Cleaner 6 sees a host of well-implemented improvements, rather than radical new features. Discreet has opted for the if-it-ain?t-broke-don?t-fix-it approach ? which is no bad thing.
Cleaner 6?s interface is virtually identical to version 5, so existing users will be able to get stuck straight in. The Project window has been modified slightly, featuring tabs for settings, modifiers and event streams, rather than the drop-down-arrow interface of version 5.
In a bid to improve integration with editing software, such as Final Cut Pro, Cleaner 6 makes use of designated watch folders that allow instant encoding, based upon user settings of all media entering them. It?s possible to export from your editor to a watch folder, and know that Cleaner will start the encode without additional labour. The process works like a charm.
Discreet claims speed improvements of up to 2.5 times that of previous versions on dual-processor Macs, and up to two times on a single processor. On an 800MHz dual-processor Power Mac G4, we encoded an identical two-minute DV file through both Cleaner 5.1.2 and 6. Version 5.1.2 encoded the file in four minutes and 40 seconds, while Cleaner 6 streaked ahead, finishing the encode in three minutes and five seconds ? a 66 per cent improvement.
Although Cleaner features an excellent 270-page manual, first-timers are likely to be a little overwhelmed with the Cleaner interface and workflow. Previous versions of Cleaner have always featured a wizard that produced an output file based on the results of a few simple questions ? such as connection speed and format.
Unfortunately, as compression is seldom that simple, the files that the Cleaner wizard produced were poor compared to what was possible with a bit of hard work. It?s therefore no surprise that the wizards have been magicked away. In their place are professional presets to get file encoding off to a flying start. These have been designed by experienced encoders and produce excellent results.
Also added in the export options is the ability to produce Kinoma files. Kinoma outputs can be used on most Palm handhelds, and uses the .pdb file extension. Disappointingly, though, it?s not possible to view the encoded Kinoma files within Cleaner in the output window, meaning each file produced must be tested for success on a Palm device. Discreet should address this shortcoming in a future update.
Another output niggle is that Real still hasn?t produced a Software Developers Kit for OS X. So, production of Real files can be done under OS 9 only. This limitation is down to Real, rather than Cleaner.
There?s no other single tool that comes anywhere near the functionality of Cleaner. If you spend large amounts of time encoding video material for varying media, such as DVD, Web, CD-ROM, Palm handhelds and more, you?ll find Cleaner indispensable. However, the same can be said for version 5 ? so current users face a slightly more difficult upgrade decision.
Unless you have no other way of producing Palm-based video files, or need to encode from HDTV source material ? now possible in version 6 ? there are no must-have reasons for buying this upgrade.
Discreet has given Cleaner a thorough tune-up, and it?s certainly the best version of the software yet. If you don?t have a product for producing high-quality compressed video files; this is it.
Discreet should consider a cheaper, cut-down version of the software (like the old ?EZ? version) for more budget-conscious users, but regardless of this and the other minor issues, in its chosen field, Cleaner remains king.