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Review: Sorenson Squeeze 4.5

The program itself is very logically laid out (Figure 1), with input and filter screens on the upper left, formats and presets on the left, a preview window in the upper right, and compression work area comprising the bulk of the interface. The program has rudimentary capture capabilities, and can trim and crop video footage in the preview window. After importing video into the Squeeze, you can add filters like contrast, brightness and gamma, white and black restore, and fades in and out to and from black and white. There’s also video noise reduction, which we didn’t test, and Squeeze automatically deinterlaces all clips inserted in interlaced formats, a nice error-avoidance technique that all streaming encoders should adopt.

Figure 1 (below): Squeeze’s logical interface is very easy to follow.

Figure 1

The format and compression settings window contains all available encoding formats with multiple presets you apply by dragging them onto the inserted clip. After you’ve chosen a preset, double-click it to open the audio/video compression settings window, which has a Simple view for beginners and and Advanced dialog for experienced compressionists who like to tinker (Figure 2).

Figure 2 (below): The advanced compression screen. Note the ability to export presets that you can distribute to other Squeeze users.

Figure 2

When you adjust a preset in the Settings window, Squeeze applies those adjustments to the current project, but doesn’t change the preset. However, you can create your own presets by right clicking in the Format & Compression Settings window and choosing Add Preset. You can also edit presets in the same window by right-clicking and choosing Edit Preset. You can also export settings for storage or transfer in the enterprise, an ideal workflow for experienced users who want to create and perhaps distribute encoding presets for others to apply.

Squeeze’s Watch folders take this ease of use one valuable step further by allowing you to automate the encoding of files placed in a designated folder, with all the multi-format and multi-encoding parameter capabilities described above. On your encoding station, you choose a watch folder, select a preset or presets and click Squeeze. The program starts watching, and each time a file is placed in the folder, it encodes it to all the choosen presets. That way, a video producer on the network can simply copy a finished video file to the folder, and Squeeze automatically encodes it.

After compression in batch or watch folder mode, Squeeze can perform additional automated tasks, like burning a simple DVD, sending the file to an FTP site, or adding the output to iTunes. Throw in command-line encoding capabilities, and it’s easy to see how Squeeze can be invaluable in the context of a large-scale production facility.

Interestingly, it was just this capability that ran Sorenson afoul of some licensees who had utilized their code in server-based products. These customers were concerned that Squeeze was so capable that even high-volume producers wouldn’t need a more automated solution. This caused Sorenson to institute the 1,500/month encoding limitation on the product, which caused a minor flap when discovered by some Squeeze owners. For this reason, Sorenson will be releasing an unlimited encoding version of the product, though details weren’t available when I wrote this review.

With this as background, let’s move to the individual format testing.

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