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Review: Rhozet Carbon Coder

Rhozet’s Carbon Coder is the ideal product for high-volume compression shops serving multiple video formats to multiple targets. At $4,995, it’s 10 times more expensive than batch encoders like Sorenson Squeeze, but it supports many more formats, has more flexible automation options, produces the same quality or better ,and is much, much faster during encoding. You can also further speed up your encoding by purchasing a network license to run a rendering farm.

Let me explain the company and product a bit, then discuss workflow, encoding quality, and performance.

Carbon Coder
Rhozet was formed by members of the Canopus ProCoder product group. They bill Carbon Coder as a "universal transcoding product," and the supported format list is indeed impressive—it includes MPEG -1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, Windows Media, DV25, DV50, DVCPro, HDV, VC-1, DPS, DivX, Flash, Real Video, QuickTime, AVI, ASF, MXF, LXF, GXF, sQ, Omneon Spectrum, and 3GPP. In performing these encodes and transcodes, Rhozet offers the usual mix of video and audio filtering, along with deinterlacing, cropping, color correction, gamma correction, and other effects. Other niceties included inverse telecine, time code burn-in, logo insertion, and metadata conversion.

You can run the Carbon Coder application directly or encode unattended in batch mode via watch folders. Rhozet offers a capture module for $495 that I did not test, and while the first year of maintenance and support is free, it’s $795 per year thereafter. Note that Rhozet charges on a per-computer basis, not per-CPU, so the software would have cost the same for our HP xw8400 test Workstation equipped with dual-socket, quad-core processors as it would have for a single-processor, single-core system.

We did not test the Carbon Server management software, which costs $14,995 and includes one year’s free maintenance and support ($2,249 per year thereafter). The Carbon Server can load-balance work over multiple render computers and manages FTP transfer, status monitoring, and notification. You access the server via a web interface, and you can control both the Server and Coder via XML using an SDK included with the software.

Each Carbon Server includes one Carbon Coder rendering node, and each additional computer costs another $4,995. Given how efficient Carbon Coder proved at working on our eight-processor HP workstation, you’re better off going multi-core rather than multiple-system. More on this below.

Modules and Operation
When you install Carbon Copy, it sets up three icons on your desktop, one for the main program, one for a very basic wizard, and one to set up a watch folder, discussed below. The main program has three tabs that drive the workflow; Source, Target, and Convert. Click Source to get started, then input your target files by clicking the Add button and navigating to your files (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 (below). Carbon Coder looks a lot like Canopus' ProCoder, but is faster and produces much higher-quality video files.

Figure 1

Then, you click Target and add your target profiles. You can access most encoding parameters in the Basic view, or you can click Advanced to reveal additional details. In both views you access codec-specific controls in a different window, reverting to native controls with some codecs (like QuickTime) or Rhozet-specific controls with others. I prefer Squeeze's approach, which displays all encoding parameters in a single window that stays relatively consistent through all codecs. Carbon Coder is definitely workable, but you should budget plenty of experimentation time to finalize your encoding settings.

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