Sorenson Squeeze

When it comes to digital video, less is definitely more. Less storage, that is. If you’ve ever tried to distribute a video file via email, the Web, CD, or Zip disk, then you’ve probably discovered just how frustratingly big even a short video can be. Sorenson Squeeze and Sorenson Video 3 Professional are two products you can use to crush your video down to a more manageable size without compromising image quality. The QuickTime software in the Mac OS compresses and decompresses video using special pieces of software called CODECs (Compressor/Decompressors). The standard QuickTime installation comes with a number of compressors, including the normal Sorenson compressor, but none of them offers the compression power of Sorenson 3. In addition to its impressive compression ratios – in one of our tests, we compressed a 1.36GB QuickTime movie down to 20MB – its image quality is nearly perfect. (No need to take our word for it. To see Sorenson in action, go to www.apple.com/trailers and take a look at the Scorpion King trailer. It may not look like much of a movie, but the QuickTime image-quality is exceptional.) Like most CODECs, Sorenson 3 is asymmetrical. In other words, though it can decompress in real-time, compression takes much longer. Sorenson 3 also requires QuickTime 5, so if your audience might be using older software, the CODEC may not be appropriate. Though you can use Sorenson 3 from any QuickTime-capable application, including QuickTime Player, if you’re serious about compression, you’ll want to take a look at Sorenson Squeeze – a stand-alone app that offers even more control over your Sorenson 3 compression tasks. Squeeze requires the Sorenson 3 CODEC, and can import QuickTime movies, DV Streams (the type of files that iMovie creates when it captures video) and AVI files. In addition to offering access to all of the Sorenson 3 CODEC’s advanced controls, Squeeze also provides an incredibly simple interface for novice users. When you launch the program, Squeeze prompts you to pick a file to compress, and then presents you with a simple dialog box for selecting predefined compression settings for different delivery mediums. Presets include modem, broadband low and high, LAN, ISDN, and CD. You can also double-click on any preset to customize it. Squeeze’s presets are very good, and, unless your needs are very particular, they’re probably all you’ll ever need in the way of compression control. Squeeze is fully Carbonized and supports multi-processor Macs under OS X. It provides control over data rate, frame rate, and simple image-adjustment controls – such as white point and black point. Since the Sorenson CODEC tends to darken video, these controls are very handy. Squeeze also allows variable bit-rate two-pass compression. Two-pass compression takes an extra analysis pass (thus lengthening compression time), but it produces slightly higher video-quality. What’s more, we found Squeeze to be much faster at Sorenson 3 compression than Discreet’s Cleaner 5. Our only complaint with Squeeze is that you can’t batch-process groups of movies, though you can queue up several different compressions of the same movie, allowing you to create a batch of movies squeezed with different settings.

OUR VERDICT

If you need to post video to a Web site, attach it to an email, or prepare it for CD-ROM delivery, Sorenson 3 and Squeeze are definitely the best option. Though it can’t batch compress, its speedy compression times, tight ratios and excellent image quality make Sorenson the clear compression winner.

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