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Review: Sorenson Squeeze 5

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With Squeeze 5, Sorenson took baby steps in some critical new directions. Unfortunately, unless it’s your child, baby steps are seldom graceful or particularly effective, and that’s the case here. If users are looking for a dramatic increase in encoding speed from previous Squeeze versions, they’ll see it only if they are encoding many files with different codecs and not if they run a single-codec shop. Soon-to-be released updates should fix most of the issues, so there’s no need to upgrade quite yet.

Price (Full Version): $500 (Windows)/$799 (Mac)

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Sorenson Media

Sorenson Squeeze has always been one of my favorite batch-encoding programs, offering broad output format support, straightforward (if not copious) encoding parameters, and good encoding quality. It’s also the only batch-encoding tool available on both the Mac and Windows platforms, a nice bonus for those who work with both operating systems.

In version 5, Sorenson added the ability to simultaneously encode multiple files, switched from the Apple to the MainConcept H.264 codec, added support for Microsoft’s VC-1 codec, and made several interface tweaks, most of them very beneficial. The results are generally positive, though the performance boost the program gets from the ability to encode multiple files simultaneously is less than expected, and performance from the MainConcept codec is flawed in some instances.

Note that Sorenson plans to quickly release an update for several targeted features, including workflow improvements for those publishing on YouTube and updates to the MainConcept codec that should cure potential incompatibility issues with playback on Apple’s iPod as well as the flaws we uncovered. We’ll review the update when it becomes available and publish the results on StreamingMedia.com.

As before, Sorenson is releasing multiple product versions with pricing that varies by feature and operating system. For example, the full-blown, any-codec-you-ever-dreamed-of version (Squeeze 5 Pro) costs $500 for Windows and $779 for Macintosh, and includes VP6 output and BIAS SoundSoap, a useful audio noise reduction program. There are also versions with every codec but Flash (Squeeze 5) and only Flash (Squeeze 5 for Flash). A great table that displays the price and features of each of the versions can be viewed at http://secure.sorensonmedia.com/products/?pageID=1. The page also contains a link for upgrade pricing, which varies based on operating system, the user’s current product, and the product he or she wants to acquire.

For this review, I’ll start with changes to the interface, then discuss encoding performance, then look at deinterlacing quality, and finish with codec features and compressed output quality.

Interface Tweaks
Sorenson has a useful video tutorial explaining the new features available on its website at http://secure.sorensonmedia.com/pages/?pageID=143. If users are not familiar with Squeeze, I would recommend that they view at least the initial minute or two to get a feel for the workflow.

Briefly, as before, users click the Import File button on the upper left to load a file or files into the batch window, then drag one or more encoding presets from the Audience Presets menu onto the files. Click the Squeeze It! button on the bottom right, and Squeeze starts encoding.

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