Cleaner XL is clearly raising the bar on both features and target audience. It follows the workgroup leanings of Cleaner Central, but builds that higher-end focus and workflow into one product that will replace Cleaner 5.1 and Cleaner Central. It's a bold move from Discreet to be sure, and one that deserves praise. It dramatically increases Cleaner's reach into and effectiveness within larger organizations by highly automating repetitive tasks and providing a virtual paper trail for all encoding work. Multiple copies of Cleaner can share presets, files, folders, and workflow, and that's a logical progression for a company like Discreet that sports heavyweight, high-end content creation tools—like Smoke, Flame, and Inferno—that are typically used in larger studios where collaboration is the rule.
But there's no doubt that Discreet is also risking alienating the existing user base of Windows Cleaner users with a product that arguably has more in common with AnyStream Agility and Telestream FlipFactory than with ProCoder and Squeeze. Smaller studios who love the tweaking may find the workflow rituals of Cleaner XL little more than an extra load of mouse clicks and pull-down menus that don't help with visualization. Does anyone work like that anymore? Or is Discreet on target knowing that so much of today's encoding chores are about presets and repetitive tasks? More importantly, does the new methodology serve your needs?
|Cleaner XL||Cleaner 5.1||ProCoder||ProCoder*||Squeeze|
|WM8 @ 704K||18:43||35:05||22:38||8:08||12:37|
|WM9 @ 256K||27:06||n/a||25:27||11:31||n/a|
|MPEG-1 @ VCD||13:33||55:46||21:21||10:57||n/a|
|DVD @ VBR ~5.7Mb||35:11||1:45:21||34:46||n/a||n/a|
|Sorenson Video 3||n/a||15:43||20:53||11:06||13:22|
|MPEG-4 @ 300K||10:33||12:21||17:26||7:16||17:56|
|RealVideo 8 @ 90K||15:58||14:07||21:09||8:09||12:27|
Table 1: This is a representative sampling of our timed test results for each coder (reported in minutes:seconds) encoding an 8-minute QuickTime file created by Avid XpressDV using the Avid DV codec. (We also used the same 8-minute movie saved as a Windows Media fild with the Microsoft DV codec, but report only the ProCoder* results for this test.)
Canopus ProCoder 1.2, $699
Canopus freely admits that Cleaner was the model for ProCoder by its mere presence. Yet, with the luxury of hindsight, ProCoder could excel where Cleaner had generation-old shortcomings; specifically in workflow and processing speed. And against Cleaner 5.1, ProCoder delivers the goods on both counts. There are some nice improvements in ProCoder's interface and features compared to the old Cleaner, but some first-generation shallowness as well. Speed tests were also impressive, but not across the board.
ProCoder's interface is both intuitive and efficient for encoding one or a small group of files into a handful of distribution formats. It also serves as a great tool for transcoding to MPEG-2 for DVD or even from going from NTSC to PAL or vice versa. Three large tab buttons down the left side for Source, Target, and Convert create obvious and effective hierarchy encoding groups. The right side of the interface changes to provide suitable information for each tab.
Compared to Cleaner 5.1, where you need to add the same file to the batch once for each different output version you want to create, ProCoder's method of adding one or more Source files, then tabbing and adding multiple Targets to those Source(s), immediately streamlines workflow. Since it's such a common need to encode streaming files to Real, Windows Media, and QuickTime formats at multiple bitrates to support all players and connections, ProCoder's simple paradigm change is a welcome one.