code belongs to the above line
	//replace "myidisk" below with your own iDisk name!!!
	TStream.WriteLine "<img src="+chr(34)+myurl+chr(34)+">"
	TStream.WriteLine "</body></html>"
	End Sub

Creating the Interface

The next step in creating the project is to create the interface. From the Project Window open Window1. From the toolbar, drag three PushButtons onto Window1. Name them ManualButton, StartButton, and StopButton respectively. Next, drag a PopupMenu onto the window. With the PopupMenu selected, change the InitialValue property in the Properties Window to match the values in Figure 1.

Figure 1.PopupMenu1.InitalValue Property Editor

Finally, drag a Canvas and a Timer control onto Window1. Leave the default names for these controls as they are. Set the Mode property of Timer1 to 0 (i.e. zero=off) and change the dimensions of Canvas1 to 320 (Width) and 240 (Height). By now, your window might look something like Figure 2.

Figure 2.Window1 layout

The Code

The final step in creating the REALbasic project is to add some code to each of the controls. The ManualButton will allow the user to take a photo, create a web page, and post them both online. The StartButton initiates the same thing, but does it at regular intervals. The frequency of these intervals is decided by the PopuMenu1 selection. Once the image has been captured using the Apple Video Player it will be displayed in the Canvas1 control. Finally, Timer1 is the control that performs the periodic functions initiated by the StartButton. As before, it is essential that you alter the pathnames to fit your iDisk account. Listing 4 shows the remaining source code for the project.

Listing 4. Interface Source Code

	Sub Paint(g As Graphics)
	//first fill the canvas with black
	//then draw the picture in the canvas
	g.drawpicture thepict,0,0
	End Sub

	Sub Action()
	Dim f,ff as folderItem
	Dim i as string
	Dim d as date
	ff.SaveAsJPEG thepict
	End Sub

	Sub Open()
	End Sub
	Sub Action()
	//disable this StartButton
	//and enable the StopButton
	//Assign the photo timer's period here
	Select Case PopupMenu1.ListIndex
	Case 0
	// timer period is in millisecs.
	//thus 1 min=60 sec.*1000
	Case 1
	Case 2
	Case 3
	Case 4
	//Start the photo timer
	End Sub

	Sub Action()
	//disable this button
	//and enable on the other
	//stop the timer here
	End Sub

	Sub Action()
	Dim f,ff as folderItem
	Dim i as string

	//capture the photo with our AppleScript
	//now open the PICT that the AppleScript created
	ff.SaveAsJPEG thepict
	End Sub

Once the interface has been built and the appropriate code entered, select the File..Build Application menu and create a Macintosh version of the project called "MyVideoCapture.

Using the Software

To begin using the software, launch the "MyVideoCapture" application. Next launch Apple Video Player and turn on the camera. Adjust the software and hardware settings so that an image appears in the window. Finally, mount the iDisk disk on the desktop. This step is normally accomplished through a web interface, but it is helpful to create an alias to the iDisk once it has been mounted. Later, when you wish to mount the disk, you can simply double-click the alias. To test the application, click on the ManualButton. If everything goes smoothly, a picture will be captured, it will appear in the "MyVideoCapture" window. The picture will then be converted to a JPEG image and a web page will be created. The resulting image and html file will then be saved to the iDisk. Voila' ! Web-based video surveillance in less than an hour! If something did not work properly, do not panic. Go back and recheck your code. Are all of the file paths correct? Was all code entered correctly? Were all Properties and Methods added to the project? If all else fails, the source code can always be downloaded from MacTech's web site. The completed application is shown in action in Figure 3.

Figure 3.The completed application.

More Ideas

Hopefully this project will spawn some of your own ideas. For example, instead of photos the project could capture QuickTime movies for posting to the web. Be sure to take into account the length of transfer time involved with saving to an iDisk account. The current project worked fine over a 33.6 modem, but would likely fail if QuickTime movies were involved. It would simply take longer than one minute to transfer a QuickTime movie. In this instance, perhaps a video capture time of fifteen minutes would work better.

Another thing to consider is that iDisks mounted to the desktop will automatically unmount after a period of inactivity in the neighborhood of five minutes. If the application is set to take photos every thirty minutes, the disk might be unmounted by the time the transfer is to take place. One possible work around is to incorporate another timer into the project. The timer would be set to repeat infinitely at a rate of about four minutes. Every four minutes, the timer could create or destroy a the same text file repeatedly on the iDisk. This would ensure that the iDisk stays mounted.

Besides posting photos to the web, the application could easily be altered for fun stop-motion movies. Point the camera out the window, set the timer, and start recording. At the end of the day import the folder full of photos and create a QuickTime movie. This will no doubt amaze and impress your friends!


This article attempted to show how well REALbasic functions as a rapid development environment. Using existing Apple technologies together with a home camcorder and a copy of REALbasic, we were able to construct a functional web camera with features matching some commercial products. Another interesting point to mention is how nicely REALbasic compliments AppleScript. AppleScript could have been used exclusively to do much of this project, but REALbasic makes it very easy to construct an interface and control the AppleScript with much less code.


  • Essence Software, VideoPlug
    VideoPlug is a REALbasic plugin that allows you to add video capture elements to REALbasic applications. This can be used to replace the Apple Video Player functionality in the project.
  • REALbasic
  • Apple
    This is where you register for an iTools account.
  • MacFixit
    This site offers numerous suggestions for using iDisk with older operating systems as well as how to automatically mount the iDisk. Do a search for the keyword "iDisk".
  • AppleShare Client
    Download and install this client to mount the iDisk through the Chooser. Be certain to explicitly follow the instructions for installation. Different versions of the Mac OS require different installations.

Erick J. Tejkowski is a web developer with The Zipatoni Company in St. Louis, Missouri. He can be reached by email at


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

World of Tanks Generals guide - Tips and...
World of Tanks Generals is a brand new card game by the developer behind the World of Tanks shooter franchise. It plays like a cross between chess and your typical card game. You have to keep in consideration where you place your tanks on the board... | Read more »
TruckSimulation 16 guide: How to succeed...
Remember those strangely enjoyable truck missions in Grand Theft Auto V whereit was a disturbing amount of fun to deliver cargo? TruckSimulation 16 is reminiscent of that, and has you play the role of a truck driver who has to deliver various... | Read more »
The best GIF making apps
Animated GIFs have exploded in popularity recently which is likely thanks to a combination of Tumblr, our shorter attention spans, and the simple fact they’re a lot of fun. [Read more] | Read more »
The best remote desktop apps for iOS
We've been sifting through the App Store to find the best ways to do computer tasks on a tablet. That gave us a thought - what if we could just do computer tasks from our tablets? Here's a list of the best remote desktop apps to help you use your... | Read more »
Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade guide - How...
Warhammer 40,000: Freebladejust launched in the App Store and it lets you live your childhood dream of blowing up and slashing a bunch of enemies as a massive, hulking Space Marine. It's not easy being a Space Marine though - and particularly if... | Read more »
Gopogo guide - How to bounce like the be...
Nitrome just launched a new game and, as to be expected, it's a lot of addictive fun. It's called Gopogo, and it challenges you to hoparound a bunch of platforms, avoiding enemies and picking up shiny stuff. It's not easy though - just like the... | Read more »
Sago Mini Superhero (Education)
Sago Mini Superhero 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: KAPOW! Jack the rabbit bursts into the sky as the Sago Mini Superhero! Fly with Jack as he lifts impossible weights,... | Read more »
Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes guide - How...
Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is all about collecting heroes, powering them up, and using them together to defeat your foes. It's pretty straightforward stuff for the most part, but increasing your characters' stats can be a bit confusing because it... | Read more »
The best cooking apps (just in time for...
It’s that time of year again, where you’ll be gathering around the dinner table with your family and a huge feast in front of you. [Read more] | Read more »
Square Rave guide - How to grab those te...
Square Rave is an awesome little music-oriented puzzle game that smacks of games like Lumines, but with its own unique sense of gameplay. To help wrap your head around the game, keep the following tips and tricks in mind. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Cyber Monday: Target offers 15% discount on A...
Target has discounted Apple Watches by 15% for Cyber Monday. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices for online orders only, in-store prices may vary: - Apple... Read more
Sunday roundup of Holiday weekend Mac sales:...
Take up to $500 off MSRP on the price of a new Mac at B&H Photo today as part of their Black Friday/Holiday weekend sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only. These prices are... Read more
Holiday weekend: Apple Watch on sale for $50-...
B&H Photo has the Apple Watch on sale today for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - Apple Watch Sport: $50 off - Apple Watch: $50-$100 off Read more
Holiday weekend: iPad Air 2s on sale for up t...
B&H Photo has iPad Air 2s on sale for up to $80 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $459 $40 off - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $569 $30 off - 128GB iPad Air... Read more
Holiday weekend Mac sales roundup: B&H Ph...
B&H Photo continues to have all new Macs on sale for up to $500 off MSRP as part of their Black Friday/Holiday weekend sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina... Read more
iMobie Releases its Ace iOS Cleaner PhoneClea...
iMobie Inc. has announced the new update of PhoneClean 4, its iOS cleaner designed to reclaim wasted space on iPhone/iPad for use and keep the device fast. Alongside, iMobie hosts a 3-day giveaway of... Read more
U.S. Cellular Offering iPad Pro
U.S. Cellular today announced that it is offering the new iPad Pro with Wi-Fi + Cellular, featuring a 12.9-inch Retina display with 5.6 million pixels — the most ever in an iOS device. U.S. Cellular... Read more
Newegg Canada Unveils Black Friday Deals for...
Newegg Canada is offering more than 1,000 deep discounts to Canadian customers this Black Friday, available now through Cyber Monday, with new deals posted throughout the week. “Black Friday is... Read more
Black Friday: Macs on sale for up to $500 off...
BLACK FRIDAY B&H Photo has all new Macs on sale for up to $500 off MSRP as part of their early Black Friday sale including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $... Read more
Black Friday: Up to $125 off iPad Air 2s at B...
BLACK FRIDAY Walmart has the 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available): - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $399, save $... Read more

Jobs Board

Technical Program Manager, Strategic Merchant...
# Technical Program Manager, Strategic Merchants - Apple Pay Job Number: 44001177 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Oct. 30, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Read more
Frameworks Engineer, *Apple* Watch - Apple...
# Frameworks Engineer, Apple Watch Job Number: 41403122 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Jul. 1, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Join the Read more
Software Engineer - *Apple* Pay - Apple (Un...
# Software Engineer - Apple Pay Job Number: 44003246 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Nov. 16, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Apple Pay Read more
Merchant Operations Manager: *Apple* Pay -...
# Merchant Operations Manager: Apple Pay Job Number: 43593822 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Nov. 10, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** The Read more
Product Design Engineer - *Apple* Watch - A...
# Product Design Engineer - Apple Watch Job Number: 41727161 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Jul. 22, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.