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Review: Sorenson Squeeze 5

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One nice feature about Squeeze is that users can add additional source files and encoding presets after they start encoding. They can even edit and add presets and the like. This means that they don’t have to batch up all their encodes before they start encoding. They can add them as they go along.

Sorenson added many useful interface tweaks to the new version, most of them evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but helpful nonetheless. For example, users now have multiple views of the encoding presets, including the format view, which sorts all output presets by codec.

The workflow view is a new feature. The view displays presets by output type—including devices, discs, presentation, set-top and web, format and workflow, and favorites—which is nice. There’s also a favorites folder that can eliminate a click or two for all repetitive encodes, a useful custom folder that contains all customized presets, and a new search function. Users can also create folders of presets, then apply them via drag and drop, another nice convenience.

Sorenson also added publish presets that allow users to deliver the compressed file to a designated location, whether it be a local directory, a FTP, or an application for further processing. Users could do this in Squeeze 4.5, but couldn’t apply the settings as a preset. Instead, they had to manually specify the output parameters for each job.

Users could always create filter presets for drag-and-drop application to their source files, and Squeeze 5 makes these presets more prominent. However, where the old interface used checkboxes and slider bars in one easy-to-see, fixed window, the new one hides presets behind configuration panels that users have to twirl to open, meaning it now takes longer to configure and reconfigure. Perhaps this change was necessitated by the new filters added to the program—which include hue and saturation adjustments, a more easily customizable watermark, and 3:2 pulldown—but it makes it harder for users to see their configuration options at a glance.

Performance
One of the most significant new features relates to performance. Specifically, Sorenson added the ability to encode multiple files simultaneously. In previous versions, Squeeze encoded files serially, one after the other, which often wasted processor utilization on multiple-core systems.

For example, the On2 Flash encoder that Sorenson integrates into Squeeze is very inefficient when running on multiple-core systems, consuming as little as 13%–15% of overall processor capacity on an eight-core system. When encoding files to Flash format serially, the remaining 85% is essentially wasted, assuming that users are not performing other functions on the computer.

In theory, enabling multiple simultaneous encodes would harvest some of this 85%; for example, in a perfect world, encoding six Flash files on an eight-core system would use close to 100% of the available processor power and encode each file as quickly as the program could encode a single file.

Obviously, since this feature is designed to improve encoding performance, that’s where I focused my testing. I started out on a 2.6 GHz HP xw8400 Dual-Processor, Quad-Core system with eight total cores.

Everyone’s encoding chores are different, and on this system, I wanted to test how much simultaneous encoding would speed the encoding of multiple files to a single codec. This would be the scenario for a shop that strictly uses either Windows Media, Flash, or H.264, and periodically encodes multiple files to that single format.

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