Sorenson Media released Squeeze 6 today.
Normally, I put product releases in the Latest News section of the Digital Production BuZZ website, but in this case, I have a bit more information about this product which I want to share with you.
A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from the folks at Sorenson Media asking if I wanted to get an advanced look at the new release, provided I not talk about it until they released it. Since video compression is a subject I enjoy talking about, and I’m a past user of earlier versions of Squeeze, I happily said “Yes.”
You can learn more about the new release at Sorenson’s website.
MacWorld provided an overall product overview here.
Yesterday, I spoke with Peter Csathy, CEO, and David Dudas, product manager, for Sorenson Media about the new products.
One of the things that is very interesting about this announcement is that Squeeze follows Apple’s lead in Final Cut Pro 7, as articulated by Brian Gary, in that Apple does not view compression as an end in itself – rather, compression is part of the process of publishing your information. So, with the new Compressor 3.5, Apple integrated a publishing option with compression — you can compress and publish your work to YouTube, or Blu-ray Disc, or standard DVD, or … You get the idea – the reason most of us compress things is so that we can put the video somewhere other people can see it.
Sorenson has taken this a LOT further – by coupling Squeeze 6 with Sorenson 360 — their video delivery network. I learned about Sorenson 360 a while ago, but didn’t pay it a lot of attention… it seemed like another version of Akamai to me.
However, what you can do when you couple a compression program with a distribution system is that you can create your videos in Final Cut, compress them in Squeeze, then automatically send them to Sorenson 360 for secure review and comments, publishing to the world, or streaming. In other words, this is the next step in integrating compression with high-power distribution.
Even better, the purchase of Squeeze 360 comes with a free Sorenson 360 account. If you are constantly sending videos to clients for review and approval, this is a much more efficient way to work.
Peter stressed Sorenson’s goals of “Quality, Workflow, and Speed” over and over. (If I hear the words “pain points” one more time, I’m probably going to turn green.) However, it was clear in listening to them that they are trying to find out what makes compression difficult for most people and then fix it.
The interface of Squeeze can be intimidating, so Sorenson Media has taken pains to provide tutorials and optimized setups to get new users started in the right direction. While their price precludes people who dabble in compression, I agree that making new users feel comfortable with the program is a worthy goal. I haven’t used Squeeze for 3 or 4 years, so I don’t know how much of the interface is modeled after the most recent Squeeze 5. However, it does take a different approach to settings than Compressor, so it will take a bit of time to learn to use well.
After our phone conversation, I sent Peter some additional questions that I wanted to share with you, because the answers illuminate some of the challenges we face as we look for ways to compress video faster, but with higher quality.
Question 1: Does Squeeze take advantage of multiple processors for compression?
Yes, it does but not all codecs are created equally.
– MainConcept’s H.264 is multithreaded and takes advantage of multiple processors for a single file. Because this codec already maximizes processor utilization, we do not enable Squeeze to encode more than one output with this codec at a time. Doing so with this codec would actually slow it down.
– On2 VP6 got a speed bump in Squeeze 6 and it is handled differently. It does not utilize multiple processors as efficiently as MainConcepts H.264 but it does work well when encoding multiple files simultaneously. The other codecs in Squeeze are handled similarly to VP6.
Question 2: Does Squeeze take advantage of multiple computers (separate boxes) for compression?
Question 3: Does Squeeze run on Windows?
Question 4: Does Squeeze run on non-Intel systems?
Not any more. Squeeze will run on the PowerPC but we have decided not to support it going forward based on Avid, Adobe, and Apple’s decision to drop it as well. This will allow us to have better focus on Intel based platforms.
One of the features in Squeeze that I liked a LOT was its Preview function. Unlike Compressor, which previews filters and geometry, but not compression settings or frame controls, Preview in Squeeze allows you to see a short (five-second) sample of your video fully compressed with all filters and effects. This is a huge benefit to folks trying to get the smallest possible file sizes with the best quality (think mobile phones).
Yes, it is a true preview and does an actual compression of five seconds of your video, based on the position of your playhead in the preview window.
I have not run the software, so I can’t speak to how well it works, but based on what I’ve been told, this is easily a product worth looking at. The retail price is $799, upgrades start at $199. I find the price a bit daunting, but the free Sorenson 360 account helps make the pricing much more attractive.