Squeeze 3 Compression Suite

It can be hard to get good results when compressing media. The general rule of thumb is that the more heavily a file is compressed, the worse it will look. Most applications that deal with editing video provide some facility for compressing and exporting projects for the Web. Both iMovie and Final Cut Pro provide basic QuickTime output. However, when looking to achieve the best possible results, you need a product that goes that extra mile. Titles such as Discreet?s Cleaner provide all the tools necessary for sophisticated video compression. However, Cleaner carries a serious price tag, and its interface and sophistication can seem intimidating and over-complex. Sorenson?s Squeeze 3 Compression Suite tackles the problem from a different angle. The easiest way to describe Squeeze is like StuffIt for media. The aim is the same: to take media, be it video or animation, and compress it to a fraction of its original size. The emphasis with Squeeze, however, is ease of use. The Squeeze 3 Compression suite is actually a conglomeration of three separate components: Squeeze 3 for MPEG-4; Squeeze 3 for Flash MX; and Sorenson Video 3 Pro codec for QuickTime. Each of these components is also available separately, saving money if just one set of capabilities covers your needs. Main Squeeze
The Squeeze interface is straightforward. On start-up, a prompt is given to browse to an existing uncompressed file, capture footage from a DV source or open a watch folder. Getting a file compressed is an absolute doddle. Simply browse to the file you want to compress (for instance, an uncompressed QuickTime file exported from iMovie or Final Cut), choose whether you want to output to QuickTime (MOV), Shockwave (SWF), Flash (FLV) or MPEG-4, and then select the type of compression preset that best suits the file. Popular settings, given as preset buttons at the top of the interface, are streaming 56K, streaming 100K, streaming 300K, small progressive, medium progressive, large progressive, Local LAN or Local CD. When you have chosen one or more presets, simply hit the ?Squeeze It? button. Job done. This simplicity means the majority of users will be compressing video within minutes, without even touching the manual. Taken to cleaner
Squeeze is a little lacking compared to Cleaner. Cleaner provides a whole range of QuickTime video codecs for encoding, while Squeeze is limited to Sorenson?s own (admittedly very good) codecs. Cleaner also provides support for Windows Media and Real, as well as MPEG-2 files for producing DVDs, which Squeeze for the Mac doesn?t. However, in its defence, Squeeze supports encoding of files to Shockwave and Flash formats ? a feature even the latest version of Cleaner doesn?t boast, and which is handy for reaching the widest possible audience. Across multiple computing platforms, browser plug-ins such as Flash and Shockwave are still far more prevalent than video plug-ins such as QuickTime. Squeeze 3 offers two-pass variable-bit-rate encoding (VBR) across the output options. This feature adds considerable time to an encode, but produces excellent results. Unless pushed for time, it?s wise to use this option as default. A watch-folder feature is included in this release, a feature we saw first a few months ago in Cleaner 6. It works by choosing a folder where outputted uncompressed files are to be saved. As soon as a file enters the watch folder, Squeeze begins compression of it based on the chosen settings. Squeeze 3 also allows the output file size to be constrained ? a feature all compression applications should have. Until now, it was necessary to multiply bit-rates by video duration to get some idea of the resulting file size. With Squeeze 3, if file space is limited, a target file size can be entered (for instance, 2MB), and Squeeze compresses the media as best it can into that size. The only downside of this is that even when saved as a preset, the constraint size isn?t retained by the setting, and must be manually entered each time a file is encoded. With previous versions of Squeeze, it wasn?t always possible to alter the settings of presets such as frame size to individual tastes. Thankfully, with this version you can get more complex and manually edit settings. It?s possible to change variables such as key frames, data-rate, frame rate and frame size ? as well as filter settings such as gamma, white and black restore, interlacing, video noise reduction, cropping, etc.


For producing high-quality compression, without the hassle of manually editing numerous settings, Squeeze is the simplest product. Its clean and straightforward interface is like a breath of fresh air. However, while the product excels in some areas, it?s lacking in others. Although the Windows version of the software can encode to Windows Media or Real, for Mac users the option is missing. This could be a sticking point for some, who may feel that these capabilities alone warrant spending the extra on a product such as Cleaner. In many ways this shortcoming is offset by the product?s ability to encode video as a Flash or Shockwave file, but it?s a disappointing omission nonetheless. The exceptional quality of Sorenson?s codecs is beyond argument. If the feature-set of the Squeeze 3 Suite or any one of its components will suffice, it?s an easy-to-use and affordable program. However, for those needing to encode across multiple streaming-formats, or produce DVD-compatible files, despite its Shockwave and Flash capabilities, Squeeze remains short of features to challenge Cleaner.

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