Squeeze 1.0, by Sorenson
Posted: 23-Jul-2002

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Sorenson Media Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: MULTIMEDIA

Overview
Sorenson Squeeze for Quicktime is a multimedia drag and drop application that allows you to "squeeze" your large video files into much smaller compressed videos. Sorenson Squeeze comes with
Sorenson Video 3 Pro, the compression technology that Squeeze uses.

Squeeze is actually the answer to something that I've always wanted for video compression: a background processing application that uses Sorenson Video compression. I used to use Quicktime Player export for video compression, but that runs in the foreground, taking all the CPU and not allowing you to do anything else until it's done. The beauty of Squeeze is that you can drop your video onto the Squeeze window, choose your compression settings, and then let the compression run in the background while you continue to do other work.

In addition to Sorenson Video 3 Pro (SV3 Pro), other encoders that are included with Squeeze are Qualcomm PureVoice, QDesign Music 2, Fraunhofer MP3, and IMA.0

Features
The feature set for Squeeze includes the features of Sorenson Video 3.1 Pro, and then some.

  • Support for One-Pass Variable Bit Rate (VBR) Compression
  • Support for Two-Pass VBR
  • Intelligent Presets (Squeeze includes optimized presets for connections ranging from modem to high-quality CD delivery. Squeeze also lets advanced users customize their settings.)
  • DV Capture (Squeeze captures digital video through any DV source, whether it is a digital video camera or an analog-to-digital converter.)
  • Batch Processing through Watch Folders
  • Adjustable Cropping
  • Audio/Video Filters (includes Fade in/out, smoothing, noise reduction, and more.)
  • Support for QuickTime .MOV movie files.
  • Sorenson Vcast integration


Using Squeeze

The first thing I discovered is that Squeeze is not really a true drag and drop Mac application. When you open the Squeeze application, you get the standard open file dialog to choose a video to compress. If you cancel the dialog, you get no window at all, just the Squeeze menus. Granted, you can drag a video file onto the Squeeze application icon, and Squeeze will open up that video. However, once you have the Squeeze window up, you cannot drag another video onto the window (which is what I would expect of a true drag and drop application). You must either drag the file to the application icon, or use the Squeeze menu to open the file.

Once a video is opened, the standard Squeeze window is displayed.


Sorenson Squeeze Window

The toolbar at the top displays a series of presets, including the last "Custom" button which lets you create your own compression settings. The left side of the window contains the video you are compressing, and the right side displays the list of compression settings (you can choose more than one). In the example above, the "Broadband Hi" preset was selected, resulting with the setting values listed under "Squeeze Summary".

The interface is very simple, yet in many ways, quite awkward. For example, when I clicked on "Custom", I expected a new window to open up that allowed me to customize the settings. Instead, it simply adds the default custom settings to the Summary list. Upon reading the PDF User Guide that comes with Squeeze, I learned that you must double-click the custom button to open the advanced settings windows where you can change the different settings. In fact, you can double-click any of the presets and alter the settings. The negative about that is that if you change a preset button, there is no revert. The only way to get those settings back is to quit the Squeeze application, and then come back in. Also noticeably absent was any preferences. It would be nice to be able to adjust the Custom settings to a value that I could use for future Squeeze sessions, but everything you change, including the Custom button changes, are all lost once you quit the application.

The presets are pretty good shortcuts for those who don't want to fuss with the compression settings. You can choose from a variety of presets, ranging from Modem (smallest file size) to CD High Quality (largest). For example, for Modem settings, Squeeze uses SV3 Pro video compression, 160 by 120 pixels in size, 1:3 frame rate ratio, 48 kbps video rate, and QDesign mono audio compression at 16 kbps audio rate. For CD HQ settings, it uses SV3 Pro video compression, 640 by 480 pixels in size, 1:1 frame rate ratio, 1600 kbps video rate, and IMS stereo audio compression at 352 kbps audio rate. A 27 MB raw digital video file compressed to 72 KB in a matter of seconds for the Modem preset, and to 1.9 MB in a couple of minutes for the CD HQ settings. The quality of the output in both cases was excellent, and to compress the file down to 72 KB for emailing over a modem almost seems like a miracle.

Another interface issue I had on the output, however, was that there is no save dialog to let me choose the location or filename of the output file. Squeeze automatically saves the output into the same directory as the original, and automatically names the file according to which preset is selected (for example, MyVideo.mov would be saved as MyVideo_Modem.mov using the Modem preset).

As promised, the video compression did occur in the background, which allowed me to continue writing this review while the test files were being compressed. You can even speed up the compression by double-clicking the preset and changing the compression method from Sorenson 2-Pass VBR to 1-Pass VBR. The compression is faster and the video quality is still great, but the file sizes are a little bigger. For example, instead of the 72KB Modem movie, it created a 104KB movie. On the other hand, the CD HQ went from 1.9MB to 1.3MB (actually smaller using the 1-pass). I don't understand VBR technology well enough to make heads or tails of that. Experimentation may be the best teacher.

Below is the results of the Modem preset using the 2-pass VBR compression:


27MB down to 72KB using Modem preset

Summary
Sorenson Squeeze is a Macintosh gem (and it is cross-platform, so Windows users can use it as well). The basic functionality of compression large video files to much smaller files while retaining great quality is like magic, and the ability to do this in the background adds to your productivity. The preset buttons are great shortcuts for users that don't want or need to learn about compression settings. The interface, however, can really be improved. It almost feels as though the interface for the application was thrown together in haste. It should be noted that this is a 1.0 release, so hopefully subsequent releases will bring the interface more in line with being a Mac savvy application.

The bottom line is that the program works, and works well. Squeeze does wonders for compressing your videos, allowing you to easily share them with friends or burn them on CDs. Because Squeeze uses SV3 Pro technology, the results are small files with great quality video. I highly recommend Squeeze for video experts and novices alike. Even if you already have SV3 Pro, it's worth getting Squeeze for the added benefit of background processing and preset settings.

Pros

  • Compresses large video files to small manageable files retaining great quality
  • Supports background processing
  • Preset buttons are great shortcuts for video novices and experts alike

Cons

  • Does not support dragging a video file onto Squeeze window
  • There is no revert when changing settings of preset buttons
  • Does not allow you to specify the name and location of your output files

Overall Rating:

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Ease of Use
User Interface
Functionality


General System Requirements

  • G3 PowerMac or better, or Pentium II PC or better
  • Mac OS 9.1 thru X, or Windows 98, 2000, ME or XP
  • 128 MB RAM
  • QuickTime 5